fbpx

A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Category: people

StoneWall Riots

50th anniversary of 1969 – The greatest year of the century

If you were to choose the most eventful year ever – which would it be? Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 bestseller  “Outliers: The Story of Success” talks about the impact that people born in 1955 have made. Yes Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Whoopi Gooldberg and many more born in 1955 transformed the world. I dug in and after some research came up with a clear winner by a mile. A year that transformed the world in multiple areas – Technology, Politics, Music, Civil Rights…. and that year would be 1969. ( Well, some of the transformation started in 1968 and accelerated through 1969)

First the facts that we all know of.

History was made and one small step for man became a huge leap for mankind. Neil A. Armstrong, Command Module pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module pilot Edwin “Buzz” E. Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquility, on The Moon on July 20, 1969. Remember this was a time when the largest computers had computing power lesser than your smartphone of today.

March 2nd, 1969 was also when the Anglo-French supersonic airliner Concorde made its maiden flight. During the test flight, Concorde’s speed never rose above 300mph and its altitude reached a lowly maximum of 10,000 feet. During commercial journeys it would reach speeds of up to 1,350mph – more than twice as fast as conventional aircraft – and fly as high as 60,000 feet. This was also the year when Boeing 747 made its 1st passenger flight.

A lot more happened on the technology side

  • The 1st ATM was installed in New York
  • ARPANET (later to become a little thing called the Internet) was commissioned by DoD for research into networking. First set up with 4 nodes – Stanford, UCLA, UCSB, and Univ of Utah. First attempt at sending packets was from UCLA to Stanford on October 29. The first 2 characters were successfully transferred, but the third keystroke crashed the system. (hmmmm…maybe Bill Gates was involved! – he was already 14 by then)
  • UNIX then called as UNICS was invented at Bell Labs led by Thompson & Ritchie working on a PDP7. Dec 28th, 1969 was also the year when Linus Torvalds was born – he would go on to become the creator and principal developer of the Linux Kernel.
  • Seiko rolled out the worlds 1st Quartz watch
  • May 1st 1969 AMD – Advanced Micro Devices was founded by Jerry Sanders and seven others from Fairchild Semiconductor. (Less than a year back on July 18th 1968 – Intel was started by the legendary Andy Grove)
  • It was in 1969 that David Paul Gregg patented the optical or laser disc, although he came up with the idea in 1958.
  • Doctors at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, made medical history on April 22, 1969, when they performed the first human eye transplant on 54-year-old John Madden. Because the donor eye had not been preserved enough to keep it viable, the procedure failed to restore Madden’s sight. The procedure itself, however, went down in history as a medical miracle.

A lot of changes were happening on the people front. Revolution and change was in the air. The Hippie’s movement – a countercultural movement that rejected  mainstream American life had engulfed the youth. The movement originated on college campuses in the United States, although it spread to other countries, including Canada and Britain. This was the era of Pop, Rock & Roll, Jazz & the Blues. Blend the Hippes lifestyle with music and you have the greatest music festival of the century – The Woodstock. 

  • The famous Woodstock music festival took place in upstate New York between August 15–18, 1969, which attracted an audience of more than 400,000. The festival featured legends like Jimi Hendrix, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Sly and the Family Stone. The event would help define an era.
  • Apart from being one of the only Indian musicians to perform at Woodstock, renowned Sitar player Ravi Shankar did not share his contemporaries’ excitement about the festival. He once said it was a terrifying experience, where the large crowds lounging in the mud reminded him of water buffaloes in India.
  • Also that summer, the Beatles, then arguably still the western world’s most popular band, released one of their final albums: Abbey Road. And the Beatles performed their last concert in 1969. This was also the year when John Lennon & Yoko Ono were married on March 20th.
  • 1969 is also quoted in the Hotel California song. It is assumed to refer to  the year when the Satanic bible was released.
  • June 1969 is famous for the Stonewall Riots. (Also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States

  • The US Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King was in its final phase. King had been assassinated in late 1968 but had laid the foundation for change.
  • The Vietnam war had peaked, more than 34,000 American soldiers died in the strife. President Richard M. Nixon assumed responsibility for the Vietnam War as he swore the oath of office on January 20, 1969. He knew that ending this war honorably was essential to his success in the presidency. He kept his promise and the US withdrew from Vietnam in 1973. Ho Chi Minh the communist leader of North Vietnam died on 2nd Sep 1969. 
  • 1969 was also the year when almost all of the world’s nations come together to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • Two of the worlds largest retailers opened stores in 1969 – The 1st GAP store opened and Walmart was incorporated as Walmart Stores Inc.
  • In late 1968 McDonald launched the Big Mac – A meal disguised as a sandwich – and it became extremely popular in 1969.
  •  The football legend Pele scored his 1000th international goal on Nov 19th, 1969
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo was published in 1969
  • Sesame Street debuts on television and the last episode of the original “Star Trek” airs on NBC. During the episode, titled “Turnabout Intruder,” one of Captain Kirk’s former lovers steals his body.

