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Issue of October 2004 
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Stocked up for life

“Being a CIO is not the same as being a CEO, even if it's a small company. I want to be the CEO of a big company, and that's what I wish to make of NSE.IT, a big company!” Satish Naralkar, Managing Director and CEO of NSE.IT tells Deepali Gupta the story of his life.

As an electrical engineer at Blue Star, the lanes ahead seemed to be narrowing for Satish Naralkar…until he got an offer from IBM. That, he indicates was the single outstanding offer that shunned all his hesitations of the field to look out for. And from there began his journey into the world of IT.

Unlike a lot of his peers in the IT field, Naralkar did not switch too many jobs. He made a forced shift to CMC Ltd., when IBM closed its Indian operations due to a political crisis. After a long stint at CMC, he felt he was beginning to stagnate, and for curiosity's sake stepped out to estimate his professional market value.

He got an offer from NSE, which was still in its inception stages. It looked risky and interesting. So, against the advice of his friends he joined the company.

Nationalizing the stock exchange

Today, Naralkar is proud that he was a member of the IT team that backed the NSE as it became India's largest stock exchange in just a year, and the third largest in the world over the next ten. “NSE is equal to IT. Without IT there is no way NSE can function,” says Naralkar. Naturally, providing such a touch-and-go infrastructure comes with its peaks and troughs.

The first and most important challenge was to keep pace with the growing business at the exchange. At the start, the NSE was running a centralized application. One year into the implementation, they had to migrate to a client server structure. That meant not only keeping touch, but also understanding a variety of technologies inside out. He helped implement a solution that had a “Response time of a few seconds and a downtime of less than a minute,” says Naralkar.

Irony of success

“At the outset we raised the expectations of the exchange and the brokers, so in the long run we had to meet them,” Naralkar states the irony. A perfect example he gives is that of the brokers in Madurai. Prior to the NSE the brokers waited two days for confirmation. The NSE did that in five seconds. At the time the brokers were all praises for the system. A year or two later, “Most of them were complaining the three second response time was too long,” says Naralkar.

Evolving with times

His role at the NSE was quite different from his previous one. At the NSE he was handling between 10 and 15 projects simultaneously with a team of about a 100 people. “So, more than actually driving the projects, I had to structure the progress chart of the projects,” says Naralkar.

Holidaying the Naralkar way

Planning and organizing is something Naralkar enjoys in his private life as well. Between him and his wife they setup holiday tours for their extended family, which sometimes includes the neighbors as well. These outings Naralkar suggests are fun enough for all from the age of 2 to 65 to join them. The Naralkars are seriously considering making a profession in holiday planning and becoming guides after retirement.

Programmer power

As the NSE grew, retaining the right skill-set was no piece of cake. IT professionals did not consider working at the NSE technical enough. “The perception was that it would merely be a maintenance job revolving around the stock exchange,” Naralkar explains. Breaking off into an IT company has helped that problem to some extent.

Success mantra

Naralkar has a unique progress mantra. Before approaching his superior with a business issue, he makes a quick forecast of the possible responses from the head. He believes that the analytical skills he derived from playing chess and Bridge actually helps him be prepared.

“That way you save yourself a counseling session with the senior. And if you keep doing it every time, at some point you can do everything your boss can,” Naralkar clarifies.

His philosophy is that, in any case there should always be a right hand and left hand person. “People hold on to their posts because it makes them feel important, but that ensures they cannot move on,” he says. He considers it important to always have people who can largely fill his shoes.

Indeed, he implements this in his personal life as well. He realized that Bridge was one of his profound passions, so he taught his wife how to play it on his honeymoon. That had two advantages. When there were only three players she could fill the fourth place, and unlike other wives she was not upset about his “Spending so much time on a nonsense game as per most wives,” says Naralkar.

Luckily

Besides hard work, and the obvious need to put in your best for any project, in life Naralkar has found that luck plays a significant role.

“The success of a project is determined by the result and visibility,” he substantiates. He gives the example of two projects he was handling simultaneously. One involved creative, innovative work, and the other was an overseas implementation. On the first he spent 80 percent of his time, on the second he spent the remaining 20. However, the second was the more successful. It was simpler and the scope for expectation was bound by the project scope.

Where it ends

Naralkar still has too much life in him to see an end. He revels in his success and continues to explore the wide range of things he could do at the end of his tenure at NSE.IT. As he puts it, he is allergic to idleness, and even if it's guest lecturing he would take it any day over settling in a couch at home!

 
     
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