Interview with The Economic Times

Publication: Economic Times Mumbai
Date: July 27, 2010
Dr.M Sanjay Kanth Founder & CEO,
ESS Solutions LLC
Winning the title bout in style.

ESS Solutions wants to be the king of land titles. It provides property searches with last deed of record, including a complete report on judgements, litigations and bankruptcy. It also processes a loan, funds it and does all the legal work.

YOU can’t blame M Sanjay Kanth for not being ambitious. The founder of Bangalore-based ESS Solutions aims to make his company the Google of land titles. ESS serves the multi-billion dollar US title industry. It offers services right from processing a loan to funding of loans, including legal work. It also provides property searches with last deed of record and chain of title with a complete report on judgements, litigations, bankruptcy and other documents. This search is essential for the client to have his property insured against any uncertainties that may arise. Companies investing in property in buy ESS’ services to ensure that there is no other claimants or legal dispute surrounding the property.

All this is done by ESS team of searchers in its Bangalore office who look up online databases and records and collect the information about the property. Once this is done, the report is sent to the lender for approval. Upon approval the borrower’s signature is obtained on the closing documents and then it is submitted to the lenders once again. After this, the funds are transferred from the lender into the escrow account of the title company. Title company handles all the disbursement. “Error-free transactions, quick turnaround time and cost are the competitive levers,” says the Mr Kanth.

Large players like FirstAmerican Title Insurance, Fidelity Title Insurance have also set up their own captive centres in India. Even banks like HSBC, Citi have started processing some of their uninsured work from their centres in India. But ESS claims to be the first company to offer complete services right from an order request to disbursement and recording of the financial instruments.

ESS is Mr Kanth’s second venture. Mr Kanth went to the US for his Masters in Public Health after completing his medical degree (MBBS) and subsequently went on to medical residency in New York. During this period, the medical transcription industry was on an upswing and lot of offshoring was taking place. Through his medical contacts he got contracts from doctors in the US to use the services, that’s where the offshoring company was born. He started the title business in January 2003 with a home-based office in New York and an existing operational centre in Bangalore, doing sales calls to all the potential clients in health care and title insurance field.

But over time the medical transcription opportunity disappeared because most of the hospitals and big clinics in US have implemented voice transcription software. Just when Mr Kanth was wondering about the next steps, he met the president of a title company based out of Baltimore in 2003-2004. He told Mr Kanth that there was a refinance boom in the US which resulted in a huge backlog in terms of production. Incidentally, his brother M Sujay Kanth, who is now the COO of ESS, happened to be in the US to explore business opportunities. They took up this opportunity. This was their first break. They met with the title official and looked at the process. “Initially, we had no clue of what was going on and it was very hard to grasp. We took it as a challenge and Sujay got trained in their office for about 40 days after which we started the transition to my India office from 2004,” the doc said.

Now, ESS has its own title insurance company in the US so it is basically involved in the entire process. But, as far as the India operations are concerned, it is handling most of the tasks other than disbursement.

The clients are primarily insurance companies, a few lenders also use the services — a 70:30 split. The five top players in the US title industry are Fidelity National Financial, First American Title Insurance, LandAmerica Title Insurance, Stewart Title Guaranty and Old Republic Title Insurance. Most of the above-mentioned companies are in Fortune 500 league. ESS does business with two of the companies and are in a partnership with Stewart Title.

ESS did not go out for raising capital as it funds all infrastructure development through internal accrual. “We have had many US insurance companies interested in investing in our company, which included a couple of Fortune 500 firms, but, we did not feel the necessity to liquidate our stakes at this point of time. Going forward we would like to get listed in India,” says the doctor.

The company plans to add 600-650 jobs over the next couple of years in India. It also plans to start similar ventures in the UK. ESS has two offices in US, one in London and two in India. As a group, the net revenues per quarter is around $0.8 million (Rs 3.2 crore).

Scaling up the venture from this point onwards is not going to be easy with the overheated real estate and manpower market in India. Mr Kanth says, “It’s been a very satisfying journey but, with its highs and lows. High attrition has been a constant challenge and even more challenging is to keep my clients happy. I am going to become a father soon and I think the birth and growth of ESS has prepared me for fatherhood.”

By Mahul Brahma