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Guru Funda

Message from Arjun Malhotra, 2013 PanIIT USA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

5 THINGS I LEARNED AT IITKGP

By : PANIIT |September 07, 2015 |Guru Funda

By Arjun Malhotra, IIT Kharagpur

  1. The first thing I learnt at IIT was how to work and survive with people who are smarter than me. I think everyone who comes to IIT suddenly discovers he or she is among a group of people who have topped from their schools around the country. It is a shock and you have to get used to a different level of academic competition. I think surviving and working with some of these brilliant folks was my first and biggest learning at IIT.
  2. Work smart and work hard. I learnt to work hard. Without that I was not going to survive at IIT. But just working hard was never going to be enough. I learnt to work smart. Sometimes to do the minimum that was needed to get through a test or a practical and sometimes learning as much as I could about a subject so that you were a minor “guru” in that.
  3. How to be friends and work together at the same time. Friends at IIT are for life. Even through the competitive environment I was able to make real friends. Friends who are with you for life. Friends for whom I would never change no matter what my or their circumstances. As I say times change friends do not. When you are in IIT you compete with these friends and you stay friends at the same time. That is a lesson I learnt and use every day in my working life. My work colleagues are my friends but we do have a structure and a hierarchy and we are happy to work together. One of the great lessons from my days at IIT Kharagpur.
  4. Look at the big picture. While we all solve problems and equations at IIT ( and any engineering college), I found that talking to friends and especially IITians from other engineering and science disciplines in my hall 9 or outside) you got to see the problem in a more holistic way. Fellow hostelers talked about Theology, about Politics, about psychology, about the environment. They quoted Kant, Freud, Marx, Ayn Rand and more. Suddenly you saw your problem in a more complete way or maybe you saw the whole problem? Whatever you saw it was a bigger picture and that has helped me look at solutions to these problems in a more holistic way.
  5. PJs and humor handle most tough interpersonal situations. At IIT we have a number of occasions where misunderstandings and/or words spoken in anger can create some pretty difficult situations. I learnt there that a little humor often breaks the ice and allows a dialogue that addresses the issues and clears up the misunderstandings. I use that every day in my personal and working life and I cannot tell you how effective it has been in allowing me to minimize the stress of living with interpersonal issues that all of us face every day.

ABOUT ARJUN MALHOTRA:

A pioneer of the Indian IT industry, Arjun Malhotra has over 42 years of experience in the Technology and IT space with both Private and Public companies. Arjun was most recently Chairman and CEO of Headstrong where he led the turnaround and rejuvenation of that business. Under Arjun’s leadership, Headstrong became the leader in consulting to the financial markets and was sold in 2011 to Genpact for over $500m.

Before Headstrong, Arjun was a co-Founder and Vice Chairman of the HCL group for 24 years where he looked after their operations and new initiatives. He and the founding team grew this business from a six person “garage operation” to one of India’s largest Information Technology corporations that today has over 90,000 employees and a market cap of over $8b.

Arjun started his career as a Senior Management Trainee at DCM in Delhi, India and was a key member of DCM Data Products that pioneered the digital electronics business in India. He studied at the Doon School, Dehradun, and at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur. He graduated from IIT with a Bachelor of Technology (Honors) in Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering and received the Dr. B C Roy Gold Medal. IIT Kharagpur conferred on him a Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) in September 2012.

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Raj Subramaniam

LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP

By : PANIIT |September 06, 2015 |Guru Funda

By Raj Subramaniam, IIT Bombay
Executive Vice President, Global Strategy, Marketing and Communications for FedEx

As an executive at FedEx, I’ve had the great fortune to work for a company that is truly global in nature, and serves as a bellwether for the world economy. Our more than 300,000 team members reach 220 countries and territories across the globe, making FedEx a unique melting pot of cultures and perspectives. My personal journey with FedEx has included world travel and leadership positions in Asia, Canada and the U.S.

Along the way (either through my own trial and error or by observing others) I’ve uncovered key lessons in business and leadership that have guided my decision making processes.

Adapt. Change is no longer what happens to any business eventually. It happens to every business constantly. We are linked in a fast-paced global marketplace, and every day the competitive challenges we face shift, requiring adaptable leadership. Leadership not only demands the vision to see the landscape everyone else sees, but also to see a bit more, and then adapt or change course as needed.

