Dr. Nataraj Narayan: A Technology Leader On A Journey Abreast of Time

Dr. Nataraj Narayan: A Technology Leader On A Journey Abreast of Time

Dr. Nataraj Narayan, Managing Director, Nirmata, 0

Hardcore technology companies are built around the firm belief that better software will radically improve our society. This also signals the paramount importance of democratizing world class technology solutions. Today, when cloud native technology and the practice of CI/CD are becoming increasingly popular amongst enterprise organizations, it's imperative to ensure that the underlying digital infrastructure is capable of supporting the workload. According to Gartner, 85 percent of Organizations will be 'Cloud First' by 2025. The changes mentioned by Gartner will mean major shifts in the way world does business over the next few years, the result of which, Gartner says, will be more than 85 percent of organizations embracing 'cloud-first' strategy by 2025 and 95 percent of new digital workloads being deployed on cloud native platforms(up to30 percent in 2021).Hence, policy management engines have become the gold standard when it comes to filling in the security and compliance gaps that arise as companies continue to adopt Kubernetes. One of the most preferred solutions that impressively bridge this gap is Kyverno, the policy management engine open sourced to the CNCF and created by Nirmata an intrinsic technology company that bets huge on better software radically improving our society.

`Nirmata', which stays true to its name (which means architect in Indo Aryan Aryan languages) by helping enterprises build better software, has manifested an impeccable growth trajectory in the recent past, especially in India under the aegis of Dr. Nataraj N, Managing Director India, Nirmata. A leader who believes in constant learning, Dr. Nataraj is building a strong engineering team in India around a partnership/channelled sales strategy. "What I learn from life, through experiencing the moments and inspirations from people from the school that I choose to never graduate from," says Dr. Nataraj. In a candid chat with CEO Insights, Dr Nataraj opens up and talks about the key inspirations and lessons in life that have led to his personal and professional growth.

What about Nirmata made you want it to be your next career stop?
I looked at four key parameters: Team, Technology, Market & Customers. Nirmata has built a best in class solution to address the challenges pertaining to these four areas. Also, I specifically look for founders who are obsessed with delighting customers and solving the toughest of problems for them. Building successful startups requires tenacity, grit, and focus. I feel that Nirmata team is out innovating in this market by focusing on the long game. That's how we have built the best in class solution that is Developer friendly. Built on an open source platform, it provided Devops and IT operations teams with self service, multi cloud, and scalable SAAS solutions to address Day 2 Kubernetes challenges. Today, Nirmata is also an AWS partner available in the AWS market place.

You bring 30+ years of experience to the company. What are the latest growth strategies that the company is devising?
First and foremost is to build a strong engineering team in India. We have almost hired the best talents for all the key roles over the last three months. From a sales point of view, we completely believe in Partnership/Channel led sales strategy. We recently had a barometer check when we participated in the Accenture ventures Challenge where we have been selected as one amongst top 100 cloud participants.

What is your vision for Nirmata?
A vision without a mission is just a day dream and a mission without action is a nightmare.

During the past 12 months, I have seen accelerated adoption of Kubernetes in the production environ ment. In order to benefit every Kubernetes customer, Nirmata has built Kyverno, the open source Kuber netes native policy engine that joins the Linux Foundation. It saw six million downloads in six months (over 1.25K million GitHub stars). I foresee big opportunities to address Day 2 challenges and DevSecOps requirements for cloud native technologies with Kyverno and Nirmata. So, the vision would be to become a Unicorn in the next three to five years by helping to manage millions of containerized appli cations running in Kubernetes clusters across the globe.

Do you think the working culture has improved in our country over the past few years?
The working culture has been improving tremendously in recent years. The workplaces across the organi zations were focused on a multi skilled culture when I started my career. It became specialized skills for respective jobs as we progressed through. Now it again becomes a blend of specialized and multi skilled culture. In other words, it is also called Full stack. People are progressively responding to these demands as well as challenges.

How has the pandemic impacted the industries and technology domains that you compete in? What are the opportunities and challenges that you have seen in the last 18 months?

