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“It’s not how many skills you have or know, it is how you apply them”
Bhushan Kulkarni on his life, success, family and home - GDI Infotech.
Written by Anupama Gopalakrishnan

All of us have goals, ambitions and aspirations!

Reaching and achieving your goals require sheer grit & determination, confidence, perseverance & hard-work, belief and oodles of patience. Prayers, luck et al could be important secondary accessories.

One such ambitious yet silently popular true “Inspirational Michigan Indian” is the power behind one of the most successful organizations in recent years - GDI Infotech’s very own Bhushan Kulkarni. 

As a regular student, Bhushan entered the big “opportunity ridden” U.S. in 1985 with his baggage filled with dreams and hopes of making it big someday!

After completing his Masters in Engineering from West Virginia University, Detroit motor city beckoned him. As a summer intern at Ford Motor Company, Bhushan always wanted to be an entrepreneur. To put it in simple terms he says, “Engineer by education, entrepreneur by heart”.

In his words, Bhushan explains his first step on the corporate ladder – “I realized that I was living this entrepreneurial dream everyday. When I felt that it was the right time to launch, I put forth my ideas. I worked hard with my wife (Wife Swatee has a master’s degree in electrical engineering). Creating business plans, contacting clients, working on projects, marketing, signing checks, even taking out the garbage – you name it and I did it all”.

According to Bhushan, GDI started with a handful of people. “We were fortunate enough to get talented, motivated…highly qualified people.”
Some of GDI Infotech’s accomplishments:-
  • Inc. 500 Company three years in a row , # 32 Nationwide and #1 in Michigan in 2000, Inc. Magazine
  • # 1 in Michigan – Michigan Private 100 (1999)
  • Future 50 Award – Four years in a row, Detroit Chamber of Commerce 
  • Washtenaw County Fast Track Award, Four years in a row
  • Arbor Award for the best HR practices

Some of recent recognitions for Bhushan Kulkarni:-

  • Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Michigan Technology Services, Ernst & Young 
  • 40 Under 40 Award, Crains Detroit
  • American Dreamer Award, Crains Detroit

GDI Infotech, Inc. located in Ann Arbor has grown into a full-lifecycle IT services company focused on application design, development, integration and support services. GDI’s core competencies include collaboration, relationship management, business intelligence and reporting, Integration and customized applications. GDI delivers these services through a combination of onsite, offsite, offshore and remote services to help manage time and budget constraints. GDI has been ranked the fastest growing private company in Michigan several years in a row and is ranked # 32 on the 2000 Inc. 500 list. Speaking of which, Bhushan exclaimed “It was a big surprise when I got the letter. We focused on making it to the top 50, but not # 1 in Michigan”.

Bhushan attributes this success to his Human Resources team. “We recruit right. We don’t hire rocket scientists…we hire people with the right attitude, play to win attitude and make sure they are team players with great communication and people skills, and with a drive to succeed.”. 

Going by their corporate culture, GDI Infotech has a whopping more-than-90% employee retention rate much to the envy of most technology companies in Michigan. “We have developed tools and processes to track our employee’s growth and success. Career tracking, mentoring programs, milestones, training support and corporate intranet helps us keep pace with our employees”, added an excited Bhushan. 

No doubt, GDI takes care of its employees and in the right way. 

Retaining employees is no mean thing. In this world where individuals want to grow and climb the ladder instantly with growing opportunities, according to Bhushan, “a systematic plan is developed and a mentor is assigned. The employee works with the mentor to achieve goals with a point system for bonus while developing their leadership skills.” 

This well chalked out strategy reflected the survival strength of an employee as Bhushan mildly says “when there was a downtrend in the market in 2001, it was easy enough to tell who was tough and who was not”.

To all accomplished industrialists, business is not always a bed of roses. Challenges in the form of professional hiccups and balancing family time do tend to provide stress and emotional breakdown to many of them. 

Mr. Bhushan Kulkarni, 
President and CEO, GDI Infotech Inc.

Bhushan maintains that there are challenges at every stage. “It is tough when nobody knows you, building clients and earning their goodwill is always a tough job. Much tougher than that, is maintaining your clientele”. He further adds “financially, I went through major potholes and challenges initially, but now I have highly accomplished individuals as board members, including Red Poling (former Chairman of Ford Motor Company) and Bob Eaton (former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation) to guide our Executive team and me through challenges.”

Balancing family and time when building a business is definitely the biggest personal challenge. Reacting to this, Bhushan honestly says “yes! Managing work and family is indeed difficult. My son was 2 months old when we moved to a new office in 1993 and we took him to work in his cradle. Until 1995, the business days would count to 7.”

Bhushan now spends more than 70 hours a week at GDI and also manages to spend time with the kids and have dinner with his family. Talk about time management!

The passion to succeed, vigor, grit and determination alone will not qualify success. Bhushan thanks his father who has been his role model. “He instilled in me the basic values and ethics – this is what it takes to succeed.” Individuals should not forget basic human qualities when they search for success.

As a Board member of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce and active committee member in several initiatives, Bhushan pays a lot of attention to local community issues.  

In addition to that, Bhushan is also on the Board of Trustees of the Walsh College in Troy and was an active Board member at Information Technology Association of Michigan (ITEAM) and the American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI). He has continued to play a mentoring role for several entrepreneurial start-ups through Ann Arbor’s IT Zone, and he serves as a board member and investor in a few selected companies. 

Like every successful entrepreneur, Bhushan dreams of expanding his business further to “bridge the gap” between high-level IT strategy and its technology implementation that exist in the marketplace. He wants to capitalize on the solid foundation that he has built at GDI by using a practical, phased approach, incorporating GDI’s FastTraxTM assessment process to achieve a quick return on client investment and to protect clients from cost overruns and underutilization of the resulting systems. He wants to make sure that GDI continues to leverage its highly successful Project Leadership Team approach and ITExpertTM delivery model to ensure that technology initiatives meet business objectives. In his own words – “We are dedicated to maintain our industry-leading on-time, on-budget track record and that will carry this company forward and go beyond our previous growth rates and high client retention.” 

Bhushan and technology go hand in hand. Talk about business and the future, Bhushan just cannot let go his favorite “T” word: “the future of Technology is unlimited and we want to solve business issues with technology implementations”

He advises IT professionals to use their technical skills wisely. “It’s not how much you know it is how you apply it: focus on developing leadership and communication skills as well.” This would give one an edge, and the corporate ladder would seem easier and less stressful to accomplish.

To all aspiring business entrepreneurs, he says, “there is no better time than acting now!” “Don’t procrastinate, analyze the situation and just do it.” Challenges and hurdles are always a part of success. 

Bhushan further states that individuals should always embrace change. Refine and tweak technical skills to suit change without forgetting basic ethics and without compromising on quality and excellence.

Bhushan Kulkarni lives in Saline (Ann Arbor) with his wife Swatee, 3 sons aged 10, 7 and 4 and his 89 year old father.

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