Clarify. Creating clarity in a given situation demands input, insight, data and statistics so you can understand the forces at play. It also means being decisive and taking a stand, even if that means taking a risk. You may not get it right every time, but the willingness to step up and provide direction is fundamental.

Assemble. You need a solid team of people, a combination of minds to help you accomplish your goals-people who can work collaboratively and cooperatively. My global team is like the United Nations-a mix of diverse cultures and backgrounds. With that, the team offers diversity of thought, which is key to operating a global business.

Support. Having established a clear direction and a team to get you there-get out of the way. At that point, your job is to remove barriers for your team. Leaders have to support and trust in the team they’ve chosen to execute their vision.

The ability to adapt, to clarify, to build the right team and then support them create a recipe for good leadership. It’s what builds great companies with solid reputations. At FedEx, we don’t just move packages from A to B, we also connect people and possibilities, opening up the global marketplace to improve the standard of living. It takes solid leaders to drive good business toward success and sustainability, and in the process, create a better world.

 Short bio: Raj Subramaniam is Executive Vice President, Global Strategy, Marketing and Communications for FedEx, a world leader in transportation, e-commerce and logistics services. Raj is responsible for maintaining the company’s corporate reputation, and setting the strategic direction for digital access, e-commerce, retail marketing and product and business development throughout the world.

Born in Trivandrum, India, Raj has a degree in Chemical Engineering from IIT. He also earned two post-graduate degrees: a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from Syracuse University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

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manu vora guru funda

LIFE IS A JOURNEY: ENJOY THE RIDE, AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE

By : PANIIT |April 26, 2015 |Guru Funda

ABOUT DR. MANU VORA: An expert in quality management field, Manu Vora has over 40 years of professional experience guiding Fortune 500 Companies in leadership excellence, customer delight, employee engagement, and operational excellence. He has worked in chemical, telecommunications, and financial processing sectors. In 2000, he established Business Excellence, Inc., a global quality management consulting firm in Naperville, Illinois, USA.

Please tell us briefly about your journey and the genesis of spark to start in your field?
I joined BHU (IIT (BHU)) in 1964 and developed a passion for teaching and consulting during four years at the campus by sharing subject notes and fielding tough questions from my classmates. After losing my parents by the age of six, I received much help from family and friends. I came to the United State in 1968 as a Tata Scholar to complete my M.S. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. I then received my MBA in marketing management from the Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago.

Concerned about lack of soft skills and quality principles/practices knowledge among IIT students, in 2014, we launched a Leadership Excellence Series with 12 topics at IIT (BHU). This free gift of knowledge transfer project leverages Google Hangouts On Air where session recordings via YouTube are shared widely with 6.5000 students, faculty, and administration at the IIT (BHU) campus.

Further, I served as an Advisor for TEDxIIT BHU Programs in 2013 and 2015 and gave two TEDx talks in 2013. On April 7, 2013 at TEDxIIT BHU on “Leveraging Social Responsibility to Unite the World”, atIIT (BHU), Varanasi campus via video.  On April 13, 2013 at TEDxIIT Chicago on “Exponential Power of the Gift of Giving”, at IIT Chicago campus.

Since 2011, I have been leading the IIT (BHU) Global Giving Committee and the team has raised over $500,000 to benefit students, and the Institute. Leveraging my 30 years of conference management experience, I also served in the leading capacity for four IIT (BHU) Global Alumni Meets in 2011-2014.

I have served on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) for six years and for my outstanding life-long service to Society, ASQ has bestowed me with five medals and I have received 2011 Ellis Island Medal of Honor and 2010 US President’s Volunteer Service Award.

I am serving as an adjunct professor for the last 22 years at various business schools globally teaching operations management and quality management courses. I am affiliated with over 33 educational institutions around the world and taught well over 9,000 people globally through academic teaching and executive training. I have published over 50 articles in professional journals and made over 425 presentations on business excellence and quality management topics at local, regional, national, and international levels. I was invited to be an ASQ Influential Voice and published 40 blog posts.

