He has ‘Code’ for a surname and dressed in a clean grey suit and a disarming smile. When you look at him, it is tough to realize that this composed looking person manages over 50 large corporations across three continents, helping them not just to measure their service quality but to improve those metrics on a daily basis. He is known to be soft spoken, extremely calm and patient but very observant. Here is what happened when Talk To Tiger caught up with S Krishnan PuthuCode fondly known as Kris, the CEO/M.D. of Software Quality Centre (SQC).
Hello Kris, Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I have been an entrepreneur since the late 1990s. People know me as a fun loving, easy to get along with, straightforward, highly educated and smart professional in tune with the contemporary state of the art, tech market and industry. I am a software engineer by academics., and management education from Stanford University. (Stanford GSB). I love gadgets and being in the “21st century” and adopted this thinking to how I can make my current business better, faster and more efficient to directly make customers more excited, and efficient, not just being focused on merely customer satisfaction. This attitude reflects in my everyday life.
Where were you born. a small introduction?
Born in Coimbatore, India. A native of Palakkad, Kerala.
What and where did you study?
Karnataka and USA. (Stanford University). I have a Computer Sc. Engineering degree and management education from Stanford.
What were your dreams like when you were a kid?
Essentially, I looked at myself to be in the “know” of all things latest and greatest in Tech. The first time I got introduced to computers was my Dad as he was in charge of the EDP efforts in a major insurance giant in India. He was responsible to bring in the first computers to his branch office which was pretty big with over 1000+ staff in those days (1980s). I was intrigued by the data processing capabilities., and saw my Dad manage programmers back in those days on ‘Punch Cards’ with IBM/IDM machines. That made me curious and hooked on to software and computers in general and the Tech industry at large. There has been no stopping since then. It has been a great ride so far! You could hence say, I guess, being a Software Engineer was natural as was the accepted social norm among the Palakkad/Kerala natives as well.
Seeing your Dad work gave you inputs definitely but what was the thought process behind the business/service your eureka moment when you identified the need to start something?
I fit into the classic definition of starting a business by seeing a dire need and seeing adversity. The circumstances in the late 1990s/very early 2000s in Software was when it was quite exciting in India as India was a new entrant into being a software outsourcing destination. Names like Infosys were just getting ramped up with the then Govt. started the STPI scheme and India was on the edge of the software growth story. I was in the US at that time. The US was always and has been decades ahead on many things., including a lot of investment in R&D and Quality/Innovation. One thing which is only paid lip service even today in India. The one thing I saw in India, very much in need, was a focus on Quality and building capability not being emphasized., as that was the way companies would sustain the long term and grow. I saw the existing players in management and quality consulting were only focused on making profits in the short term. Talent was limited in this field. The rise of the “Software Quality” as a profession was already good in the US but not so much in India. The existing players that offered consulting in this area were just too focused on profits and not helping their clients to gain real improvements and build Quality into their processes – but only focused on getting them to achieve a certification to show to the external world such as ISO 9001., and that was the limited scope of their expertise. Too much focus and thinking that if we show compliance to these standards, the world will accept us as a qualified organization to get more contracts. Sad that even today that is the case in many countries, including many companies in India. However, the realization of the fact that Quality is an investment and a long-term strategy for sustained growth, has crept into most, if not all, niche players. It was that frustration and circumstances that led me and my wife, Sahana, to start SQC., with the very words “Software Quality CENTER” a center that would focus entirely on bringing value by deepening the understanding of what all this is, to an industry that was focused only on compliance here in India. Sahana being an Electronics engineer was also first-hand witness to this problem at her work. We hence had this moment of frustration to get something done about it., which is what led to SQC.
Why the name SQC?
Explained above!! Great question at the right time!
That is simple and Brilliant. When your client comes to you, what can they expect?
We have always focus on two things – Target only the right customers., and from end to end., the value proposition is we will leave them stronger, more efficient and more effective from when they engaged us. We never saw a customer engagement as a “contract” with a certain duration and a fixed price. I had been doing this in the US as part of my jobs in management consulting at Coopers and Lybrand (now PWC) and stints with McKinsey. I brought the same mind set to SQC which has worked wonders for our customers. And still going strong, touch wood!
Your clientele is very impressive and mind-boggling. What is different from SQC and its competitors?
Our value proposition has always been two-fold – One, is to be only and only working with niche companies in our chosen area of expertise. Stemming from my personal experience in Aerospace, Defense and Systems Engineering, coupled with my Management consulting job experiences., we solely focused on this industry. This is contradictory to many in India who want to be the “jack of all trades” – especially the big outsourcers in IT. It is the “we can do all industries /verticals” attitude that one cannot apply when it comes to nice areas like ours, Quality and process improvement consulting.
Secondly, we measure how we have impacted our customers in terms of everything from Organizational behaviour to how they were “before” and “after” in terms of how they do projects and work for their customers! This is reflected in the numerous accolades they receive from their customers in turn., especially on their Quality culture and focus., that makes us stand apart!
I am sure you might have many incidents in the last few decades but can you tell me your best experience after you started your business/service?
Hmmm…Oh well! It has been one heck of a ride!!! And it keeps going! Never gets boring and I learn something every day., although it is very frustrating many times. I guess that is the way I would like to put it. When I think things are moving fine., something rocks the boat. I guess the entrepreneurs journey is always bumpy.
Can you share the turnover/clients till date?
We currently serve over 50+ customers all over the world, in the geographical regions in the US, India and Middle East.
Kris, having achieved so many milestones in business, what drives you?
Once you build a business, sustaining it is an entirely different challenge. I have always loved being a CEO and leading to create something of lasting value to our customers., not just wealth creation. There are still so many things we see around us that need improvement – may it be the lack of customer service, the need for better technology products and services. and making things easier and simpler for all of us. This drives me to keep running! I bet you say many times during the day, “there has to be a better way to do this” in your everyday life, that is a start of innovation! Few people will actually do something about it., and I believe that is what drives me.
Excellent. What do you see is the future of quality measurement in business?
I always remember something I learnt in engineering school – “Quality is all pervasive and all around us”. It touches every aspect of your life. Whether it is cleanliness around you., or the expectation of better than just average customer service., or what you expect of Government services., the future of this profession is all exciting! With population growth, climate change and contemporary global economy., the geo-politics all see a lot of need for organizations being able to do things better and more efficiently. And this is direct result of a focus on Quality and consistency.
Tell me about your family/pets. What is the secret of your strength?
Like I said earlier, my Wife Sahana is also passionate about the same things that I care about – she also has an Electronics engineering background and has worked in the industry. She has also seen the same problems and frustrations. We have one smart young budding teenager son., 12-year-old, who is extremely passionate about flying (as in piloting and has been seriously on simulators across the world) and also nurturing his ambition to be a heart surgeon with a hobby of flying airplanes. He is also aspiring blogger.
You are truly blessed Kris. Can you leave our readers a quote that influenced you”
“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter Drucker.
“Quality is remembered after the cost is long forgotten” – Anonymous.
Thank you for talking to us Kris and sharing your knowledge and vision to our entrepreneurs. I am sure we have a lot to learn from you and your team about how we can strive to improve everyday and uplift service quality to ensure we stay relevant, ahead and alive. Thank you once again.