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation on a global scale.Having been designed for security, collaboration, and agility, Nirmata enables enterprise DevSecOps teams to adopt cloud native technologies. This has helped accelerate our growth and adoption of our solutions as well. At the same time, like everyone else, we have all had to adjust to the `new normal' and adopt new processes for effective communication and collaboration across global teams.

What are the major factors behind the success of your professional career? What is your success mantra?
I have learnt from many, as I have been able to interact closely with my teachers, colleagues, and seniors the likes of Ashok Soota(Executive Chairman & Founder, Happiest Minds), Chandra (VC & former President of Wipro, and CEO of Mastek, e4e, Aztec), Govindarajan(Founder &CEO, Perfios), Samir Bodas (CEO, Icertis),Atul Nishar(Former NASSCOM Chairman), Arun Ramamurthy(Z5 Consulting), Aled Miles (Sauce Labs), and Jim (Founder & CEO Nirmata) to name a few. To mention some of the achievers that I have read about Gandhiji, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Randy Pausch, to name a few. Several aspects of these gentlemen have moved me.

As Randy Pausch found his last lecture as an opportunity to leave a message for his children, perhaps, this is my opportunity to thank those who have been a catalyst in the lessons of life I have learnt. For the person that I am today, I want to thank many teachers. Here's a heartfelt,'Thank you!'

In your professional journey so far, which are the milestones that bestowed you with utmost satis faction both as an individual and as a leader?
I take pride in my intact reputation as a transfor mational CIO and a successful business leader. I have successfully managed $300 million+ worth of business and have won many awards. Atul, the former chairman, always used to say that it is always difficult to sell a company at the right price. My last two decades have been quite successful as I have been a part of the leadership that transformed four such companies (Aztec to Mindtree Hexaware to Baring Asia KPIT to Birlasoft &
finally my startup AutonomIQ to Sauce Labs) and finally merged them with bigger entities,benefiting Investors, employees & customers.

My experiences have also helped me become a richer human being and with all humility, I want to state that I certainly have not arrived yet. I see the journey as the reward. Well and that's what keeps me going.

My last two decades have been quite successful, as i have been a part of the leadership that transformed four such companies and finally merged them with bigger entities, benefiting investors, employees & customers

To achieve such a big success like this in life, you need strong support from your family and close ones. Who do you think has been the driving force behind your success?
We are quite familiar with the adage that ‘Behind every successful man, there is a woman.' But in my case, there are four women. The first is my mother the bold lady with a can do attitude and leadership traits. Her genes run in me. Jayasree, my companion, is the source of my inner strength, provides me unconditional support, and makes me understand the meaning of lifetime partnership. Living with her, I have strengthened my lessons on humanity, equani mity, and selflessness. Over the last 14 years, the third lady of my life our little angel Kritika helps me relive my childhood and rejoice in the bliss of sheer innocence. When I am traveling, I tell Jay how much I miss the family. She jokingly comments that I miss home food more. Last but not least is my mom-in-law, who has taught me the power of resilience and has been a great support to my family during my extensive travel days.

Do you participate in any mentorship programs or give keynote speeches in conferences & seminars to share your industry insights with your peers?
Yes, my thoughts have been carried out in several leading magazines and National dailies like ET, Times, Indian Express, DQ, CIO Magazines (IDG), Voice & Data, PC Quest & others. I have been featured several times in NDTV Profit & CNBC as a thought provoking CIO. Very Recently, NewsX covered an exclusive interview as a part of ‘A' Achievers' list. Apart from that, I have been involved with educational institutes and participated in Niyam (a group of 25 engineering colleges in Karnataka) organized by Sir. M.Visvesvaraya Institute of technology. Furthermore, I have delivered several Keynote speeches at major conferences, including at the world wide prestigious forum Organized by Microsoft, SAP(SAPPHIRE) and Oracle Open World. On the other hand, I have also been part of the advisory boards of many large enterprises and startups. I am a founder member and the President of CIO KLUB(A group of 500+ Top Global CIOs). I have also been associated with Social Venture Partners a Philanthropy Org founded by ex-Microsoft India Chairman ­as a founding member during its initial days.