For over 45 years, I have dedicated my life to community service. In 1989, I established the Blind Foundation for India (BFI) to serve over 15 million visually impaired people in India which accounts for one third of the world’s blind population. BFI team has raised over $4 million to support 120,000 free Cataract operations, distributed over 10,000 Braille Kits to blind children for their education, donated 111 mobile vans for transporting eye doctors and patients, and examined over 750,000 school-going children for their eye sight and provided necessary interventions. So far, over one million people in India have their eye sight checked through the BFI

How do you think your IIT life/education prepared you and contributed to your success?

Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya opened the Temple of Learning at BHU in 1916 with a great vision of preparing students to be technically competent as well as serve the lowest strata of the Society in Nation Building. I have understood the real meaning of Malaviyaji’s mission and am fulfilling it by serving in corporate, academic, professional, and philanthropic sectors. At IIT (BHU), we learned to focus on education and understood the importance of Dedication, Determination, and Discipline. These traits from IIT days have served well throughout my career.

How was the IIT life back then? What activities/instances you fondly recall and will like to share?

The life at IIT BHU was lot of fun – learning from caring faculty, many excursions in North India during campus strikes by Arts and Science students, and building great network of life-long friends.

Your biggest challenges so far in entrepreneurship/academics in US?

The biggest challenges faced in my professional career include subtle discrimination, lack of respect, and glass ceiling. Through assertiveness, hard work, and professional networks, I overcame all the challenges.

What advice do you have for IITians in the US to be successful in their career?

In June 2003, I was invited to deliver a Commencement Address at the Keller Graduate School of Management (my alma mater) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here are key points of my commencement address entitled “Life is a Journey: Enjoy the Ride, and Make a Difference” (it was published in ASQ’s Quality Engineering magazine in 2004):

Be positive and self confident
Be ready to help others
Continue to improve and renew yourself
Exhibit ethical leadership
Learn, apply, and share your knowledge
Maintain the balance between work and family
Make a difference
Harness the power of expectations

Enjoy today – as yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift, that is why they call it the present! Take a few moments to smell the roses, as it is soothing for your mind, body, and soul.

