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What will be the trajectory of the open source market in 2010?

It will take off

It will grow slightly faster than other software sectors

It will be as difficult as the rest of the industry

CEO Spotlight: Interview with Anil Pagar, SpadeWorx Software Services

By The Sterling Report

Anil Pagar, CEO of SpadeWorx, believes in creating customer satisfaction through concern, aptitude, responsiveness and empathy towards customer problems. As a CEO whose objective is to assist his customers in meeting their goals, Anil is an entrepreneur to watch out for. He chats with The Sterling Report about his background, cricket teams and designing innovative software with the end-user in mind.

The Sterling Report (TSR): You have worked at some pretty major companies including Informatics, IBM and HP. Tell us more about what you did at these companies.
Anil Pagar (AP): At IBM I was recruited to head the Technology Incubation Center. Technology Incubation activities encompassed a wide spectrum of highly technical specialties, activities, and processes. This includes, at its foundation, applying the general software engineering paradigms to "work smarter" (through process technology advancements), "work faster" (through advancements in tools and environments), and "work less" (through architectural and reuse technology advancements) to provide a technical environment for more intelligent and efficient application specific engineering. Ultimately provide intelligent systems capable of integrating information, human-computer interactions and general-application software engineering functionalities to meet the real needs of the soldier on the battlefield.

At HP I was recruited to head the Products Engineering Group and resuscitate the products suite. It had had an upsetting loss of one year’s efforts in retaining customers and rolling out world class products, resulting in losing customer confidence and a high number of customer escalations. This meant I was responsible for bringing the products development culture and new initiatives in the organization, product vision development, strategic and business planning, operations efficiency, management reporting system (metrics), and quality assurance/control processes. I also performed trade-off analysis by challenging the creativity to expand the solution under consideration; validated architecture and facilitate deployment; defined and implemented common architectural subsystems and organized and oversaw code and architecture re-use. As well, I established and evangelized best practices and raised the bar on all aspects of engineering; handled multiple platform integration as products had multiple flavors; and designed and developed a solution called ISHITA (Integrated Solution for Heterogeneous and Isolated Transacting Applications). I also ensured BS 15000 Certification for the organization, making it one of the first in the world.

TSR: How did your time with these companies influence you in your current role?
AP: Working with these companies has enriched me with experiences to manage global teams and understand the nuances and approaches the multinational companies take to address the climatic conditions (adverse or favorable) to make the most of it for the corporations.

There are many examples of events, situations and incidents those have given me insights on how multinational companies approach in building up brands and competencies from ground up. Particularly the product that I was instrumental in rolling out helped me understand the landscapes in totality with regards to managing all the stakeholders. From sponsors of the project to consumers of the product; and the whole eco-system management with regards to government regulation compliances, country specific compliances, to cultural aspects with regards to user psyche; while keeping the resources optimally utilized. Needing to keep the costs low and encompassing maximum value in the solution for the customers and end-users, without burdening them, i.e. keeping the cost point of world class products affordable without compromising on features, functionalities and quality. These learnings have helped me think like end-users before designing the solutions, and has resulted in building an organization with niche services focusing on usability and user centered design through our home-grown proprietary framework and methodology, namely the User Centered Software Engineering™ (UCSE™).

TSR: Having worked in both the US and India, do you find these experiences to be an asset in today’s globalized economy?
AP: Having worked in different geographies, it has helped in understanding the cultural aspects and adapt the best of both the worlds. At SpadeWorx we could use this to amalgamate the sense of planning and quality of deliverables with dedication and sincerity to create customer delight.

TSR: Let’s talk specifically about SpadeWorx now. What is the problem that your company is trying to solve?
AP: Traditionally, software was developed with just two dimensions, the first being the problem statement defined by the business owners and the second being software component as a solution with the software engineers’ perception to resolve the issues with technical solution. However, the third dimension, the end-users, were mostly ignored. I would like to bring inclusivity of this third dimension in the software solutions – the software should be developed with user-centric approaches. My vision for SpadeWorx is to ensure that SpadeWorx is the global leader in ‘User Centered Software Engineering™.

TSR: Was this the motivation for you to start SpadeWorx?
AP: The primary motivation for me and the other co-founders to start SpadeWorx was to create a platform for the deserving talent to innovate and create a niche. We also wanted to generate employment opportunities for the underprivileged.

TSR: Really? How have you created jobs for the underprivileged?
AP: SpadeWorx has consciously and strategically opened a development center in rural India (class II town) where fresh graduates with limited knowledge are recruited and trained to become skilled resources to be deployed on customer engagements after a period of 9 months. Also employment opportunities for those who have language problems are trained to work in conjunction with more skilled subject matter experts who have the experiences of interacting and managing international customers. This helps in churning innovation and grooming the next level of talent pool.

