3 Case Studies Every Director of Engineering & Innovation Should See (plus a bonus)

Pranil Kanderi
VP of Technology at Nagarro
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Speaker 1 (00:15):

You're listening to the TechTables podcast, a weekly Q&A podcast dedicated to interviewing industry leaders from across the world, ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, mixing it up each week with topics ranging from design and product innovation, to IoT and industry 4.0, let's do this.

Joe Toste (00:33):

Hey guys. Welcome back for another week in the world of TechTables with me, Joe Toste. Love to chat with you behind the scenes on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. There you can even message me questions for future guests that come on the show. But today I'm super excited, we're going to shift our focus to some case studies and projects that we've actually worked on at Nagarro, covering Google, Intel, Twitter, and Sony. Huge thank you to Pranil for taking the time to come on, and chat with me. That's quite enough from me, without further ado, I'm thrilled to welcome Pranil Kanderi, co-founder and CTO, at Mokriya, and VP of technology at Nagarro. So, let's kick off today a little bit about you, and your entrepreneurial journey over the years, launching Mokriya, product design, innovation studio with a successful exit. And now, leading that team of 10x developers, and designers under the umbrella of Nagarro. Let's kick it off there.

Pranil Kanderi (01:19):

Yeah, sure. I've been an engineer for about 20 years now, always passionate about emerging technologies. About 2004 or so, I first got introduced into these mobile phones. This is the pretty smartphone era. We used to call them feature phones. We call them dumb phones now. I worked apps there and really got hooked into it, and since then, always trying to be in the emerging technology side of things.

Pranil Kanderi (01:48):

So, about 2008 or 2009 is when, with release of iPhone, and Android coming into the market, that was my initial seed of, "Hey, these smartphones are going to disrupt everything that we have, and my journey started there, doing a lot of apps on the side for a bunch of folks. And then, got together with Sunil, and that's where our journey started. It's been awesome the last 10 years, or so. A typical entrepreneurial journey, quite a few ups and downs, but we have a fantastic team.

Joe Toste (02:32):

Oh, that's awesome. So, let's unpack this real quick. So first off, the audience has no idea who Sunil is. He's your brother.

Pranil Kanderi (02:41):

Yeah, he's my elder brother. At the time, before we started this, we were on our family email list at the time. And, one of the apps that I had built was showcased on Google Market, it was called. The current Google Play was called Google Market, and it was featured on the front page. And then, he noticed that, and we got together, and were talking on what the future would be. We both clearly had a vision of mobile disrupting a lot of these things, so that's when we started Mokriya.

Joe Toste (03:25):

So, let's just get some background, some flavor to this. So, were you at Motorola at the time? I'm trying to remember

Pranil Kanderi (03:32):

It was Trimble Outdoors. Doing a lot of outdoor apps for hiking, and geocache navigating, and so on.

Joe Toste (03:40):

Okay, that's great. And what was Sunil doing?

Pranil Kanderi (03:43):

Sunil was in the Bay Area, he was in Oracle DBA, doing his engineer thing, but also, we both have a startup bug. I previously founded another startup, which failed miserably, but learned a lot. And, we always had that bug, and we'll always want to do something where we can create something, and provide value for others.

Joe Toste (04:11):

Okay. So, I love that. Just real quick, take me back to 10 years ago. You and your brother... What was like that one thing where you're like, "Hey, let's do this."

Pranil Kanderi (04:24):

Yeah. I think we both saw that this is something... It was our core strength, all right. I mean, the previous startup that I did at least, it was more of a professional staffing, and I felt like I didn't have anything in my control, and I didn't enjoy it. so, there were a bunch of those things. And, it felt like the whole path seemed very clear. My wife Anjali was also a mobile developer, and we were both working on mobile apps on the side already. And so, it felt like things were all falling in the right place, and it all looked like it was an obvious next step.

Joe Toste (05:15):

That's great. Okay. So, to kind of provide some more context for the audience, if they don't know. So, you're the CTO, right? You're VP of technology now. You are the CTO. How did you and Sunil decide who's going to split. You took the CTO technology route. He kind of took the CEO sales route. Do you guys roshambo for that? Were you just better technically? I'm just dying now.

