Tag Archives: services

Interview with Atul Narkhede, CEO of GS Lab

(GS Lab, a high-end, specialized, outsourced product development and software services company, that was founded by Shridhar Shukla and Sunil Gaitonde in 2004, has now grown to 650+ employees, and has also spun off kPoint Technologies a product company. Recently, CTO Atul Narkhede took over as CEO and MD of GS Lab. We took this opportunity to talk to Atul about the transition, where GS Lab is now, and where it is going.)

You have been associated with GS Lab since the beginning. Can you briefly talk about your transition into this new role? What will Shridhar Shukla and Sunil Gaitonde (Founders of GS Lab) be focusing on?

Atul Narkhede: CEO of GS Lab
Atul Narkhede: CEO of GS Lab

GS Lab was formed with a long-term vision of building a company which will work on exciting technologies, take market risks with new ideas, invest in R&D, and keep our lives interesting while doing all this. The company has seen steady, profitable growth for the past 12+ years during which I focused mostly on the technology and incubation front as the CTO. Today, the company has built an excellent team of technology experts and I will now be responsible for the overall growth of the company as the CEO and MD going ahead. Shridhar and Sunil both continue on the board of GS Lab, and both will spend all their time leading kPoint (a product company incubated by GS Lab) towards its growth globally.

What challenges do you see in the market?

The business model for software products and services has been shaken up in recent times by the move to the “cloud model”. The prevalence of public clouds, container architectures, easy-to-consume third-party services and readymade PaaS platforms have fundamentally altered how new products are built from ground up. All companies have to adapt to this disruption, and GS Lab has invested significantly to adopt the new technologies/tools/platforms, train the staff, and change our engagement models with customers. This cloud approach of building products needs fewer engineers compared to large teams we saw earlier, but they need to be experts. GS Lab will need to invest to build such differentiated manpower, and it is no longer a “scale the headcount” game. As the technology adoption is universal, and no longer limited to tech-savvy customers, we need to innovate to be able to reach this new demographic (which is a sales and marketing challenge) and engage this customer base (which needs domain understanding and language) to provide complete solutions which just work out of the box.

What is the long term direction/vision for GS Lab?

We will eventually get into “high value” services and products. Our yardstick for measuring our success would be “revenue per employee”. Matching the global levels of this metric is a tough target. We increasingly see customer solutions needing expertise in multiple technology and business domains; hence we seek to partner with experts in relevant domains, to be able to build multi-disciplinary problem solving teams for future. We have been investing in IP, technology assets, open-source contributions and patents for many years in a chosen set of technology areas. For example, our exploration in video streaming area resulted in a full-fledged product in the “enterprise video” space and is now a separate product company called “kPoint Technologies” which has a large customer base of global MNCs.

What are the technology areas GS Lab is focusing on?

IOT (Internet of Things) is one of thrust areas for GS Lab in the near future. We realized the need for building hardware design capabilities in the org, and are running pilots to produce hardware device prototypes along with the software-based cloud stack to power comprehensive IOT architecture for our customers. When such a system has a large number of endpoints, all generating data in real-time, a key requirement is to understand the instantaneous behavior of the system and hence we’ve created a framework for generating ‘streaming analytics’ to monitor such large-scale systems. This analysis helps pinpoint bottlenecks in the system, and help scale up/down the cloud service based on traffic patterns observed. We’re trying to apply this IOT solution to the ‘energy management’ space in particular with focus on electrical power consumption and solar photovoltaic power optimization. Connected IP-cameras are omnipresent today given the security concerns at all commercial as well as residential installations. These cameras generate continuous stream of video data. While surveillance is the primary objective, these videos are increasing used for automatic event detection, object detection, counting object movements, etc. We are looking at some streaming video use-cases to incorporate into smart-city solutions that will certainly be deployed in near future.

IT Services is a crowded market. What differentiation does GS Lab bring to the table?

