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June - 2006 - issue > How I Got Where I am Today
Innovate and rejuvenate
Mohammed Shariff
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Pradip Kulkarni’s moment of reckoning came early in life during his one-month stay at Intel office in Santa Clara, U.S. Sited there by his first employer, Godrej, to learn the Research and Development strategies on the 486 chipset, he was charmed by the professional atmosphere there which changed his life altogether and he decided to concentrate more on innovation. “I saw a big picture of Intel 486 architecture on the front door and was stunned, for a few moments” he says. In those days, Godrej, one of India’s largest diversified conglomerate, was one of the few companies involved in cutting edge R&D on Unix platform and had deployed Intel chipsets.

Back in India, Kulkarni realized that Godrej was not progressing with the project. He felt he did not do anything innovative nor could help the company in increasing its revenues and left Godrej to join NCR.

But he was disillusioned with NCR too. “I was in a rut. We weren’t doing anything creative, just repeating the same work,” says Kulkarni.

He came back to India in 1993 and declined an offer from Wipro for a project in Austin, Texas. He preferred staying home rather than go back to the U.S. However he quickly absorbed a chance to work at the then newly launched Pune Development Center of VERITAS Software in 1994. As luck would have it, and then there was no looking back.

As a startup, VERITAS offered its employees new challenges in technology and the work culture spearheaded Kulkarni to innovate cutting edge technology, even without appropriate support. When the company created the next generation data architecture with support from a global team, Kulkarni built the technology capability with non-traditional ways, similar to his student days when his classmates would ponder over previous years question papers to prepare for examinations he would pick up books from the library and study randomly to perform better than his classmates.

Whenever the VERITAS team came to India to discuss the projects in detail, Kulkarni would always be the first to propose novel ideas to make it better. He always believes that one should focus on technology. “I decided to do things whether or not it gives me any recognition and I kept on doing the same for a long time. I reminded myself time and again that this has to be followed forever.” This attitude helped him to execute decisions first and then discuss the issue. “Too much of scrutiny will discourage the mission,” he says.

Kulkarni has always evaluated himself, which has helped him, travel from bit level coding to designing and architecture, which then propelled him to his coveted position in vision process. “Vision is something that elevates our aim; it is more of self-judgment and gut feeling than any objective view.” Any engineer working on newer technology should be able to visualize tomorrow and should analyze things if they want to be a part of the changes happening, is Kulkarni’s strong belief. “Doing some thing different and innovating some thing new is always important.”

To be innovative, one should have focus. “Once we focus on technology we start doing things differently, any other aspect except technology will not influence the techie. “Always pick up lower hanging fruits, then build on it,” says Kulkarni.

Kulkarni believes in what he says. In the initial stages he gave his inputs to the development team. He met with resistance and was frowned upon. “I continued to propose and at the end I started getting positive responses,” Kulkarni adds.

So much was the VERITAS management impressed with his work that they awarded him the “Distinguished Engineer” award in 2002, the highest recognition in VERITAS. His enthusiasm for original technology and aggressive commitment had him leading several projects, delivering them with best results.

The excitement did not last long. As time passed by, innovative work became less frequent and Kulkarni decided it was time for him to move on. He left his cushy and the well-paid job at VERITAS with a mandate to set up the India operations of PANTA Systems, another startup. It wasn’t a job a veteran would like to see. Compensation was less; he had to start his new company in an apartment with his own home computer. Starting a new company from scratch is risky particularly when one leaves the comfort of a big company. But Kulkarni found fun in it. He says PANTA Systems gave him the power to execute his ideas. “Start up is always a challenge.”

He says one thing that makes heading a startup exciting is that he can be a part of a mission. “Earlier I joined a mission driven by someone and now I create the mission.”

Having moved on to lead with more responsibilities in his new company, he is enjoying every moment of it. Since August 2004, when he came on board of PANTA Systems, he has grown his company to 20 in India with a global strength of 65 worldwide.

So far so good for a person who has made innovation his habit.

Pradip Kulkarni
General Manager and Vice President of Engineering, PANTA Computer Systems India Private Limited

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