Pranil Kanderi (05:43):

Yeah. We played rock-paper-scissors. No, I think it was our natural inclination. Sunil always has great instincts. He has a broader vision of what the industry looks like. And, his interest was towards, building a really good sales organization. And, I've always had this inclination to tinker with emerging technologies, and just be more hands-on. So, our roles just naturally came about.

Joe Toste (06:18):

Yeah, I love that. That's a really great story. We didn't share too much, but I just love giving the audience a little bit of that flavor. And then actually, before we jump into some of the other questions, this podcast is a little different in the sense that we actually worked together, which makes it really fun. And, one of my favorite experiences at the times, the second time I've worked for Mokriya and Nagarro.

Joe Toste (06:43):

The first time we traveled actually to Japan, and then the last minute traveled to Korea, and that was like one of my favorite international business trips. We went to go to Samsung's headquarters. And, I just love to hear your insight into that. I remember we showed up, and we were going to pitch them on a quick prototype. I think it was for CES. We were just trying to get that out the door. There's maybe four weeks left, and we flew from Japan to Korea. Yeah. I mean, it was just like really, really fun time. What was your experience, and takeaway from some of that travel?

Pranil Kanderi (07:20):

Yeah. It was amazing, that was definitely one of my highlights as well, in terms of travel. We didn't know what to expect, Japan completely different culture, obviously the language. It's probably the farthest from me being the expert in any language. So, I think the adventurous part of it is, hey, we had multiple clients that we were going to meet there. We didn't have a clear agenda of here's what we're going to do for Samsung, here's what we're going to do for Sony. Clarion was one of our big clients at the time, and that was the only one that we had, we knew what we were doing. And just to add flavor to it, it is how we tackle a lot of our projects, and products within Mokriya . So, we started off with a very limited set of requirements, and can build from there. So, this was very much in line with that.

Joe Toste (08:30):

Yeah, that was so, so fun. So, talk about kind of limited requirements, let's jump into Google. Let's talk about Google real quick. So, they have a group called ATAP Advanced Technology and Products group.

Joe Toste (08:41):

We help with projects solely, which is a miniature radar detection that understands human gestures at various scales, from the top of your finger, to the movement of your body. And in our case, helping to control the technology with a snap of a finger. The Soli technology is now in the Pixel 4, via the motion sense, and the experience is pretty awesome, especially since you can wave at Pikachu, that's my favorite. Talk about the project and impact that we had with Soli and with Google.

Pranil Kanderi (09:14):

Yeah. This was amazing. We met them at the Google office on a Friday. We had a one hour deep technical discussion on our expertise in Android. And, I was drawing an architecture of what the SDKs, and the JNI layer, and NDKs, and all of those details. And, we started working on Monday. They gave us our first really quick task for them, to be able to showcase internally a demo on Android. So, they had the Soli hardware working on a desktop, but they did not have any Android developers. I know it's kind of ironic that the folks in Google didn't have Android expertise. But, since this is ATAP or more R&D Skunkworks kind of group, they typically have funding for two years, and it's up to them to kind of hire what they want, and who they want, not necessarily a main line Google product, at the time.

Pranil Kanderi (10:17):

So yeah, I mean, we kicked off on that Monday. We had four weeks to deliver a proof of concept that the Soli will actually work on Android. So, this is the first time we actually put Soli onto Android. The first step was to showcase like a range-Doppler UI animation transformation on a mobile phone. So, they sent these Soli kits, which were a box with a fan, because it was still in very early stages; where, otherwise it would heat up really fast. And we use those, and were able to deliver that first piece in four weeks. And, we successfully showcase the initial version. But from there on, we built an SDK, we ended up with the initial versions of integrating the Soli into Android open source protocol. So obviously, which is now in Pixel 4, and as part of the AOSP. So, that was an amazing journey.

Joe Toste (11:22):

That's great. So talk about, how many people did we have on the project? You said four weeks, but how many people did we have?

Pranil Kanderi (11:28):

It was just two developers. At the time, I was more hands-on. It was me and one other developer out of Bulgaria, that put that initial piece together. And then, we had two more developers, one of them, a Google developer expert out of Brazil, that did a lot of the AOSP towards the end.

Joe Toste (11:48):

That's awesome. So, yeah. Hey Pranil, so tell me about Google I/O.