GS Lab has always had the philosophy of having “small but effective” teams to build technology products instead of “large solution teams” approach. For this, we’ve had to create technology depth with a focus on full-stack engineering. Most of the customers GS Lab engages with are startups at a very early (idea) stage. We have the ability to translate these ideas into PoCs and rapidly evolving cloud services which result in mature, robust, scalable solutions. We position ourselves as a provider which spans the range “from lab to complete solutions”; i.e., we are able to work with both – early stage products which require agility, low time-to-market, quick prototyping constraints as well as mature, complex products which need scalability, maintainability and monitoring as primary focus areas. As a result, we’ve had several instances where the initial PoCs we created for startups are today large-scale mainstream products at marquee technology companies post acquisition over the course of 5-9 years.

GS Lab has grown quite fast over the past 2-3 years. What is the current size (employee base)? Can you describe your hiring strategy and work culture? What are the challenges?

We are 650+ strong today spanning from campus hires to experienced employees who have worked all over the globe. We hire mainly based on references and we have strong incentives for referrals. Our employees come from all parts of India including quite a few from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Every year, we sponsor a large number of final-year engineering projects and offer internships; this is our primary source of getting campus hires, as against participating in campus placements. This long-term relationship with prospective employees enables both the company and the employee to understand each other better and results in a more fruitful relationship. GS Lab believes in hiring for attitude and aptitude as against point skills, and we’ve had several employees who have excelledin the company even when they did not have a formal background Computer Science.

What advice would you have for a young software professional, who is just starting his/her career?

The one thing I’d advise young professionals is to value the quality of work over the company brand or pay. The kind of colleagues you work with is also extremely important to how you grow and mature professionally. You must value the “degree of freedom/control” at work and should join an organization that encourages independent thinking, ownership and demands results. Look for a workplace that doesn’t straightjacket you into a narrow role, and enables contribution to various activities to let you discover your own passion and strengths. A right choice of the first company lays the foundation for a fulfilling career.

Overview of KPIT: A Tech Company With An Auto Focus – via Forbes

Forbes has an interesting overview of Pune services company, KPIT.

Some excerpts:

The company, founded in 1990, soon evolved into one of the fastest-growing IT enterprises in the country. Revenues went from $10 million in 2002 to $100 million in 2007 to $444 million in 2014. Profits have more than tripled to $42 million in the last seven years. This performance has earned it a spot on the Best Under A Billion list for the second straight year.

Next stop? It’s targeting $1 billion in 2017.

One of the important ways in which KPIT distinguishes itself from its competitors (including Indian biggies like Infosys, and other Pune companies of similar size, like Persistent) is that it leverages Pune’s manufacturing industry, and thus has a focus on software for the auto/manufacturing industry. This is a USP that that most other Indian software companies are missing:

In the auto sector the company works in a range of areas, including providing software for vehicle safety and developing technology to convert gasoline-powered cars into hybrids.

For instance KPIT offers software that detects when a driver is distracted: turning away from the wheel, say, to look at a child in the backseat or out of drowsiness, elicits warning beeps. KPIT is also developing infrared systems for pedestrian detection.

The company is also jazzing up things on the road. Take its work for Jaguar Land Rover’s sports car, the Jaguar F-type. KPIT has helped in the development of the software that deploys the spoiler at the rear of the car.

Of course, there is competition:

Meanwhile, as KPIT forges ahead it contends with intense competition for software services from midcap IT companies like Mindtree and Hexaware as well as biggies like TCS and Cognizant. And when it comes to auto engineering services, it’s pitted against Ricardo, Bosch and niche German companies in auto electronics.

Keeping up with the competition is hard work, and 12-hour days across the management chain are common.


“We are all workaholics in the company,” says [Chairman Ravi] Pandit. “But it’s not really work when there’s so much excitement. Very few people get this kind of an opportunity to be part of something big like this.”

Read the full article – for much more details.

The end of the Indian IT Industry as we know it? -by @akkiman

(This article by Akshay Damle was first published on his blog and is reproduced here with permission for the benefit of PuneTech readers.)

Over the past couple few weeks, I have been reading & thinking about the salary hikes that the companies are doling out. This year, it has been challenging to provide “good” pay hikes to most of the employees and most of them are ending up feeling disappointed, cheated even. There were even dharnas staged because companies could not fulfil their promises of hiring them after graduation.

