Viresh Bhatia’s business plan was, at best, sketchy when he and a partner pooled $15,000 in savings and thumbed through an atlas to find a name for their computer firm.

“ ‘The Stirling Group’ had a good ring” recalls Mr. Bhatia, then a 22-year-old Northwestern University graduate who’d always wanted his own company.

The pair weren’t discouraged when their first idea—creating off-the-shelf geographic mapping software—proved unworkable.

But their Shield Series of software tools—added as an afterthought to six products they introduced at a Windows conference in Boston in 1990—caught vendors’ fancy. Their first order was for a single, $395 copy of InstallShield, designed to simplify software installation.

Today, the former Stirling Group is InstallShield Software Corp., a world leader in software deployment tools with $38 million in sales and 260 employees. An estimated 80% of Windows software is loaded using the Schaumburg-based company’s products.

Mr. Bhatia aims to grow sales to more than $500 million in five to seven years by expanding into custom-software installation.

A native of Punjab, India, he’d never seen a computer before enrolling at Des Plaines High School at age 14 after his family moved from New Delhi.

He proved so adept with the then-new IBM personal computers that family, friends and associates hired him to computerize their business records. At Northwestern, he earned his tuition by putting together computer systems for small businesses.

Says Scott Wald, founder and CEO of ASAP Software Express Inc. in Buffalo Grove, ‘‘He’s one of those unique people who understand broad strategic issues in software but can also discuss the technical intricacies. He spans the gamut.’’