Pranil Kanderi (11:52):

Yeah. The next year, closer towards the Google I/O, we were going to showcase this on a big stage, that's kind of where our next phase of demos were... We showcased two different products, one on a watch, and the other on a speaker. Our team built most of that technology behind it. The watch demo still has the name of our developer on it. And, we call it kind of, 15 minutes of his fame. It's still on YouTube with many thousand views, the demo itself. So, we worked pretty closely with folks in Mountain View, leading up to the Google I/O. We were there behind the stage on Google I/O, when they were showcasing it, putting the demos together, doing a dry run the previous night. And then, I mean, it was just a very fruitful journey along with that team.

Joe Toste (12:54):

That's awesome. So, another project that we worked on that had really awesome visibility and scale, because I know one of the developers, the end of the project got on stage with the CEO is Intel. And so, that was another really cool project we worked on with Curie chip. Talk about the challenge of developing a platform where, app builders could connect to sensor data along with the time pressure of Intel's executive team, that they were putting on to release this.

Pranil Kanderi (13:22):

Yeah. So with Intel, we worked on this Curie chip, which was one of the key, system on chip hardware at the time. Their focus was heavily on to IoT in the next devices group. We came in with just building a quick mobile app for one of their existing clients for Oakley called Radar Pace using this chip, right. So, initially it was just to kind of create an app to showcase the strengths of the Curie chip. But, what we had co-ideated and suggested with the team was, to build a platform where other vendors like Oakley can come in and use this chip, and build apps really quickly, both on iOS and Android, and be able to focus on their experience rather than building all the nuts and bolts that go behind it.

Pranil Kanderi (14:21):

So with that proposal, the initial estimates from their internal team were pretty high with a big size team, how large enterprises would typically takes longer with a bigger size team. So, when we went in a proposal of six developers, you can do this in four months. One of the product managers said, "Hey, I've been working for 17 years, and I've never seen, especially a remote team coming together like this, and be able to pull off, so this is not going to work." So, lo and behold, this was again, a hardware project. We had some of these kits being shipped all over the world with developers working on it.

Pranil Kanderi (15:06):

We did pull it off on time. The team at Intel was also really, really good. We had some amazing champions there, that made it possible as well. So yeah, at the end of the project, the same product managers that said, "This is not possible." He came back and said, "I've been here for 17 years, and I've never seen such a team come together, and be able to pull it off." "This is amazing." So yeah, I mean, huge kudos to the team.

Joe Toste (15:36):

Yeah. That's great. And, like our work with Google and ATAP, it's the intersection between hardware and software too, that I think makes it really, really impressive, especially on the engineering front. Okay. So next up, this is kind of a fan favorite is Twitter, or maybe it's my fan favorite. I don't know. Let's talk about the wicked fast process of just dropping a senior Twitter PM into our Slack channel, with one designer and one developer to create this app called Twitter Challenger app, that was used by Steph Curry and Beyonce for Twitter's very important media event. And actually, they ended up naming the celebrities, the VITs, the very important tweeters. Tell us about Twitter.

Pranil Kanderi (16:20):

Yeah. So this is another, typically Mokriya execution where we don't need a lot of guidance on creating a new product. So, there was a one pager Google doc that kind of had a... It's a product brief, very high level, conveys a vision. And so, we had our product manager, a designer and developer from Mokriya, got in into a Slack with Twitter's product manager. We just rolled our sleeves up, and started brainstorming what the product roadmap could be, what the features could be, built a very quick MVP. This is kind of where the design and development can happen simultaneously, as we iterating design, we're also building real piece of software that you can put in user's hands, and really test it out, rather than just screenshots, or just designs.

Pranil Kanderi (17:17):

So within four to six weeks, we had a pretty solid MVP that was in hands of celebrities, and they loved it. And, from there almost two years down the road now, we've actually combined two other apps, they're called Q&A, and the Twitter Challenger into one big app that now creates millions of engagement points from the content that's generated from the celebrities. Like you said, Beyonce has used it, it's gone to the Buckingham Palace, Malala has used it. So, I mean, every time we see a tweet from one of these celebrities, you get goosebumps that, hey, that's our product, that they're using it, and gives us a great sense of satisfaction.