There was a time in the early – 2000s when the IT industry was the sunrise sector in India. 20+ % pay hikes were very common for even above average performers in organizations. This behaviour carried on till 2008-09 when the global financial crisis unleashed itself. The financial crisis affected most mid to senior level employees and things changed for most of them. Even during this time, young graduates (<3-5 years of experience) would still consistently get “good” pay hikes. They were given to prevent them from jumping ship as the key to success was having good quality resources in your organization and also because it didn’t affect the bottom line much.

The last 1 year has been tough on the Indian IT sector Most companies are reporting flat growth, squeezed margins, and record low utilization levels. A few of the companies have reported that they may not hike their employee’s salary. Most of them are providing single digit pay hikes, quite a departure from the past. Most companies are also reporting record low attrition levels (<5 %). So what has changed? What has suddenly gone so wrong ?

In my opinion, quite a few things have gone wrong. Note that I’m no industry expert: :

The failure of the Indian IT industry to move from performing standard grunt work (Services) to innovation.

Initially, performing “outsourcing” work for global companies in India was highly lucrative. What with low labour costs, low infrastructure costs, and therefore high margins. The failure of these companies was to not divert these profits into more R&D work and instead hiring more and more grads to work on such projects. The “good” raises & hiring by the thousands meant that the margins reduced, quality reduced. The effect was that many of these global companies started moving projects out of India to other lucrative countries like China, Philipines, etc.

Proliferation of sub-standard engineering colleges across India.

Most of the folks in India were enamoured with the wealth that the early IT folk acquired. Everyone had a house (or two), a car, flashy lifestyles etc. Therefore, there was a demand across Bharat to become engineers and move to Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Gurgaon and get into big IT organizations. This meant that engineering colleges multiplied overnight and there were millions of new IT graduates. Most of the big IT companies had such huge requirements that most of them could fulfil this supply of hiring these engineering grads. What most didn’t realize is that it takes years & years of experience before a college can be considered good. You require land, infrastructure, good professors, excellent equipment to be able to impart quality education to students. Most colleges ended up producing half-baked graduates ready to take on the IT world. This has been the failing for many companies & colleges. What makes things worse is that most Universities are very slow to adapt their syllabus. In a fast-moving world of technology, this is a death-knell.

Near constant starting salaries

Ever since I graduated in 2001, the starting salary of an IT graduate has remained more or less the same. Most engineering students from the cities do not accept such salaries but then they have a choice of moving out for further education to the US, etc. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for most of the folks coming in from middle India. Additionally, 2.5 lakhs p.a. is lucrative for most of these graduates. Most big IT companies are also more than happy to keep this salary constant for the past so many years. So what we now have are sub-standard quality graduates along with folks who are paid less. Not a good thing at all.

Rising costs & degrading urban infrastructure

This isn’t a direct reason for the downfall of the Indian IT but most of these jobs & companies contributed extensively to the tax-revenues of states, and the centre. Unfortunately, this did not translate to quality infrastructure in these urban wastelands. The accompanying real-estate boom & high inflationary rates have ensured that the cost of living increases quite a lot each year & house rentals are on an all-time high. Many of the new young graduates stay far away from the city in order to make rent. This all affects the quality of work.

Increasing credit debt

It’s absolutely sad to see many of these young graduates caught up in credit card debts. There was a time around 8 years back when credit cards were doled out to IT workers as if they were visiting cards. I have seen quite a few colleagues who are stuck in credit card debts, personal loans, etc. Leave aside owning a home, they are struggling to make payments. At the same time, everyone wants the flashy phone, the flashy clothes, good food, etc. It’s appalling to note that many workers don’t even know how Income tax is calculated! So when these guys are offered single digit pay hikes especially when they’ve seen some seniors in the past get 20%+ pay hikes, they are disappointed and get unmotivated. To make matters worse, they can’t switch jobs because no one is hiring at that experience level. This all translates to poor quality of work.

