Eric Rongley founded Bleum, an outsourcing provider to American and European companies, in August 2001. Prior to founding Bleum, Eric established and ran the Navion (Shanghai) Software Development Company for Capital One Financial. Before his career led him to China, Eric was the general manager for IVR’s (International Voice Register) software development center in India. Eric currently serves as the chair of the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) Shanghai and is the former chair of the ethics and IT committee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai.
Sramana: Eric, tell me a bit about yourself. What is your background?
Eric Rongley: I was born in Pennsylvania. I graduated from Skidmore College in 1989 with a degree in economics. After graduating I went overseas and worked as a broker in London for a year. I really had a passion for Asia and looked for an opportunity to get out there. After a year in London, I moved to Taiwan. At first I was an English teacher, and I eventually started my own language school. I spent two and a half years in Taiwan.
I was in Taiwan from 1992 to 1993. In 1993, I took my first trip to India, and I began living there in 1994. During a trip back home in 1995 I saw the Internet being used by my friends. I lived in Bangalore for a year and a half and I had a software development center there. It was quite difficult to get things like electricity and phones at my captive center, so after a year I shut down that center and made a partnership with an outsourcing company in Chennai. I then spent the next three and a half years living in Chennai.
Sramana: Did that work better?
Eric Rongley: Having a partner is the easiest way to enter a country. Everything looks easy from the outside, but when you start experiencing it on the ground it can be tough getting electricity, gasoline, and telephone lines. All of those things took away from my focus, which was supposed to be software development for my clients. Once I had a partner, they took care of all of the basic issues and I was able to focus on my clients.
Sramana: I fully understand what you are talking about. I started my first company in India in 1994 and 1995. Basic infrastructure was a pain. Doing business in India in the mid-1990s was not fun.
Eric Rongley: I am sure things are different now, but back then people were used to a level of inconvenience that they were not willing to accept in the U.S., and they probably don’t accept it there anymore, either.
Sramana: What did you do after your time in India?
Eric Rongley: At the end of my stay I had an ODC with a company in Chennai. The CIO and CTO of Capital One were doing their tour of India to decide if they wanted to get involved there. They came to our group and I was introduced to them. We hit it off very well, and they told me they were thinking of building a center in India. I gave them the idea that China would be a good place to try since India already had a supply and demand issue. The only bigger place I knew of was China.
They liked that idea, so in 1999 I returned to Richmond, Virginia, for six months to build up my network within Capital One. I then came out to China and set up a development center in China. I ran that development center for them for two years before Capital One decided they did not want to do it anymore. They then sold off the development company to an Indian firm. At that point I stepped off on my own and started my current company, Bleum.