Mr. Sreenivasan Narayanan (MSc Physics – ’89 batch) is the CEO of TrueStreams, which is a thought leader in internet streaming with a core focus to deliver Hyper Rich Streaming with innovative and disruptive technologies. In the past, he has worked at TTI, CTG, Kelloggs, Teradyne, Harvard, ISGN and most recently as Sr. VP – GSS & Europe Head at Nous.
As a pioneer in several facets of his progressive career spanning 25+ years around the globe, he has held various positions like strategy consulting, global delivery, business units, large business transformations, pre-sales as well as R&D. He has extensively worked on various business domains across the services and product landscapes alike and has contributed significantly in OPD space. An architect at core, he has an eye for business-technology alignment and applications to solve real world problems, always with a “customer-first” approach.
One of our editors, Rama Srinivas, recently interviewed him, and here’s how the interaction went:
Question: Sir, can you please tell us about your association with TrueStreams since October 2013 and how it was a culmination of your passion?
Answer: True to “May you live in interesting times!”, when you see an opportunity that has the potential to create significant disruption, touches the end-user and creates tangible value – take the plunge. Now how to recognize and take up such an opportunity is a combination of several things like passion, experience, technology appreciation/application, risk affinity and audacious goals to succeed, along with openness to failures!
Question: Sir, we would be delighted if you could share with us any of your cherished moments in IIT Madras. Were there any sports events that you were involved in during those two years? What were the key takeaways for you from IIT Madras, which helped in adding to your personality?
Answer: Cherished moments are not any – but many!! It was an interesting period, first time hostel life away from home with multiple facets ranging from engaging academic courses, diversified classmates, green campus, Mandakini hostel, good hostel food, Tarams chai, funda lingos and so on. Sports came back into my life at IITM in the form of floodlight 6-A sides, cricket, chess, carroms and I picked up my Tennis too.
Question: What were the key takeaways for you from IIT Madras, which helped in adding to your personality?
Answer: Takeaways are several – but the key one is internalising conceptual clarity with agility – through holistic and continuous exposure to varied challenges. The more you stay in the “discomfort zone”, the more you develop and emerge stronger. In short, “Life at IITM prepares you for your Life”, irrespective of where you go and what you do. Just make sure you take all your strides with confidence.
Finally, the most special takeaway for me is finding my life-partner Mridula in my classmate.
Question: Sir, as students, many of us find it very difficult to see the direction in which we want to proceed after our stay in IITM. Since you were a PG student in Physics, when and how did you cultivate an interest and decide to build your career towards non-core fields, specifically in consultancy? How can students develop clarity about what they want to do with their lives?
Answer: While I can cover this with aspiring graduates through a lecture at some point in time, the fundamental lining is “Conceptual Clarity & Confidence” – let me refer to it again. One has to objectively cut through the noises to arrive at no more than two or three sensible choices which are pragmatic, doable and purposeful. List the pros-and-cons and then make an educated decision that suits you the best, and that meets your life actualisation goals. Finally once the choice is made, give it 200% with single mindedness, just as how you channelized your efforts in the past – which led you to entry into IITM!
As a specific example, in my case the choices were to do an M. Tech at IIT Bombay or to join Tata Motors (then Telco) from campus selection and a whole lot of other possibilities. As IT was just an emerging field then, I made a conscious choice to pick the latter. While in the initial stages the urge to go back to core-academics did cross my mind several times, I had to balance it with learning challenges in the new field. In the end, looking back, I am enriched with Sciences, IT and Management. Learning never stops – just keep an ever curious and open mind.
Question: Could you explain to us when and how a professional can choose to change from one employer to another, and what are the side effects of such a decision that one may have to face?
Answer: Decision framework, I have already discussed above, i.e., a lot of this depends on how to narrow down 2-3 choices objectively. Frankly, there are no sustained side effects of such a decision from the employers’ side as they usually have enough challenges to run/grow their business. But firstly, question and analyse the motive for the move thoroughly. In the initial years, certainly focus on learning, skills development, practical ions and domain knowledge as this is as critical as the academic degree itself, till you reach an inflection point in your career where your confidence sets in for real.
Question: What are the major challenges one faces as a consultant? Sir, what is your guidance to the students who wish to join consultancy firms?
Answer: Referring to the skills acquisition and inflection point earlier, you find your sweet spot as a creative side, leader, executor or manager based on several factors. So stick with what suits you and what is interesting to you, and which aligns with your interests and passion.
As for the consulting role, essential ingredients are problem recognition and solving, stakeholder understanding, communication at the minimum and a certain degree of domain expertise that you pick up along the way. In short, have a feel for the people/process/technology framework around whatever you do in the consulting arena.
Question: Can you please share with us your motivation behind your return back to India after a 15-year stint in the US?
Answer: Either life events lead you or you lead your life with a certain degree of control on what you have. So both – the move to US and back – are by design. For us the main reason is to give the kids an appreciation for the Indian academics, culture and associated exposure and experience. Hopefully this prepares them to orbit them and be able to take on whatever/wherever they pursue in their academics careers later on.
Question: Sir, you were associated with Harvard University for about 7 years. What do you appreciate about Harvard and what are areas that we at IITM should work on, or changes we need to bring about, for us to move towards Global Excellence?
Answer: I believe in evolving one’s own canvas and story and in that, IITM is a well regarded and a pioneer institution. We are doing wonderfully and there is no need to simulate other universities, in my opinion. Harvard has its caliber and IITM has its own place in the global academic landscape.
As a suggestion, one idea could be to create a more conscious platform between the academics and industry that will bolster and benefit both sides. In this regard, tap the talent from the industry, alumni, etc. to create several touch points that will promote active collaboration and synergies. This will not only help IITM to be connected with the pulse of the industry, enable the students to get some active mentoring by practitioners, etc., but also to do reverse pollination of infusing creativity to action via pilots and projects to the industry, to embrace academic research/findings.
Question: What is your advice to students about crisis management in their professional life?
Answer: I would like to quote one of the greatest minds – “Moving from one failure to another failure without losing optimism is success. – Einstein”
What I may add from my side is “Celebrate Failure”. While we have been conditioned to succeed all along, failures are the best experiential teaching that really throw light on one’s self to lead one towards bigger achievements, in addition to providing life-hardening. So while one aims and appreciates success, he/she should be mindfully open to failures and making mistakes. In the end no baby learned to walk without a hundred falls J. So why is it suddenly important to always do only the right thing?
Question: Sir, this has been a really interesting and helpful conversation. Lastly, we would like you to share with us your experience at the recently held Alumni reunion.
Answer: Seamless, lovely, a trip down the memory lane (along with great food), the 5K run, a lifetime of cherished memories and more, is how I would describe it. It was great to meet each and everyone after so long! My sincere kudos to the entire organizing team!!
Interviewed by: Rama Srinivas, Chennai36
Edited by: Aditi Methi, Chennai36
(If you would like to know more, please do attend the Townhall meeting titled “Path In The Forest” with Mr. Sreenivasan Narayanan on February 9th 2015 (Monday) at 5.30 pm in IC & SR Auditorium, which is aimed at demystifying and helping students in cultivating / pursuing career of their chosen interest.)