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Singing the convergence song

Vinay Rai
Net worth: Rs 53.58 billion

The latest passion for this steel-to-telecom-to-many-other-things entrepreneur is convergence

In the beginning, there was steel. Then there was telecom. And now there is convergence. Vinay Rai of the New Delhi-based Usha group has dabbled in various businesses in the last two decades. And he's toyed with the idea of entering several others in recent times, including a newspaper on the Net (he gave up the idea). His latest passion is, of course, a word that belongs to the new economy – convergence, or the coming together of infotech, telecom and entertainment.

"We are the only group to have a leg in all convergence areas. Everyone is eyeing convergence, but we are a little ahead because we are a long-term player straddling all areas in this sector," Rai says.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, who is also a follower of Sathya Sai Baba, has every reason to be enthusiastic about convergence. It has brought him global recognition. Thanks to the Rs 2,000-crore market capitalisation of his infotech company, Information Technologies India Ltd (ITIL), Rai was included in the 11 Indians in Forbes list of 300 richest people in the world. 

Ask Rai about it and he gives you a philosophical reply. "All these things don't bother me. I have always believed in destiny. There are thousand others who are more hard-working and who are much more intelligent. But it is all God's will."

Rai cannot stop talking about how he is going to build on its success. On the anvil is a national Internet service provider (ISP),, which he says should be up and about in another two-three months. The idea is to have about 20 portals and vortals under with a focus on almost all aspects that a Net user could be interested in. For this, Rai is pumping in between Rs 70 and Rs 80 crore into the venture.

Recently in an equity swap deal, the group acquired ISP services in eight cities (the six metros, Lucknow and Kanpur). The idea is to cover 200 cities by the end of the next year, he says.
Also on the anvil is an e-learning initiative. Rai knows his strengths as far as convergence is concerned. The company has significant experience in all the mobile platforms and wireless technologies. 

The group has also forayed into steel manufacture by launching two projects – Malvika Steel Ltd, a 0.85 million tonne steel plant in Jagdishpur, UP, and Usha Ispat, a 0.6 million tonne integrated steel plant at Redi, Maharashtra. Delays in the first venture landed Rai in considerable controversy. 

But he has sailed through the stormy times. Malvika Steel is finally going to commence pig iron production this year and construction steel will be rolled out from next March. Similarly, Usha Ispat, which already produces pig iron, is expected to commence production from December this year.

But is there a market for so much steel? Rai strongly believes there is. "Nothing can be constructed without steel," he argues.

Incidentally, he was not in the first lot that sallied forth into information technology. But ITIL has established him as a leading presence in mobile services. And Rai cannot stop talking about how he is going to build on its success. 

Next: Kumar Mangalam Birla

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