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Prem Watsa 2

LEARNING FROM PREM WATSA

By : PANIIT |February 13, 2015 |Guru Funda

Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Prem Watsa

How did you first hear of IIT-Madras back in the mid-1960s?
It’s a funny story. IIT Madras was in its infancy, but was already getting very popular. I first heard of it in school. I wrote the first exam, and scored only about 8/20 in Math. Despite this, my dear aunt forced me to write the other papers as well, the second of which was English and the third Chemistry. I was pretty good at Chemistry, and that is why I decided to study Chemical Engineering.
In what way has the IIT Madras experience helped you in your future career, and what inspired you to follow a career in business and investing in Canada after studying Chemical Engineering at IIT Madras?
An engineering education allows you to get into virtually any field. I didn’t really take a fancy to engineering very much, so I decided to pursue a career in business and management. Business was not very valued in India in those days; it is a lot better now. I decided to apply to IIM Ahmedabad, as its graduates got good jobs, and  it had a great reputation even then. However, I didn’t make it the first time. So I worked at a pharma company called IDCL in Hyderabad for a year, studied harder, applied again and got it on my second attempt.
However, within a month of me joining IIM Ahmedabad, my elder brother had married a girl from England and had moved to Ontario, Canada. My father then asked me to follow suit and join my brother in Canada. I decided to  take his advice, quit IIM Ahmedabad after a month and moved to London, Ontario and joined the MBA program at the University of Western Ontario (later known as the Richard Ivey School of Business).
I was a poor immigrant in Canada then, with very little money for even basic expenses. I used to spend only 50 cents or so on lunch, and felt that people around me, who spent $3-4 dollars, were extremely rich in comparison. Also, I was a new immigrant, while everyone else around me were well established Canadians. I sold air conditioners and furnaces door to door to pay for my MBA. It is under these circumstances that I discovered opportunity – you tend to discover skills you never knew you had before. You tend to work harder, because you’re at the bottom and the only way to go is up. Canada is indeed a wonderful place and there are absolutely no limits as to what you can do and achieve. It is no wonder that lots of Indians, many from the IITs, do really well here.
Could you describe the beginnings and development of Fairfax Financial Holdings, which is among the world’s largest property, insurance and investment companies today?
After my MBA, I began applying for jobs, but as an Indian immigrant competing with established Canadians, I had a difficult time. Finally, I got into a company called Confederation Life Insurance (where I then worked for almost ten years), and that too only because out of the four applicants, the other three, never showed up for the interview! My manager there, John Watson, taught me all that I know today about investing, trained me for the job and became my mentor. He was one of the best people I ever knew, and exposed me to the world of Value Investing.
In 1985, which is 13 years after I came to Canada, I and three of my colleagues from Confederation Life started a company called Hamblin Watsa Investment Counsel Ltd, which soon developed into the firm currently called Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited.
It was the opportunities and exposure in Canada which enabled me to develop the company, something that was surely not possible in India at that time. I loved building the company, as it started from nothing to about $6 billion today. The share price was about $3.25 when we started; today it is about $475.
The work culture at Fairfax is terrific; we have always had very hardworking employees, and we have always treated them very well; and ensuring that what we do is good for the customer as well as the employee and the company. We donate about 1-2% of the profits back to the communities in which we do business in, today that is about 12 million and to put it into perspective our whole company was worth 2 million when we started in 1985.
Describe your day-to-day work as the CEO of Fairfax. What is it that you love the most about your work?
As the CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.; the Head Office has only about 25 employees. It is the subsidiaries in New York, Canada and around the world that generate the business in our Insurance and Reinsurance operations. All the float managed by the Investment Team at Fairfax, of which I am a member, is worth over $25 billion. Any acquisitions, positions we take and succession planning takes place at the Head Office.
I wouldn’t really call what I am doing “work”, it is what I enjoy and in fact, I plan to do this as long as I can. I have also been very involved in supporting other organizations like the University of Waterloo (which in many ways is like the IIT of Canada, and is very well-known). I am on the Investment Committee of the Hospital for Sick Children, the Advisory Board of the Richard Ivey School of Business (my alma-mater), the Investment Committee of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, and also the Investment Committee of the Royal Ontario Museum Foundation.
I have three children – two of whom are married now, and also two grandchildren. Although they are not working in or are involved with Fairfax, they are all doing really well.  I have told my children that all my shares as I control the voting shares will after I am gone go into a foundation so that Fairfax will continue to grow and employees can build their career with us without any fear that the company will be sold or broken up.
About what I love and hate the most in my work:-
I absolutely love all aspects of my work; building a great company from scratch, doing business as it should be done, in a free, fair and friendly environment.
The only negative aspect, according to me, is when I have to let someone know they aren’t performing very well. However, we do bear in mind that they have families and we treat them with respect and make sure that they are well taken care of.
You have often been called the “Warren Buffett of Canada”, for your excellent investing skills, and your accurate predictions of the global financial crisis of 2008. Have you ever met Mr. Buffett personally?
Yes, I first met Warren Buffett at an annual meeting in 1981-82, which was attended by less than 200 people. He is indeed a great builder of business, and one of the best value investors. Although my business is different from his, I have learnt a lot from him and his methods. I am indeed lucky to have had mentors like John Templeton, who was a big mentor in my life for over 30 years.
What advice would you like to give to current-day students of IIT Madras?
At your age, I was very much like all of you are right now. I would like to share one incident with you that changed my life:-
I was 21, travelling by train from Madras to Hyderabad in a third-class unreserved compartment after finishing IIT-M. I was sitting on the footsteps of the coach, smoking a cigarette (I later quit smoking), when I met a man, who gave me a book titled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. It was one of the turning points of my life. Napoleon Hill wrote about the life of 500 Americans who had become financially successful, such as Andrew Carnegie. The phrase “what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve” convinced me that if you really want to be successful – in any field you might choose – then you surely will be. You are bound to have experiences and turning points like these in your life and when you do act on them.
As far as my personal life is concerned, I got married at 23 and been married, for over 40 years now. That is probably the single best thing that has ever happened in my life. Also, develop a strong faith in God, and practice your faith whatever faith it may be. It will give you a guideline on how to live your life, and will help you make all the right choices for a wonderful future. Once you are successful you should always remember to pay it back and help others who are less fortunate.  You will find that personally rewarding

 

Read full interview at

 

Short Bio:  Prem Watsa is the founder, chairman, and chief executive of Fairfax Financial Holdings, based in Toronto, Canada. He has been called the “Canadian Warren Buffett” by some during successful periods of investing.
 
He is a CFA charterholder, an alumnus of the Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, a 1999 Distinguished Alumnus Awards Recipient of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras where he graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering and a holder of an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business of the University of Western Ontario.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prem_Watsa
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TECH START-UPS LEARNING

By : PANIIT |September 16, 2014 |Guru Funda

By Umang Gupta, IIT Kanpur
Silicon valley technology visionary, entrepreneur, company founder, and public company CEO

I was raised in newly independent India by leftist parents who inculcated in me a strong desire to serve my country either through politics or social activism. But when I became a teenager, I became fascinated with technology, and I was admitted into the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur. There I learned computer programming on one of India’s early mainframe computers, and from then on I fell in love with all things digital. I also became aware of a world outside of India that I wanted to explore. So like a lot of other Indian engineering students of that era, I came to the USA to pursue an advanced degree (in my case an MBA), and decided to stay and make a life here.

 My first job was with IBM in sales, and that gave me a great grounding in business. But I really became enamored of starting my own company when I read a fascinating article in 1976 about the invention of the microprocessor, and the potential for what it might mean for the then largely mainframe dominated computer industry.

 I got my main chance to join this exciting new world when in 1981, I ran into a little company then called Relational Software, Inc., which had developed a database software package called Oracle for early DEC minicomputers. The entrepreneur running that company offered me a job as one of his early sales and marketing employees.

Well, one thing led to another, and I was soon hired as employee #17 at Oracle, working for Larry Ellison, and writing Oracle’s first formal business plan. Shortly thereafter, I became a vice president in charge of Oracle’s first forays into the microcomputer and PC business. I learned a lot about starting and building a business from Larry, and I will forever be grateful for that. My entrepreneurial career over the next 30 years would not have been possible without the three years I spent at Oracle learning my craft from one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time.

Three years after I joined Oracle, I spotted an opportunity to start my own company, and I took it. The PC had been introduced in 1980, but notwithstanding its designation as a “personal computer” it was largely being used as an office productivity tool to replace typewriters, calculators, and filing cabinets. What made the early PC so successful was software companies of that era who made word-processing, spreadsheet and database packages. Local area networks (LANs) had just been invented, but very little software existed to truly take advantage of these PCs all hooked together in a corporate setting.

So in 1984, I left Oracle to co-found a company called Gupta Technologies that built a SQL database server for PC LANs. Our Gupta SQL System software also included an application development tool for Microsoft Windows and SQL connectivity software. We called that type of network configuration “client-server software,” and by the late eighties I found myself helping to usher in what came to be known as the client-server computing revolution.

Building and running Gupta Technologies was an absolute blast for me. For the first eight years after our founding, we doubled each year with very little venture capital funding. We were soon considered one of the hottest companies in the software industry and took our company public in January 1993. For a while we thought we would be the next Oracle. But that was not meant to be. Very quickly, the entire client-server tools business became a crowded market with many new entrants, Oracle modified its successful mainframe and minicomputer database software to run on PCs, and Microsoft got into the business with its own Windows based SQL Server product.

And then the Internet came along, which represented an even bigger blow for our business. By 1996, the ideal corporate application had changed from being “client server” to “Internet based.” The technology revolution I had helped to start was over, and I didn’t have the heart to carry on any more. I decided to sell all my shares in Gupta Technologies and to leave the company. Before leaving, I even changed our corporate name so I could separate myself from the company I had founded.

It was the hardest thing I ever did. For the first time in my life I felt like a failure and I didn’t know what I was going to do next.

During the next year, I went through a deeply introspective period and I became I obsessed with figuring out what I’d done wrong. I vowed to myself that the next time, if there was going to be a next time, I would build a “business to last.” My experience at Gupta Technologies taught me the first and most important valuable lesson of my Silicon Valley career: that technology is a ticket to the game but not the game itself.

Silicon Valley is full of many visionaries who build a hot new business based on a revolutionary technology, but their companies do not survive when technology or market trends change. To build a business to last, an entrepreneur, especially a “techie” type, has to realize that innovation comes not just from inventing new products, but can also just as easily come from introducing new business models and new ways to market those products.

I quickly caught up with the latest technology trends on the Internet that I had missed out on during my tunnel-vision days at Gupta Technologies. I also started to make angel investments in many startups of that era, and in 1997 one of those investments was in a little company called Keynote Systems located in San Mateo, not too far away from my home.

The company had built some interesting technology to measure the performance of Internet websites and to determine problems that might have been caused due to Internet backbone delays. But Keynote’s business model was still uncertain at that time, and I quickly realized that while the company’s software was not all that differentiated from many other systems management tools, we could apply an “on demand” service model to the business and make it truly valuable to up-and-coming e-commerce websites.

In effect, we would measure the real-time response time and reliability of any website on the Internet from multiple cities across the world, including of multiple competitors within the same industry or of multiple players in a product supply chain, and make this data available on a monthly subscription basis to enterprises who needed to assure themselves of their e-commerce website’s technical performance and quality.

Before we knew it, Keynote was a hot Internet startup that became known as the “JD Powers of the Internet.” We had more than 2,000 corporate customers across the world subscribing to our performance metrics. Though we did not know it at that time, we would also have the distinction of becoming one of the world’s first “software as a service” (SaaS) businesses before the term would become popularized.

But in in the fast moving technology world, the ability of your organization to react speedily to change is just as crucial as your personal ability to anticipate the future. This was the dot-com era, and we were running a hot Internet start-up during the mother of all technology bubbles. In Silicon Valley there is a saying that goes: “if the wind blows hard enough, even turkeys can fly.” While Keynote clearly had real revenues, real customers and a viable business model, I didn’t fool myself into thinking I knew how our technology or business would unfold in the future. Instead I just made sure we were prepared to seize chances when they came to us.

When the chance presented itself for us to go public in August 1999, we took it way before we were showing any profits. A few months later in February 2000, when the stock market was still hot, we did a secondary offering and obtained a valuation of more than a 100x revenues. Even though the stock market bubble burst a few months later, we found ourselves in the fortunate position of having $350 million in cash on the Keynote balance sheet, and a lot of happy VCs and early investors. No question about it – I was clearly applying the lessons I learned from my Gupta Technologies days to make sure Keynote did not get left behind many of those turkeys!

The aftermath of the Internet crash of 2000 was a searing one for Silicon Valley and Keynote was no exception. Many of our customers went out of business, our revenues started to plummet precipitously, and our losses grew larger each month. While we did not have any danger of running out of cash, we did face an existential question at that time: Do we sell Keynote? Or, failing that, simply shut down the business and return the substantial amount of cash on our balance sheet to our public shareholders? Or do we try and rebuild the business, thereby risking more cash in what might be a doomed effort anyway?

There were no buyers for Keynote at that time, since at that time no one knew how far and how deep the downturn would go, and how much our revenues would decline. I was also haunted by the memory of how, during Gupta Technologies’ decline, Larry Ellison had made me an offer to buy the company at what turned out later to be a pretty good price, but I did not want to sell my baby, and I had said no. After all, I had risked the future of my company many times during its first eight years as a private company and I had always managed to make it bigger and more valuable. So why would I sell to Oracle then? With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that I should have sold the company when we still had the chance.

This time around I did not want to make the same mistake again with Keynote. I had learned an important lesson by then: “Know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em.”

As it turned out, we did not shut down Keynote but decided to rebuild it. Over the next 12 years, we steadily regrew the company. We introduced new products for our corporate Internet customers and also expanded into the mobile monitoring and testing space through a couple of well timed acquisitions. By 2013, Keynote had grown to more than 4,000 customers, and revenues had tripled to more than $125 million with very respectable profit margins of around 20 percent.

 

A few months ago, we sold Keynote to Thoma Bravo, a private equity company, for around 3x revenues and a 50 percent premium above its public share price. That’s a far cry from the 100x revenue valuation of our bubble days, but a pretty decent outcome for our shareholders – and yet also a good purchase for its new owners, who are looking to grow and build even more value into it.

Which brings me to the last important lesson I have learned and applied consistently at Keynote: Your company’s destiny is not your destiny.

I ran Gupta Technologies like it was a mission, not a company. And even when it went public, I always thought of it as my baby. After all, it had my name on it.

With Keynote, I made sure from the beginning to recognize that my job, like any parent, was to give the company its roots and wings, and like any parent when the job was done, I would have to separate my own life from the company’s life. Today, Keynote is a solid, stable company that is a leader in its space, but still has a long way to go before it will have fulfilled its potential.

