Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Launching 'Meet Your Buddy': Anchor interview of Rajan NV

We all wonder sometimes what it was to be a part of this sprawling 800-acre campus. What it meant to be called a ‘RECTian’ to a person who graduated some 25 years from today and started a glorious organization in the IT sector? Was he really…

…Ahead of all?
…Jack of all trades?
…The best techie?
…The best sportsman?
…The best dancer?
…The best ………………….

What all u wanted to be once, right?

We are bringing you a series of articles that boosts your confidence and proves what you can really become. And one which could answer the perpetual question “where do all NITTians (RECTians) land??

In this series, we bring you a series of interviews of our hotshot alumni who have proved their mettle in every corner of this world in each field of expertise possible. It is a small attempt to make you aware of the RECTians you should feel proud of.

First in the series of ‘Meet Ur Buddy’, we are very happy to introduce Mr. Rajan Narayanan, former Vice Chairman & COO, Linc Software and presently Senior Vice-president, MindTree Consulting. He has done most of the stuff that we can dream about and by successfully starting and running Linc Software (Bangalore). What is more important, he has proved that we are second to none!

Here is a brief profile of Mr. Rajan:

Born in Pune, he never studied in the same city for more than a year as his father got transferred from one place to another, He has studied in all parts of India – Chennai, Pune, Kashmir, Kolkata – you name it. In fact, RECT was the institution where he actually continued for the longest duration - 5 years! He started his career with AV Thomas as Hardware Maintenance Engineer and very soon the instinct of a RECTian propelled him to start his own company as Linc Software in 1988. He started it with his schoolmates with an initial fund of just Rs.2 lakhs. And with offices in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and India, LINC SOFTWARE serviced several clients worldwide. MindTree Consulting P Ltd later acquired it in May 2005 (http://www.mindtreeconsulting.com/).

On the career front, with over two decades of experience in the IT industry, Rajan has worked extensively on IBM mid-range machines both in India and overseas. He has managed several off-shore projects for prestigious clients, and was the CEO of a hundred percent export house in India for S/38 software and related services prior to co-promoting LINC SOFTWARE. (http://www.lincsoftware.com/about/team).

This perpetually enthusiastic guy has an affinity for the word ‘passion’. He said that given a chance, he would love to redo his under graduation in ‘Information Sciences’ (which his elder daughter is studying in Bangalore). His faith and love for IT industry clearly splashes when he quotes Narayan Murthy many times for saying “For the first time in 400 years is India being respected for something” (referring to software industry in India).

‘Entrepreneurship’ is his favorite topic where he would love to speak for hours. In fact, he is considering pursuing a research on this topic too. When we asked for a meeting, he readily agreed and we had four hours long session of all gyaan on all topics related to alumni interactions, entrepreneurship, his career and the future of IT industry. He also told us about various issues related to his experience in industry and REC. Here is a glimpse of what he said:

We: Why did Linc Software chose to be merged with MindTree?
You have to grow. We considered several options for growth and merging with a larger entity was certainly an option. However, we were careful in deciding who we merge with as we needed a good cultural fit to begin with to ensure a successful merge. Apart from this, there are other reasons to go for a merger like the investor’s interest and a step beneficial for both.

(In the meantime Mr. Muthukumaran, a batch mate of Rajan joined us. He then introduced us to the way his alma mater XLRI interacts with alumni. We were surprised to know that Muthu regularly teaches at XLRI for 2-3 days, participates in panel discussions about career paths and takes up to 3-4 lecture hours everyday. The favorite area of Muthu, (a Director at AC-Nielsen-ORG Marg) is Market Research. He said he was very keen in doing the same in our own campus too but is eagerly waiting for a initiative. Both of them agreed that there is a huge potential of campus’s interaction with the alumni.)

In the meanwhile, Rajan said:

  • “If someone spearheads arrangements and keeps in touch, I am sure we can find many people who will be interested in coming up to twice every year for a very good discussion and taking courses”.
  • “People can surely come and share their experiences with the world. With so many people in IT and related areas and more than 300 of the students taking upo a career in IT areas, it makes sense to have an exposure about the domains and stuff in IT areas. This is where alumni can help present students a lot.”
  • In a lighter note he said, “In the next four years, anyone who has an engineering degree and has good communication skills in English, will land into an IT sector job.”
  • “Alignment to the domains is of paramount importance. Domain expertise and business impact that it makes have more importance than technology as the technology keeps changing”
  • “Sky is the limit for the possibilities of alumni interaction”
  • “Not only IT, people have expertise in areas far and wide.”
  • “Extended Q & A sessions are very important. The campus interaction should not be one-way. A good interested and participative crowd is important for any fruitful discussion even if the numbers are lesser.”
  • “We can help each other in various ways. During the dotcom bust, every IITian was helping the other to get over it. And of course we can start activities and companies together.”
  • “We can develop a huge support system for funding campus. But everyone needs transparency in the system.”
  • “Everyone needs a trigger. If someone can start it, people will react. There is a latent desire among everyone to contribute to the campus and to society at large”