TSR: Speaking of innovation, SpadeWorx developed a very innovative product for the Indian Cricket League. Can you tell us more about this?
AP: This solution was rendered to the company, which designed and promoted the League. The Indian Cricket League had eight teams that competed amongst each other. The solution was not to manage the teams alone, but also to broadcast the matches on the Internet (first of its kind) using Microsoft’s SilverLight technology. The solution helped build communities of fans of the teams and broadcast the matches with multiple video streams at the same time. Multi-camera visions, the controls were rendered to the end-users as compared to the controls of the score cards and/or replays being with the broadcasters. The solution had the capabilities to allow the viewers to view any part of the match at any time at their will. They could pull-up a wagon-wheel and/or scorecards or specific event of the match at their own will. The viewers could also form communities and forums around an event in the match and compare it real-time with any past events of the same match or anything from the archives. The event managers and broadcasters could run a contest on-the-go depending on the turn of events in the match.

TSR: That is a pretty cool solution! What other projects are currently being worked on?
AP: SpadeWorx has made investments in ‘Solution Incubation Group’ where engineers are goaled to incubate solutions. One such interesting project is ‘Accelerated Services Kit (ASK™)’. ASK™ allows the CIOs of enterprises to implement solutions developed in emerging technologies in controlled environment with predefined throughput as measurement criteria. Instead of investing huge amounts in licenses of the software to experiment, ASK™ helps in getting the same benefits of full-fledged solutions and adjudge the fitment of the technologies for an enterprise at fraction of the cost. Another interesting project at SpadeWorx is pOwered Rich Media User eXperience (ORMUX™), a platform which allows content owners to monetize and render video content in contextually. Our Rich Interactive Intranets and Business applications take the cake. These solutions increase the productivity of the end-users up to 60% and help e-commerce sites to experience higher conversion rates.

TSR: With products like these, it’s not surprising that you have earned several awards for your products. Do you have an innovation process?
AP: At SpadeWorx, the Solutions Incubation Group identifies the areas of interest to our customers and start working on incubating solutions in emerging technologies and general problem areas. While incubating solutions, all the artifacts are published on Knowledge Management Portal; we encourage our employees to park ideas, which are debated and presented in company events, such as Innovation Fest.

TSR: Has this been your secret to successfully competing against the larger, established software giants?
AP: We at SpadeWorx contiguously innovate to create distinct winning value proposition for our customers, creating customer delight through our concern, aptitude, responsiveness and empathy towards their problems.

TSR: Let’s talk business strategy now. With the US markets still under-performing, do you have plans to increase the company’s focus on Asian markets?
AP: The US markets are slowly reviving and SpadeWorx would continue to assist US corporations to smart-invest in their IT and Software Product Development spends for higher returns on investments. SpadeWorx has strategic approach to Asian Markets. Hence, besides having our offices in India, we have opened our office in Singapore as well.

TSR: How do you see the Asian software industry progressing over the next 5 years?
AP: The Asian markets are seeing diametric change in usage of software to propel business growths. Asian markets, particularly with India and China adapting more localized software solutions to manage businesses, would need a lot of user involvement, learning lessons from the west. Asian markets are more open towards user inclusivity in software development, hence greater degree of adaptation of software solutions. And the spends by enterprises in software are growing almost 250 – 300% annually.

TSR: Changing gears, your educational background is in Computer Engineering. Do you feel that people from technology backgrounds make better CEOs of software companies?
AP: Businesses need engineering and commercial acumen. The advantage that engineering CEOs have is the basic understanding of the technical landscape. Combine this with common sense, judgment, people skills, presentation skills and the likes, once the technology background CEOs have found out what they do best and keep doing it over and over again, then they are definitely anybody’s choice for the post at a software company.

TSR: As an entrepreneur, how important is it to be able ‘to predict the future’ in terms of market and company offerings in order to ensure the success of your company?
AP: It is very important to keep abreast with the developments. As an entrepreneur, you need to foresee business demands well in advance while innovating and incubating newer solutions, frameworks and business models to fulfill the market demands and become business climate proof to be successful.

TSR: Are there other qualities that you feel a successful entrepreneur should have?
AP: Humility, self-effacing, diligent and resolute.

What do you like most and least about being a CEO?
AP: The best part of being a CEO is that I am able to create a charter to assist our customers meeting their goals and objectives in their business - it helps us touch more lives than ever before. I am also able give a platform to deserving talent. There is yet anything that I have to discover that I have not liked being a CEO.

TSR: How do you maintain a balance between your professional and personal life?
AP: Not carrying work at home or home at work… giving 100% time, energy and attention when at work or at home is one way that I am able to balance out the professional and personal life.

Anil Pagar is Founder, Managing Director and CEO of SpadeWorx Software Services. With his knowledge of product and technology development, he has been instrumental in churning several middleware and backend products currently implemented at several Fortune 500 companies. Anil began his career in 1989 with stints at Informatics, IBM and Hewlett Packard. In his career, he has had an exceptional track record of establishing flourishing business units from ground up. Anil has a strong technology foresight with the capability to flex technology to suit business demands and usage. He has received several awards and accolades for his innovative product ideas and IP disclosures. Anil has presented his papers and views on varied topics in industry consortiums and seminars globally and has been a guest lecturer at renowned engineering colleges. For interview feedback, please contact Anil at anil.pagar@spadeworx.com

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