India in 1969 

  • A lot happened in India also in 1969 which has had its impact till date. India’s grand old party The Congress split into two factions led by Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai.
  • Indira Gandhi made the bold move of nationalising 14 banks that controlled 70% of the country’s deposits

  • The actor we all love Amitabh Bachchan made his debut in 1969 with Saat Hindustani 

  • 1969 was also the turnaround year for superstar Rajesh Khanna. In 1968, Khanna didn’t have a single film. In fact, the vacuum had stretched into the tenth month of 1969, prompting his doting but disturbed father to ask him to rethink his career plans. “To pursue a career that keeps rejecting you persistently is foolishness,” he told him. “In life, one should learn to read the writing on the wall early. Maybe a career in films is not for you. Give it serious thought.”Fortunately for Khanna, a ‘small’ unassuming film saved him from further ignominy. Ittefaq — directed by a man with a Midas touch, Yash Chopra, on a shoe-string budget and shot in 28 days without frills — turned the tide. The film, a thriller, had no songs, no dance, no big stars. It might have had a better initial draw than any other Khanna-starrer based on the reputation of the B.R. Chopra banner, but the movie’s popularity really owed to Khanna — who was about to rewrite the rules of stardom. Ittefaq was followed by Aradhana, another stop-gap venture produced and directed by a stalwart, Shakti Samanta. Released in November 1969, it took off on a whirlwind run
  • It was in 1969 that Goenkaji started teaching Vipassana Meditation in India – making true the prophecy that Buddha has made 2500 years back.
  • Two of India’s greatest cricketers launched themselves in 1969. Gundappa Vishwanath made his test cricket debut Vs Australia at Kanpur in 1969 and scored a century. And Sunil Manohar Gavaskar was selected to play in the 1968 – 69 Ranji season.

  • And on Dec 11th , 1969 India’s greatest Chess player V.Anand was born.

  • 1969 was also the year when many great talents were born. Jennifer Lopez, Steffi Graf , Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Zeta Jones, Mathew Perry (Chandler of Friends), Michael Schumacher, Sheryl Sandberg , Ajay Devgun, Javagal Srinath, Mandakini and Arnab Goswami.

If all of this doesn’t make 1969 the greatest year ever – what will ? No wonder its the topic of a book titled “1969 The year everything changed – By Rob Kirkpatrick

 

 

 

 

From Technology Outsourcing to Social Entrepreneurship – The journey of Dr Sridhar Mitta

As part of A Few Good People – This blog features Dr Sridhar Mitta, a pioneering visionary who not only established Wipro as a global leader in Technology Outsourcing but also built the foundation for the industry. Dr Mitta has influenced the lives of thousands and on this Guru Purnima I would like to pay my respects to this wonderful man.  

In 1980 when a young 30 year old walked into Wipro’s nascent Information Technology Division as a founding employee he achieved two things. He helped catapult Wipro into a Global Technology giant and set the ball rolling to position India as a Global Outsourcing hub.

 Dr Sridhar Mitta, Bangalore in 1980, with a population of ~ 2M was a quaint little town deserving the sobriquet of a pensioners paradise and a hub of  Research Institutes. The Janata government had shown the door to IBM, The PC was yet to be discovered, Infosys did not exist and the Indian Rupee was trading at 1 USD = Rs 7.86.

This was also the time when a young Azim Premji (AHP) at the helm of Wipro was hungry to expand. Whether it was vision or chance one would never know – but AHP who always had the knack for identifying great talent hired Ashok Narasimhan (A smart savvy financial controller from Telco) and Dr Mitta. Between them they were tasked to build the IT / Technology business at Wipro. 

Dr Mitta armed with a MTech from IIT Kharagpur and a PhD in Control Systems from Oklahoma State University (He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009) was the right choice for Wipro. He was a visionary but hands on. A wonderful team player he was crystal clear on the road ahead as he went about it step by step with determination and passion.

I recollect my first interaction with him in 1992. At our induction  program he  predicted that in the coming years the PC would be like a telephone, just a black box – and the whole attention would be on Software and Services. How right he was.

Over the next 20 years the successful trio of AHP, Ashok Soota and Dr Mitta built Wipro into a global giant. (Mr Ashok Soota took over as the President of Wipro Infotech from Ashok Narasimhan in 1984)

 Dr Sridhar MittaSridhar Mitta celebrates his birthday with Mr Premji, Ashok Soota & Sudip Banerjee

The first phase between 1980 and 1990 was the “Make in India” journey. Intel was coming out with blazing fast microprocessors and Wipro started building multi-user Minicomputers the S86, S286, S386, Landmark 486, Pentium based Synergy series etc. some of them based on the Unix operating system

Designing a Multi Processing Computer in the 80’s was not easy. Remember there was no Internet and Google. The R&D team under Dr Mitta built deep expertise in Chip design, Board design, Operating System, Compilers, Interoperability, Testing and all the zillion things that go into making a reliable high end system.