It isn’t all a bad thing though. Many companies have started seeing the big picture and involved in improving their bottom lines. They have started investing more & more into innovation. Some colleges at the top-tier are changing their syllabus on a yearly basis. Also if you can innovate in your job, you still have multiple growth opportunities. Most folks are unaware of the emerging technologies, market trends, global financial news, etc. This is extremely vital if you want to grow in your role. If this is followed, many can still reap the financial rewards and grow. If this isn’t followed, sadly the IT industry isn’t the utopia that it was made out to be.

I’ll end this by saying that there is still hope but yes, the Indian IT industry isn’t what it used to be.

About the Author – Akshay Damle

Akshay Damle is a Pune-based technology enthusiast. During the day, he manages teams that are involved in building scalable payment systems infrastructure. He has over 11 years of experience in building enterprise applications. His interests are following emerging technology trends, current affairs, finance & general knowledge. You can follow him on twitter @akkiman.

What IT Services Project Managers can learn from Greek Mythology

(This article is a guest post by Rohit Gore, a Pune-based senior IT professional and novelist.)

“When you are a King, your options are very limited. But you have to do the best you can with them.” Odysseus, the great Greek King said to one of the greatest warriors of history, Achilles. It is a very revealing statement, and speaks a lot about Odysseus’ character and his grasp of what management is. Odysseus was one of the regional satraps of the mighty and egotistic King Agamemnon, and he had had to fight many brutal battles for the King’s glory. He was always challenged by the flagging morale of his troops, his personal sacrifice and dwindling resources of his country. However, he was aware of the wrath he and his little country would suffer if he tried to displease Agamemnon. Over the course of the history he achieved greatness as a shrewd king, who made sure his subjects were protected and larger goals were achieved, which was basically Agamemnon’s reign over most of the known world. Achilles, on the other hand, was a vain warrior who chased personal glory, and was brilliant at it.

Juxtaposing this in the world of IT Services, a project manager needs to be more of an Odysseus than an Achilles.

IT Services industry is fast approaching the plateau of maturity that other core industries like Steel, Cement and Energy achieved several decades ago. Naturally, gone are the days, when we had services organizations being run by individual visionaries and geniuses, and others in supporting acts. However, the situation of IT industry is rather unique because at its core it is still highly human intensive and knowledge centric. You cannot really replace a knowledge worker the way you would replace a worker who operates, say, a Lathe machine in a workshop. Due to this intrinsic human centric nature, the job of a project manager in IT Services is doubly challenging in a maturing landscape of the industry.

A manager could do worse than to develop these traits:

Odysseus’s view of the ‘big picture’

IT services project manager, in the torrent of daily tasks, ends up forgetting what she is actually achieving at the end of the project. No project is an individual silo and works towards a common organizational goal. It could range from as strategic as ‘better connect with the customer’ to as operational as ‘improving process efficiencies’. A project manager needs to be totally aware of what the client is achieving through the success of her project, and most importantly she has to be able to articulate it everywhere, in every forum she gets an opportunity to. Be it to her project team, client counterparts, product vendor teams or her senior management. Odysseus constantly told his troops that every battle was a way of protecting their motherland and ensuring the well being of their families back home. That message almost always made everyone realize what they were really fighting for – not for King Agamemnon, but for their families.

Odysseus’s ability to manage the ‘stars’

Let’s face it, star performers are important, in fact, crucial for the success of any team. Many a times, the estimations of work packets in a project are way off the mark and it is a constant battle to meet the quality targets and deadlines. In these situations, the people who make the difference are the ‘stars’. An IT project manager needs to make sure these ‘game-breakers’ are always motivated and focused, because they can be notoriously fickle and can lose interest very fast. Most importantly, the manager has to make sure that their egos are managed well. After all, there never was a great performer without the ego! There is a subtle difference between managing your stars and your average team members. The biggest challenge for the manager is to determine who the real stars are. The manager needs to quickly ensure that they share her view of the ‘big picture’ and can articulate it as well. Many times, the lesser performers in the team follow the stars, and if you have your best performers as the spokespersons of your vision in the team, half the job is done! Achilles was the greatest warrior of his generation and to Odysseus’s great consternation, Achilles hated Agamemnon. However, it was Odysseus who convinced Achilles to fight for the mighty king and also managed to reign in his ego and relentless thirst for glory at all expense. The result was several seemingly lost battles were won by the individual brilliance of Achilles.

