Building a Western powerhouse

The phone connection to Edmonton is clear, but Karim Amarshi’s voice is filled with the fatigue of a man who’s just returned from a long flight from India.

The CEO of Acrodex Inc. spent almost three weeks in the northern part of the country, overseeing the latest phase of construction of a three-story

school for 1,200 underprivledged children in a remote village. Some three years ago the Alberta company began pouring $500,000 into the project.

“”Our philosophy is wherever we do business we want to contribute to the community,”” explains Amarshi. In the company’s home town it helps finance the new computer science building at the University of Alberta; in Calgary backs Children’s Hospital Foundation; in Fort McMurray, where it has clients involved in the massive tar sands industry, it contributes to a hospital and a non-profit ski hill; and in India, where Acrodex subcontracts software development for Canadian clients to a local partner, it backs the school.

That the company has the resources to engage in such works speaks of the growth it has undergone since opening doors in 1984 as Multitech Electronics Inc., a three-person supplier and distributor of electronic components.

Two mergers and a new name later, Acrodex has about 350 employees in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray and what Amarshi calls a satellite office in Toronto. At the moment, the year-old office only houses administrative staff; technical workers are flown out from the West on a project by project basis.

But, Amarshi adds, “”God willing it will be larger than Edmonton”” in five years. Then Acrodex might move into the U.S.

Running an IT company wasn’t what Amarshi was thinking about when he graduated in the early 1980s from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) as a electronic engineer specializing in control systems.

After several years working for MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. he was approached by Nazir Javer, a friend from BCIT years, and Barkat Chatur, an Edmonton businessman with investments in East Africa, to form C-Jet Electronic Technology, an importer and manufacturer of video arcade games. A year later the trio formed Multitech.

“”It was a great marriage and partnership,”” says Amarshi, one that couldn’t have happened without the finances of Chatur, now chairman of the Acrodex board. Javer is vice-chair. Their joint ventures also include a furniture import company, a restaurant and overseas companies.

Multitech soon moved from selling electronic components to computer hardware and then software. In 1992, it diversified into services by merging with with a firm called Technology Integration, which had a separate division called CompCanada Technologies. Eventually that unit was folded into Multitech. In 2000 it expanded into application development by taking over Atlas Systems Group, becoming CompCanada Atlas.

Early last year the company changed its name to Acrodex, a moniker Amarshi says was chosen because it has no meaning at all and therefore doesn’t limit the firm’s direction.

For now the company focuses on enterprise-wide IT solutions, reselling products from Microsoft, HP, IBM, Oracle, Cisco Systems, 3Com and others. Clients are in the energy, transportation, government and education sectors.

It’s strengths have not gone unnoticed. In May Acrodex was given an InfoTech Alberta Hero Awards for industry leadership in 2002. However, Amarshi says the company’s biggest achievement was being named a supplier of excellence by a large oil and natural gas client

Not that there haven’t been missteps along the way. “”In 1992 we saw mass merchandisers move into our backyard,”” he recalls. “”We leased a significantly larger facility and opened a retail store. It was an area we had no expertise in.”” The building is now a solution centre.

So far, it’s been the company’s only slip.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com
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