Joe Toste (18:11):

Yeah. I think that's what you said at the end is really important. The satisfaction of touching really millions of people. Like, the code with ATAP group, with Soli, its used in millions of devices, that were from our developers. Kind of same thing with Twitter, whatever it is, that satisfaction of actually building a product, that's truly amazing. And, I just love that. So, let's do one more. Let's let's talk Sony company, me and you both visited while we were in Tokyo. Let's talk about the Sony Xperia, and the ability to turn any hard surface into, it's like minority report, touch table.

Joe Toste (18:55):

The Sony Xperia Touch projects an Android tablet on to any hard surface, really fun to use, really fun to play around with. This project was pretty fun, pretty awesome. Talk about the workshops and the prototyping we did, before hitting the full-scale design and development.

Pranil Kanderi (19:12):

Yeah, absolutely. This is one of those products where our product managers, and our designers and developers can put on their innovative caps, and thinking caps, and be able to work alongside senior product folks out of these huge tech companies. So with Sony Xperia, we did a workshop where we brainstormed, and came up with three different ideas on how to uniquely showcase the capabilities of this hardware. This is one hardware device based on Android in the smartphone era that can work, something that's digital into analog.

Pranil Kanderi (19:54):

So, we came up with an adult coloring/calligraphy app, where it will train you on a piece of paper, step-by-step. This app will walk you through step-by-step on how to practice calligraphy on a paper. Or, you have a template of a design that can been done to a hard surface on a paper, and then you can kind of trace it, draw it.

Pranil Kanderi (20:21):

And then, that digital art can become something physical that you can hold in your hand. So, we designed completely from scratch, developed the app. And, the folks out of the Bay Area from Sony, when they visited their headquarters in Japan, and showcased there's... They said, "The feedback was probably one of the most positive feedback that they've ever received, in terms of products that are built out of the Bay Area, and received feedback from their headquarters." This was eventually showcased in the Mobile World Congress, [inaudible 00:20:59] and was one of the highlight of that entire showcase.

Joe Toste (21:05):

Yeah, no, that's great. I remember, I think at CES too, getting demoed, and it was demo next to like the Sony robotic dog, which was kind of hilarious, which is fun to see our work. And then, there's this little Sony dog that they have, and in Japan that they were demoing. Really great. Love that Sony story. So, everything between Sony, Intel, Twitter, Google, they really all share this distributed remote work model, that you and Sunil put together, which I think is fabulous. I think you guys are about 10 years ahead of the curve, 10 years ahead of this pandemic that just happened right now. Where a lot of companies are trying to figure out, "Hey, how do I work in a remote function?" Some companies are taking it further, and going, "Hey, the entire culture has to change." What does it look like to work in this distributed model?

Joe Toste (21:58):

And, we've been doing it for 10 plus years. It's super relevant, and especially with COVID-19, it's really just changing the whole landscape right now. The vision, as far as the culture, and how you two wanted to build the company, with hiring the best and brightest folks from around the globe, regardless of where they lived. Talk about that culture, and talk about how we work with clients across all verticals in a distributed work model.

Pranil Kanderi (22:30):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I wish we could claim that we had the vision before we started the company. But, it was a happenstance where one of the developers that we initially found was in Wisconsin, the other was in Kerala India. I was in Phoenix. Sunil my co-founder was in the Bay Area. And, that's when we realized in 2010, after a few months of working together is, there's no reason for us to all be co-located, and we could still deliver some amazing products. So, that's when we started recruiting folks, and going out into and looking at Stack Overflow's, and Hackulous, and looking in GitHub, and LinkedIn comments, where folks are really expressing their opinions and so on, and recruited a great team.

Pranil Kanderi (23:36):

So, we were definitely able to realize the potential of it early on, and we continued with that model and developed that model, and developed our culture, wrapping around that whole distributed model. With being distributed, giving trust to the entire team is definitely very important. Being transparent with them, being able to communicate with that sense of trust and transparency. Transparency is very important. So, those were some of the key pillars that we had initially. And obviously, we're very lucky to have a team that shares those values. That's funny, we never defined these values on day one, but after a few years, when we were updating our website, the team just got together, and then showcased the values that they had written out. And we're like, "Yes, that's exactly what embodies us as a company, and as a culture." And, we never declared them first, it came up organically through the team, and it was just amazing to see that.

