People - May 2005

His is another kind of financial forecast
By Joe Rauch

Some might think, after nine years as a risk analyst and hedge-fund manager, Jayant Khadilkar would want a job with a little more precision to it. Something so he wouldn’t always feel like he was milking a white cow in a blizzard. Engineering, maybe, or plumbing.

Not Khadilkar. At 42, he’s CEO of Raleigh-based Weather Predict Inc. “Forecasts are never 100% accurate,” he says. “What we’re offering is forecasts that are more consistent, more reliable than anyone else.”

They’re for customers from his old stomping grounds — stockbrokers, commodities traders and such. A hot summer with heavy air conditioning might drive up the price of utility shares. A fall hurricane could double plywood sales. “I never really left the financial world.”

Customers of Weather Predict, founded in 2000 in Tallahassee, Fla., pay fees — typically several thousand dollars a month — for forecasts that Khadilkar says are more accurate than free ones. Some also pay a share of the profits the forecasts earn them. The forecasts are based on a proprietary system developed at Florida State University and use a patented mathematical model. Customers have password access to their own Web sites, which are continually updated, and can get telephone consulting.

So far, Weather Predict has about 10 customers, including Raleigh-based National Gas Distributors. Khadilkar wants to expand by selling information to retailers and others whose profits are affected by the weather. “If you’re trading futures on, say, natural-gas prices, you want to know when the weather is turning colder. But companies like The Home Depot also need this information so they know where to allocate inventory in anticipation of a hurricane or blizzard.”

Born in Lonavala, India, the son of a civil engineer and a homemaker, he grew up in Pume, a city of 2.3 million about 115 miles east of Bombay. He came to the United States for graduate school and got a master’s in operations research from the University of Kentucky in 1986.

Khadilkar worked for Applied Insurance Research in Boston from 1989 to early 1994 as a risk analyst, then moved to Pembroke, Bermuda-based RenaissanceRe Holdings. The company sponsored research at Florida State University on tracking hurricanes. “All hurricane tracks within the three-day window are pretty much the same. We were trying to reach out beyond that 72-hour window.”

He left in 1998 to manage a hedge fund in Raleigh and, by 1999, saw a need in the financial market for weather data. “I contacted the professor at FSU I had met through Renaissance. I asked if there was any way to use the model he developed for hurricanes with everyday weather.” Answer: yes.

Khadilkar and another investor raised more than $2 million by the summer of 2000 and began business in a garage in Tallahassee. In 2001, he moved the operation to Raleigh, where he lives. It employs 14. He won’t reveal revenue but says the company will be profitable this year. Starting a business wasn’t scary. He and his wife had started Follow the Child Montessori School in Raleigh in 1999. Their two children are easy to spot: They always know when to wear their raincoats.