You might not have heard of Intelect Corp., but you can hear FM radio in Baltimore's Fort McHenry and Harbor tunnels thanks to the company's engineering.
Rohit H. Patel started the Baltimore technology firm in 1995 after working for the Maryland Transit Administration, the state's Department of General Services and Westinghouse. Once headquartered in his bedroom, it's now a 68-person company that produced more than $24 million in revenue last year, up from $13 million the year before.
Patel grew up in southern Africa, came to the United States to earn an engineering degree and returned to Zimbabwe for a year of wide-ranging work experience. He manufactured T-shirts. He repaired two-way radios and land mine detection systems. He bought the mining rights to approximately 3 acres and found a handful of rubies there. Then he came back to the United States to focus on engineering.
He chatted with The Baltimore Sun recently about his company's growth, the difficulties that come with success and his favorite destinations.
How did your company increase revenues so quickly last year — and without a sales force?
What happens is, our clients refer us to other clients. We start with a small project and they give us a bigger project. …
The staff at Intelect Corp. takes great pride in our ability to consistently deliver innovative products and services. … I believe that this work ethic, high levels of service and teamwork has led to client loyalty and them sending us increasingly larger projects to take on. In effect, each Intelect employee has become our best and most important part of our sales process.
Give us a taste of what the company does. What project are you particularly proud of and why?
Intelect Corp. engineers, implements and maintains technology for infrastructure systems. We do this for wired and wireless telecommunications, homeland security, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), information technology (IT), and electrical systems. …
Our systems have led to improved efficiencies in the field and have saved some of our clients millions of dollars and countless number of hours in the implementation of technology. … Furthermore, we are proud that all of our products are designed and manufactured in the USA. And that all of our software development and hardware are also sourced and manufactured within the USA.
What challenges do you foresee as you try to continue your growth trajectory?
Our primary challenge as we continue to grow is not to lose the "beginner's mentality." That is, to always remember what got us our early successes.
Providing the consistent level of personal and excellent customer service using the best available products is a common problem that expanding businesses face, and so we remain diligent in offering creative solutions with the same one-on-one services that made us what we are today — of course, the process was a lot easier when we were a 50-person company.
It has become increasingly more challenging to provide the same intimate approach as our client base grows. Fortunately, our positive in-house employee culture encourages each employee to change, adapt and strive to provide the same high level of service we have always been known for.
In the 18-plus years we have been in business, growth had at times stressed us financially, presented us with a myriad of human resource issues, and required us to reinvent our operations and processes many times over. … We approach hurdles with the same problem-solving enthusiasm "on and off the field." Intelect has always worked hard for growth, and we have fun doing it.
No doubt your years in transportation were invaluable when you started your business, but how have some of your other varied experiences helped you navigate life as an entrepreneur?
The experiences I gained as a young man working in a variety of jobs truly helped shape who I am today. In my earlier days, I worked everywhere from a convenience store as a stock clerk, designing and manufacturing T-shirts and selling spices, to working as an engineer and consultant to private industry and government entities.
Needless to say, starting up several successful entrepreneurial ventures taught me an immense amount about the industry and myself and helps me navigate my life on a daily basis. I have also been lucky to have incredible people in my life, including my family, friends, clients and vendors, who have shaped who I am and directed my journey in life. I am a very fortunate man because of it.
Where's the most interesting place you've traveled?
I am a travel enthusiast and love exploring the world, so this question is definitely a hard one! I am continuously inspired and fascinated by the things I see during my travels, but the ones that stand out in particular include Victoria Falls in Africa, the Vatican during a trip to Europe, the people and rich cultures of India and China, boating down the Amazon in Brazil, and my favorite city in the U.S. of A, Baltimore.
Rohit H. Patel
Title: President and CEO of Intelect Corp.
Previous job: Director of sales and marketing at Westinghouse
Residence: Northern Baltimore County
Hometown: Livingstone, Zambia
Education: Bachelor of science in electrical and computer engineering from the University of South Carolina in 1980
Family: Wife Sonal Patel and two children
Hobbies: Golf and international travelCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun