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Kris Canekeratne: An Extraordinary Tale of an Extraordinary Impresario

Anamika Sahu
Friday, February 3, 2017
Anamika Sahu
In the late 90's, when generation one offshore IT services companies focused on Y2K remediation and maintenance, an entrepreneur focused on technology innovation by applying the principles of software platforming to accelerate time-to-market, reduce costs and improve the end consumer experience of enterprise software and services. Specifically, his view and belief was that there was a select group of software engineers in India, Sri Lanka and the US, just like himself and others he had worked with, who would rather focus on innovation as opposed to remediation and support services driving the 1st wave of the offshore IT services industry. This is an extraordinary tale of an entrepreneur who co-founded two successful companies, one of which he took public (Virtusa) while the other was acquired by Oracle (eDocs). He is Kris Canekeratne, Chairman & CEO, Virtusa Corporation, an IT consulting, outsourcing & agile software development company that is engaged in digitally transforming large service oriented industries including Banking, Financial Services & Insurance (BFSI), Healthcare & Communications and Media & High Tech. A father of two, Kris and his family play an active role in philanthropic initiatives targeted at changing the way education and healthcare function.

The Awe-inspiring Entrepreneurial Journey

Kris comes from a software engineering background. Working with many talented individuals, he has designed and developed large scale software products and enterprise systems. In his first eight years as a professional, he worked with a large multi-national corporation (MNC) and at the age of 24, he joined the founding team of a startup in NYC. "Prior to starting Virtusa and eDocs, I led technology and operations for a small startup in NYC dedicated to building a software product platform to support enterprise document management and customer care. During this time, I would make trips to my home town in Colombo, Sri Lanka to see my parents and, on those trips, I would invariably meet software engineers who were quite talented but lacked the opportunity to work on innovation. I felt that there was an opportunity to access this select but tremendous global software development talent pool and direct it towards innovation by building software platforms to help our clients accelerate business outcomes," reminisces Kris. This essence became the genesis of Virtusa.

Post commencement, Virtusa experimented with helping clients build unique software platforms, distinct from building bespoke applications. The initial success with this approach proved Kris' hypothesis that software platforms are inherently more enduring, help accelerate time-to-market, reduce overall costs and provide a better end consumer experience. "Our idea attracted very talented software engineers and technologists and we did several things right: we established a strong innovation and engineering ethos; we built a strong presence in consumer-oriented industries that depended on technology innovation to offer differentiated consumer services; we prided ourselves on service excellence and diligently measured client delight, different from customer satisfaction; we created a high-performance culture driven by leaderboards and gamified Continuous Integration Continuous Development (gCICD); and above all, we established a culture based on a set of core values that forms the glue that bonds our 17,000+ global team members together," explains Kris.

As the years passed, Virtusa's terrific platform enabled its team members to innovate and stretch the contours of what was possible by applying themselves. The opportunity to reimagine what clients do, and transform their business, attracted the cream of technology professionals away from the mundane and rudimentary bread & butter tasks and projects that defined the offshoring industry. And the grounded Kris never misses to attribute his success to his leadership team and outstanding team members who are very strong and capable in their own right, talented and always ready to give it their best. Being a one-of-a-kind entrepreneur, Kris understands the importance of empowerment; hence he has created a strong value system that guides Virtusa in terms of decisions that must be made day-in, day-out. The team is empowered with complete autonomy without constantly having to come to a single individual or a few people to make day-to-day decisions. This has been a large part of the reason that has enabled Virtusa to grow 2-2.5 times the pace of the industry over the past 10 years. "It would have been very difficult to grow at the pace that we have if all decisions were single threaded through a single individual. This has also gone on to define our organizational fabric which is governed and led by our core values," asserts Kris. Today, Kris is very enthusiastic about the dawn of the 4th Industrial Revolution and how well Virtusa is positioned to help clients embrace and extend their Digital presence.

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