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The man who sold camera software to Nokia and others

R. Sujatha

"My goal is to set up state-of-the-art software development centres in small towns"



Shankar Narayanan. — Photo: S. Thanthoni

CHENNAI: He has done it at Silicon Valley and he often visits Chennai to encourage youngsters no matter wherever they are from.

Shankar Narayanan, vice-president of the Multimedia Division of Flextronics, was the pioneer behind the software for camera phones. Today seven out of 10 mobile companies use his software.

"Twenty years ago India did not have computers. Only, in 1985-86, computers were introduced in the country. I introduced computers from Palani to Kanyakumari." But it was very difficult to convince large and medium companies to use the facility as most of the companies were single-proprietor concerns. "Whenever I visited companies, I got a stock reply from them that `their kanakku pillais [accountants] do all that. They even buy us coffee. But your computer will not do that," he told The Hindu .

Shankar initially depended on the personal relationship he maintained with companies to sell computers.

"It took me six months to sell a computer to a paper mill at Vilampatti. When I left Madurai in the 1990s they installed 60 computers," says this electronics engineer from Madurai Kamaraj University.

In Kerala, he prevailed upon the finance minister to computerise the budget wing. "It became the first paperless office in the Secretariat." He moved to Bangalore in 1997 and "did great business." He went to the U.S. in 2000 when computer business was low key there.

"There was a lot of hype about wireless applications (WAP). A friend of mine suggested that I focus on multimedia." And he was hooked. He took technology to the people, addressing market needs. Selling the camera software to Nokia was his major breakthrough. Major mobile phone companies use the software made by Emuzed, now bought over by Flextronics.

Shankar has set up offices in Chennai and Bangalore. "My goal is to set up state-of-the-art software development centres in small towns."

Product-centric approach

The aim is to keep people closer to their homes and provide them the best of technology. Indian engineers must consider a product-centric approach instead of being service-centric. "We find the problem and the solution and the IP (intellectual property) is ours. That awareness was not there. Now it is rapidly changing with technology reaching us faster. Pilfering [frittering] of IP will not be there."

Shankar says his 11-year-old son Vaishal often chips in with interesting suggestions. My son has the technological advantage that I never had.

When he absent-mindedly used his mobile phone instead of remote to open his car, Vaishal suggested embedding the car's `win' number in the mobile phone and using it as a swipe card.

The boy named it `No key' to rhyme with Nokia. "I could not have thought of it at his age. We were not exposed to technology. That is why we are not product-centric."

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