We: What are the possible options to increase interaction with the campus?
“First and foremost, the alumni experiences can be shared with the campus on a regular basis. Interested students and faculty should follow this up. We can develop a core team of some people from each batch to sustain the effort”. If proper relation is maintained, this initiative can bear many fruits like funding of scholarships to perhaps funding infrastructure projects. We also need to rejuvenate the Bangalore chapter of RECAL. We need to meet more often and bridge between Chennai and Bangalore so that people can join. These are the highest density areas, though we have people everywhere around the world”

We: How did Linc start?
“Linc software was not planned when I joined AV Thomas Software Research Co Ltd. Later as I moved to software and traveled extensively, we felt that we should start something in the software exports area. So, I Joined hands with people like Chandrakumar (who was my schoolmate and also who passed out of Guindy) to start Linc. Both of us wanted to be based in India by choice and were interested in creating something. Also software exports was an emerging area.

We: What is the difference between what we learn at college and industry?
Once you enter business, everything is different. You start getting to know the practical details of business and the grind of it. Took 9 years of experience before moving ahead to start a company.
(For more details, please check http://www.koramangala.com/)

We: What do you feel about entrepreneurship?
“Entrepreneurship is my passion. You would be happy to know that I wish to do some research on it. I don’t know where I will get the time, but will find it.” However, entrepreneurship needs passion to succeed. It needs perseverance and patience to build. First, you need an idea. An idea that is relevant. Validate it by building a prototype. Get various points of view by networking. Elaborate the idea. Depending on your level of expertise, get a mentor to guide your venture. Networking also helps in getting the funding required. Other people invest money solely to get returns on it.”

We: What are the changes you feel from the time you started company and present scenario?
Things have been very different these days with entrepreneurship. While the challenges have reduced to start, as funding became available, it has become more difficult to sustain the company. Many first-second generation entrepreneurs are now investing heavily into start-ups as venture capitalists and angel investors. These days, you people are better positioned and can do the same stuff in half the time we took for it.

We: Do you think MBA is necessary to be an entrepreneur or otherwise what can be the benefits out of it?
MBA is not critical to start a business. I did not have it. However, getting management exposure is better after a stage. Initially you better get your feet wet a few times but need not learn everything the hard way. So, join a short-term course like the one by IIM/ISB, which focuses solely on entrepreneurs without any management degree. One place is NS Raghavan centre for Entrepreneurial learning at IIMB, which incubates companies in the starting phase.

We: We would like to know you views on Entrepreneurship in India as a country and your interest in it
“If India can make more entrepreneurs, everything else will fall into place. If I get a chance to research, my preferred topic would be something like, “Factors to enhance entrepreneurship in India?” I can take it as a project to genuinely find ways to increase entrepreneurship and get at least 10 different ventures to start and run successfully. This will help me find more answers to the question. I also have a passion towards teaching and mentoring. There is a huge need and potential for entrepreneurship in India.”

We: Can you please share your academic background and career path to be more particular?
“I had been into 9 different schools till I completed my CBSE in 1973-74. The longest duration I studied at a place is at REC, Trichy. I was born in Pune and belong to a Tamil Brahmin family. Whilst at school I have been to Chennai, Assam, Mumbai and Kashmir.. We have a Yahoo group called “KV Gill Nagar” which has people like actress Revathy. I had 4/5 I20s for admission to US Universities but soon realized that I didn’t want to go to the US, wanted to stay back even as my brother wished me to go. Then from 1979 to 1982, I worked with AV Thomas Software Research, a data centre company in Chennai as a Hardware Maintenance Engineer. Later I moved on to System software. From 1983 to 1987, I worked with Advent Computer Services Ltd as its first employee and helped build that to a 80 member team. When I left to form LINC, I was the CEO at Advent. In 1988, I went on to establish Linc Software with two friends.”

We: What you would like to do if you get a chance to be student again?
“If I were to change something in my career path, I would like to write CAT after some years of experience in industry. Not that I regret not studying management, but it would have helped.”

(For further details on his journey as an entrepreneur, please do check http://www.koramangala.com/korasoft/1999/05.htm)

[We have tried our best to share whatever knowledge we gained by meeting Rajan. We expect your feedback so that we can continue the same series of interview with new and new faces that drive today’s world with what they learnt in our 800-acre campus known as RECT/NITT]

Think for a while of a RECTian (though they are many!!!)

  • Who is CEO of a company?
  • Who is among the heads of the best universities in US?
  • Who won an Oscar award?
  • Who is one of the top defense person of country?

…………………these are just a few of the roles that they have defined…now it is your turn to explore what u can be as a NITTian!

Anurag Saxena
Arpit Agarwal

(Sorry I forgot to introduce….we are the two stupids who belong to same campus… graduated in 2005…after launching Pragyan….joined our jobs in Bangalore…and become jobless in our own sense we are again playing with this new idea…please bear with us. BTW, we are posted at Bangalore and will be happy to get in touch with you. Also, if you wish to get in touch with Rajan, please contact us.)