Joe Toste (24:54):

Yeah, it's really great. And, I sit on the sales team. And, one of the biggest objections I would always get would be, "How does your team work remotely?" And then now, with where we're at with the pandemic, it's pretty funny, because now everyone's kind of... It's just the ultimate forcing function. Everyone's forced, and they have had no choice, but to learn the ways, which I think is really great.

Joe Toste (25:23):

Because, I think it's going to open up a ton of opportunities, and allow people from anywhere around the world, that you don't need to be sitting in a chair next to them, at least in our industry right now. So, super exciting. I'm glad that you and Sunil put together this model. It Works really well for us. So, what I call the 60 second TechTables. Three short questions, and under 60 seconds, they're pretty easy. So, don't sweat too hard Pranil. Okay one, what do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning? So, it could either be personal, business, or a blend of the two.

Pranil Kanderi (26:03):

Oh, wow. That's not easy, but I would say probably, how hard the entrepreneurial journey is, is probably one part of it. I mean, everybody knows that it's tough, but unless you're in it, and experience it. You wouldn't know. And, the other part is, if I had known now that I would be able to build this amazing team, I wouldn't have undergone so much stress, and ups and downs throughout this journey. I mean, if I knew that 10 years ago, that there's this global pool of talent that we can assemble together, then I would be so much more relieved.

Joe Toste (26:46):

Love it. Okay. So, favorite project you've worked on to date.

Pranil Kanderi (26:51):

Hard to pick, but I would say the Google Soli, because I was also more hands-on on it, and really enjoyed the challenge, and the product being in production right now. I switched from iPhone 10 to Google Pixel 4 as soon as it was released, because it had Soli on it.

Joe Toste (27:09):

Oh, I love that. I love it. Okay. So, what's your favorite Netflix show?

Pranil Kanderi (27:18):

Ooh, Netflix show. There are quite a few. I mean, I don't think they're all on Netflix, but Game of Thrones, Money Heist. Walking Dead, the first few seasons are probably my favorite. I mean, if I had to pick one, it would be Walking Dead, but not the entire series, the first few seasons.

Joe Toste (27:39):

Okay. Love it. I do like me some Walking Dead. Do you ever take the kids to... Well, they might be too young for that. Do you ever go to Universal Studios? You ever do the Walking Dead tour, they have there?

Pranil Kanderi (27:51):

Yeah. No, we haven't done that one. I've been to the Universal Studios, but yeah, I haven't checked that out.

Joe Toste (27:56):

Well, your kids are a little bit... But yeah, what are their ages again?

Pranil Kanderi (28:00):

13 and 11.

Joe Toste (28:01):

Ah, the 13 year old might like it that. Yeah, the 13 year old might like it. But, it's fun. Maybe at some point, if you guys travel through California, we'll have to do it again, or do it together. So awesome. Well, that's going to wrap up today's show. Pranil, where can folks find you? You hang out, LinkedIn, Twitter, email.

Pranil Kanderi (28:21):

Yeah. Pretty easy to find me LinkedIn, just type in, Pranil Kanderi. Same thing with Twitter @pranilkanderi. Happy to always connect with folks, and you can shoot a couple of emails pranil@mokriya.com, or pranil.kanderi@nagarro.com. So, yeah.

Joe Toste (28:46):

Awesome. Super excited. Well, thank you Pranil, for coming on the show today.

Pranil Kanderi (28:50):

Absolutely. It was a pleasure, Joe. Thank you.

Speaker 1 (28:54):

If you're interested in seeing what Nagarro, a high-end technology solutions company to some of the world's leading organizations can do for your business, you can email Joe at Joe.Toste@nagarro.com, or message Joe on LinkedIn. For all information on Nagarro, checkout nagarro.com, that's nagarro.com.

Speaker 1 (29:18):

You've been listening to the TechTables podcast. To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you have an iPhone we'd love for you to open the Apple Podcast app, and leave a review. Thank you so much for listening. To catch more TechTables episodes, you can go to techtablespodcast.com. And, to learn more about our sponsor, please visit nagarro.com. That's nagarro.com. And of course, you can find Joe Toste, your podcast host on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. That's Joe Toste. Thanks for listening.

Joe Toste
Joe Toste
Host of TechTables Podcast

Host of TechTables 🎙- Conversations with Top Technology Leaders