During our early days of Keynote I was fond of saying, “In a trillion dollar e-economy, surely there ought to be a billion dollar company devoted to testing and measuring the online experience.” I still believe that.

My own fondest wish would be, a decade or two from now, to look at a far bigger Keynote than today and say, with some nostalgia, “I had a hand in building that!”

 

Short Bio: Umang Gupta is a well-known Silicon valley technology visionary, entrepreneur, company founder, and public company CEO. After having spent more than 40 years helping to build the enterprise software industry, among other things being credited with writing the first business plan for Oracle in 1981, Umang is now devoting his time exclusively to the fledgling online education industry as an investor, board member and advisor.

 

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5 THINGS I LEARNED AT IIT MADRAS

By : PANIIT |February 28, 2014 |Guru Funda

By K. Sridharan, IIT Madras
Founder and President of Sankara Eye foundation, 

  1. ‘Katradhu Kai Man AlavuKalladaduUlagalavu‘- a saying by a Tamil poet, roughly translated as “what you know is a drop, what you don’t is an ocean“. I learnt this from almost everyone I met at IIT; each person I interacted with raised my curiosity in a new area and always showed me how much more there is to learn. These experiences at IIT have made me always curious – even after 3 Masters degrees, I still feel I have a lot more to learn !!!
  2. Humility: IITM grounded me to the reality that I am among some of the greatest minds on earth, and they were more humble than me (of course we also had the show-offs, but that’s life!!). The top student in my batch – who was also probably the youngest – was simple, humble, very friendly, and was playing table tennis with me all the time. Only when the grades started coming out did we realize what he was capable of. Of course, he was by no means an exception as we had many such geniuses amongst us. This awareness of my peers’ capabilities at IITM definitely taught me how to be humble and appreciate greatness in others.
  3. Can Do’ and ‘Think Big’ attitude: IITM taught me to think big and get the “can do” attitude to make things happen. Even in class projects, we always thought about the bigger vision, what can make an impact, and what parts could reasonably be accomplished within the given time frame. We learnt that we could accomplish anything we wanted, as long as we put in sincere effort towards it. Many of my friends started efforts in areas that were totally new to them, but became experts at it by the time they graduated from IIT.
  4. ‘Relax and Have Fun’: IITM taught me to enjoy the small and big things in life – relaxing in the hostels, partying, enjoying the campus itself and the “chai” in the village shops behind campus, and going for triple night shows in the Jayanthi Theater – but all only after a couple of tests.
  5. The Joy of Helping Others: At IITM, I discovered for myself that helping others solve a problem was a lot more satisfying than my own self-achievements. Nearly everything I did at IITM contributed to this: group study, exchanging notes and books, learning short cuts, understanding friends’ problems and trying to find a solution to it, and many more.Although NSS felt like a chore in the beginning, it became a part of our lives as time went on as we understood the real difference it could make in others’ lives. If I draw enormous satisfaction from the charity work I am blessed to be a part of, the seed was sown in IITM 3 decades ago!!
About K. Sridharan: Founder and President of Sankara Eye foundation, USA (a non-profit making a big difference in India), while also a Director of Software Strategy and Product Management at Intel Corporation.
After graduating with a B. Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT Madras in 1980, Sridharan earned a Masters in Chemical Engineering followed by a Masters in Computer Science. Upon completing these degrees, he began working in the computer field and joined Intel in 1990 (he has been with the company since then). In 2004, he decided to pursue further management education and received an MBA from Pepperdine University.
In 1998, after being inspired by the great work being done by Sankara Eye Care Institutions in Coimbatore, India, Sridharan decided to found Sankara Eye Foundation, USA in San Jose, California with two co-founders. From the get-go, the organization set its sights extremely high, seeking to eradicate curable blindness in India with a motto of “Vision 20/20 by the year 2020”. SEF USA was never merely a vision, however, and the effectiveness of their execution strategies and plans is clear through the results. What began as a single hospital in Coimbatore with 8000 free eye surgeries annually is now 9 hospitals performing over 140,000 free surgeries per year (with a 10th hospital in Kanpur striking ground in January 2012). Each hospital runs with a unique self-sufficiency model, wherein each hospital becomes operationally self-sufficient within 5 years of inauguration by serving 80 percent free patients and 20 percent paying patients.

 

 

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