Odysseus’s streak of ‘selflessness’

This trait, the selflessness, is the trickiest to master. After all, we are working towards corporate goals, which generally result in some kind of profit for the clients. In such a situation, it is always easy to be a bit cynical and protect the narrow self-interest. However, the importance of this trait is like the little pinch of salt in a dish. The dish can never be complete without it. A project manager can achieve a lot if she sets the personal ego aside. It’s manifestation can be as simple as the manager taking that little step to stay back in the office till the major activities of the day are over or as striking as the manager taking the lead in important client calls rather than delegating it. Many times, a manager ends up thinking, what she believes is paying a ‘price’ for this selflessness. The biggest price is that of preparation for every call a manager decides to lead and every hour she spends in the office after usual time of closure. However, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is nothing more inspirational for a team member than a simple selfless act of manager. Odysseus never stayed in the background during the battles. He drew his sword first and always charged headlong. It was fraught with great risk, but Odysseus what it would mean to his soldiers, and even to mighty warriors like Achilles and Ajax. It won over his troops and gained him great respect, even greater than Agamemnon. As a result, Odysseus won all his battles.

Odysseus’s flair to appreciate every facet of his trade

It is important for the project manager to appreciate what every individual brings to the table in his team. Be it coding, analysis or testing. The manager need not be an expert but she needs to know what it takes to code or test or analyze. She has to have the traits of a generalist and not get too attached to just a few aspects of the project. Several projects fail because the project manager’s refusal to having a perspective of all the facets, or even glorifying some aspects and neglecting others. Many times, this attachment comes from the manager’s background and the comfort she derives from wrapping herself in her strengths. Odysseus, an expert swordsman, never failed to appreciate the contribution and skill of his archers. He knew they were equally important to winning the battle and always told them so, although they were often derided by the swordsmen as being cowards for shooting the enemy from a distance. This resulted in archers having a sense of belonging and they never failed to flatten rows of enemy troops for swordsmen to charge and finish the job.

History can be very revealing. Odysseus was a great hero, and most importantly, he was the only one who lived to tell the tale! All the other great warriors, including the invincible Achilles, met their end. It was Odysseus who documented their heroics and passed on their greatness for the next generations. Knowledge management, anyone!!

About the Author – Rohit Gore

Rohit Gore is a Pune-based senior IT Professional and novelist. Rohit is a Lead Consultant at Fujitsu Consulting India, and has 10+ years of Industry experience including stints at Infosys and Sasken after an MBA from S P Jain Institute.

Rohit is also the author of ‘FOCUS, SAM’ a novel from Rupa Publications and the upcoming ‘A DARKER DAWN’. He grew up in a number of towns in India. At various times in his childhood, he wanted to be a theatre actor, an architect and a bookshop owner.

He loves sports, specifically the discussing and watching part of it, since the playing days are long gone. He has travelled a lot – a consequence of living in Mumbai and London. His greatest passion is reading and it inspired him to write. He is a frequent contributor to many online writing forums and wishes there were more writing groups.

BSNL to provide managed network services in Pune

The Indian Express reports that Pune has yet again been chosen as a city to introduce a new hi-tech service: Managed Network Services from BSNL. The basic idea is that instead of simply providing broadband and other types of network access, BSNL will take over the entire job of handling the network of small companies. The hardware, software and maintenance will be handled by BSNL, and the company just has to pay the monthly rent (starting at Rs. 8000 p.m.)

BSNL chairman and managing director Kuldeep Goyal on Friday launched the Managed Network Services from Pune. Calling this service a ‘new chapter’ in the history of BSNL, Goyal said, “We chose Pune to run the project on a pilot basis, as we are sure of getting a good feedback here.”


“The assured service with fixed monthly charges and no capital expenditure investment will reduce the entry barrier to the customer and help in expanding our service. Initially, we are targeting 50 small and medium enterprises as our customers.” he added.

The integrated secured data service is actually a bundle of hardware, connectivity package and completely managed services, including the 24×7 proactive monitoring of customer network and remote configuration of troubleshooting.

See full article.