- “There’re no alternatives to hard work, discipline and professional ethics”
- "I dream of a completely integrated concept-to-packaged-silicon flow for both digital and mixed-signal ICs"
- "The goal is not to blindly follow the herd and copy ideas"
- "We dream of creating a special company ...where 'we' is always more important than 'me'
- "And miles to go before I sleep"
- "Information technology would be a key enabler for us"
Rajagopal Balakrishnan, regional director (South India and Sri Lanka), SAP India Pvt Ltd, strongly believes in giving back to the community, and feels that one needs to always think of the common good even on the fast track to success.
I believe I had a great upbringing largely because of my father being in a transferable government job. Owing to that, I studied in Kendriya Vidyalayas, central schools where children from all backgrounds mingled, giving me great cross-cultural exposure. My early schooling was done in Kolkata and Kanpur. We spent a lot of time in the North-East too, and it was a wonderful learning experience. The exposure that I acquired at that time has stood by me till today—I have no adjustment problems, and I respect all cultures. My mother was a professor in a medical college, and my brother is a software engineer, now in the US.
After finishing school, I did my mechanical engineering from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). This was another place that taught me great adaptability. I have never been in a situation that I couldn’t handle. AMU is a great place to study, but there were some people with reservations about a boy from Kerala being in their midst. They took time to open up, but once that was over,
I settled in quite well. There were a number of strikes but I finally managed to get my degree.
After completing my BE in 1990, I (like all engineering graduates) wanted to go to B-school. I badly wanted IIM Kolkata to be my alma mater, but fate willed otherwise. I had a job with VXL in Kolkata after my engineering, while I tried very hard for my B-school entrance, and in 1991, got admission into IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A). Thereafter began the next interesting phase of my life.
Getting into work mode
We had a quarterly challenge to focus on a product, and the difficult task was to first make consumers aware of the product. Those years gave me a great insight into some fundamental principles of business, the best of them being that business cannot be done sitting in boardrooms—one has to be out in the market.
A taste of technology
It was a very exciting year. My peers tried to teach me about IT, but I took some time to learn. We had to deal with well-known names like Cisco as technology partners. I learnt a lot, selling in an extremely competitive industry with competing technologies and applications constantly being updated. Back then, I was selling the high-end Cisco routers. It was extremely challenging, but somewhere deep down I was looking for something more. Between 1996 and 1998, I handled structured cabling, and was involved in support, strategy, communications, field projects, and several other aspects of the business. I did a lot of things that I had never done before.
And betting on SAP
In 2001, I took up the SME services part of the business. We had an Indian strategy, but even at that time, we had discovered that there were millions of medium-sized companies out there that could do tremendously better with SAP solutions. I felt we needed to focus on them. My responsibility was for that part of the business called emerging segments, and I then increased my portfolio to include Sri Lanka as a territory.