Dr Mitta recalls that in those days Wipro was the 1st choice for any IIT Graduate because of the quality of work and company ethics. People, Process & Technology were the bedrock for the R&D team and that was Wipro’s positioning for many years. Quality work always gets noticed and global tech companies like Intel started exploring partnerships with Wipro’s R&D team.  This would prove to be the foundation for the next wave of innovation. 

 R&D teamThe young engineers from Global R&D. Most have grown to be Tech entrepreneurs,CTO's and CEO's of leading companies

By the early 90’s it was evident that the India was liberalising. HCL had tied up with HP, Compaq had an alliance with Microland. All the large players were beginning  to make an entry. They had global scale and size and it would be unviable to try and compete with them in manufacturing given the small size of the Indian market.

The visionary in Dr Mitta saw an opportunity amidst this threat. He started contacting his friends  in the US who were working in large Tech companies like Intel, Sun, Tandem and NCR. The bold pitch was to ask for projects that could be done by his team of highly qualified engineers from India. He was crystal clear that there would be no body shopping (The model that software exporters had adopted initially).

The going was not easy as foreign travel needed RBI permission and there were strict controls on the amount of Forex you could carry. He recollects – “We survived on less than $50 a day living with friends and at times eating one meal a day. It was tough. But we were fired with a mission.” Infrastructure, power and network bandwidth were the other challenges that the team had to surmount.

Doing work remotely needed a strong process. Wipro led the industry in embarking for ISO and later CMM certification. This gave a high degree of comfort to clients on the process maturity of the company. Thus was born Tech Outsourcing from India. A wave that has transformed the lives of millions and positioned India globally.

Dr Mitta      Dr Mitta with the numerous awards won by Wipro Global R&D

After that there was no looking back as Wipro’s R&D transformed to Global R&D executing high end work for tech giants in US, Europe & Japan.This was when Dr Mitta decided to explore his entrepreneurial calling. After a 20 year stint at Wipro starting as employee No 1 he had now become the President of Wipro Global R&D. But deep down the technologist in him was itching for doing more innovative work that would impact society.

He spent a decade in EnThink and E4E two innovative startups. EnThink was an Intellectual Property design and licensing start-up located in silicon valley. At E4E  he helped develop the concept of EAP – Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program working closely with TIE (A Global organisation fostering entrepreneurship). By now he had seen the challenges of the rapidly growing IT Industry in Indian cities. It was time to connect the dots and bring his 40 years of experience in creating something new and innovative. This led to the creation of NextWealth.

While conceptualising NextWealth he met the legendary Dr C.K.Prahlad who spent a lot of time with Dr Mitta and finally concurred that his basis for NextWealth was foolproof. Dr Mitta still remembers his advice ” Think beyond Best Practice, invent the NextPractice – The next big business model“.  The founders wanted the company to be named NextPractice but since that domain was not available they settled for NextWealth.

Dr Mitta           Dr Mitta with Anand Talwai & Mythily Ramesh

NextWealth was Co – Founded with leaders from Wipro and the team of Dr Mitta, Anand Talwai, S.R.Gopalan and Mythily Ramesh steering it ahead.

NextWealth was created to add social value through entrepreneurship. The company has a unique business model that solves many of the challenges of the day.

  1. The Vision of the company is to provide 10,000 jobs in smaller towns. They call it The Distributed Delivery model.
  2. Each job generates 5 ancillary jobs and kick starts the local economy. NextWealth promotes not just employment but overall economic development in smaller towns.  “40 Years back Bay Area outsourced work to India 5000 miles away so why can’t Indian companies outsource work 500 miles away in their own backyard? Questions Dr Mitta.
  3. A lot of good talent is available in smaller towns at very affordable prices. This kills two birds with one stone – Lower costs and almost nil attrition.

The company identifies business opportunities and partners with entrepreneurs in smaller towns. The local entrepreneur runs the centre with  inputs from the experienced leadership team at NextWealth. The company has now partnered with competent entrepreneurs in smaller towns like Salem, Chittoor, Mysore, Hubli and Bhilai and has established its business model with many customers.

Over the last few years NextWealth has delivered with some very demanding Global & Indian customers in eCommerce, Finance, IT & Retail. Their core expertise is on deriving insights from Digital Data that can be monetized by blending people and automation. The focus areas are

  • Customer Interaction
  • Assisted Digitisation &
  • Business Process Management

It is a Win Win formulae for Customers, Employees and the Entrepreneur. A mid sized company that can scale rapidly and deliver quality output at very affordable rates. Quality of staff is good and with the right training and mentoring the staff excelled. And it was no surprise that more than 50% of the staff are women.

NextWealth

I visited their largest centre near Salem. It was buzzing with energy. The process & security standards were foolproof. NextWealth supports over 40 customers in a variety of high end digital services. (Judgemental, Cognitive, Analytics, Lead management and Lead conversion customer support) and is meeting metrics ever day and every week

Backed with the vision and operational depth of Dr Mitta and his leadership team NextWealth is now ready to take on large complex projects. The proof of concept phase is over. NextWealth is now ready to accelerate this proven model. It is truly delivering its promise “Human Touch to Digital processes”. 

For additional information please contact 


Powered by