You are known for your innovation,understanding of technology & execution.Help make new age professionals understand how to achieve that.
If you change with time, then Time will never leave your side. The new Kodak moments are all about the experience of employees, customers, and other stakeholders.In addition, the dedication & keenness to innovate & excel is of paramount importance as well. Knowledge & expertise will follow automati cally. And your progression will be initially measured by one's knowledge/learnings. Based on your skills, expertise, and the roles that you play, opportunities will automatically come your way. Then comes the readiness to take some risks and manifest aggression. This only can give a steep progression. You need to create and face challenges to make a mark, and you need to comprehend that when you are in your comfort zone that's your cue to move. But remember all the while, you can be ambitious, but not greedy.

You are also a known sports enthusiast,especially when it comes to Golf. Is it really more than a game?
It is indeed. My relationship with this game of the halves goes back to 2005. It was when I played for the first time in Cupertino(California) Golf Course. It has been a game close to my heart ever since then. I play almost every weekend in Karnataka Golf Association(KGA)and Army Golf Course(AGC)in Bengaluru.

I have also participated in a couple of champion ships (Cisco Golf tournament in Eagleton, CRY in KGA, and ICICI in Eagleton). I in fact managed to win a couple of prizes for the longest drive and putting.

Over the years, there have been a number of take aways from the game as well. For instance, it taught me that it's not the power but the precision, timing, and tactics that matters in every stroke. It's the same ball and the hole is the goal for every one, but every player needs to choose the club, which can make a difference. It's also fascinating to deduct that the rules of games are really not really the same, and sometimes the lowest score means winning.

The importance of the right mentor is paramount as well. Consider the case of Eldrick Tont Woods. Is it just the player or his efforts in combination with his coaches that make him Tiger Woods? The role of a coach is often instrumental towards success.

Dr.Nataraj N, Managing Director, Nirmata
Dr.Nataraj has 30+ years of experience & has recently joined Nirmata as Managing Director. He has joined from AutonomIQ, where he was the Co-Founder President & Managing Director. As the President, he was instrumental in building the team and revenues from Greenfield. The success and potential of AutonomIQ attracted a number of new investors and finally was successfully acquired by Sauce labs.

Hobbies: Reading Books, Singing Old Kishore Songs, and Playing Tennis and Golf

Movies: Nataraj has idolized Amitabh Bachchan ever since his adolescence. He says, "More his reel life, I admire his real life character. To me and probably thousands of others, he is many virtues personified. A born fighter and pioneer in many areas, he has been my inspiration through life's struggles and I feel child-like excitement even today when my cousin Malavika, who actually is more than a sister, refers me as AB or Big B(Ajay Bhaiya or Big Brother).

Favourite Cuisine:Idlis. "Idlis are my only weakness that I am bereft of in my trips to the West. It's always been one of my best memories that my lovely sister, Malavika, who lives in Dallas, always pack idlis for me. It used to feel like oxygen in those trips," he adjoins.

Favorite Book: Mahabharat
Travel Destination: Australia

Awards & Recognition:
•Hind Ratna Award for outstanding services and Achievements & Contribution at the 38th Inter national Congress of NRI given by Bibek Debroy, Chairman of Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister
•Mahatma Gandhi Award ­ House of Commons, UK.
•Amongst Top 50 Global CIOs Info Week - 2011
•Hall of Fame InfoWeek - 2012
•CNBC Young Turk award
•CIO 100 award(Four times in a row)from IDG­ 2008-2011
•Hall of Fame ­ IDG ­ 2011
•IDC Insight award -2014
•India's Best CIO award by Times Editor Arnab G
•The greatest Corporate Leader of India Award by DNA/Star Group
•Pioneer Transformation(Cloud)Award Microsoft
•Innovation award CIO 100 IDG 2011
•Green Award - CIO IDG Media