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The God-fearing CTO

At 41, Ketan Parekh heads the IT team at Sharekhan, and also manages to set aside an hour every day to chat with his wife. Rishiraj Verma brings out the man behind the CTO who also spends time praying to God every single day.

You expect to meet a laptop-wielding formally-attired geek greeting you from behind a sleek desk. The laptop is there, but minus all the frills, stands a man greeting you humbly with a handshake and a smile.

You’d normally expect a Chief Technology Officer to be a graduate from a technology school. But then, there are exceptions and Parekh is one. After finishing schooling at Little Angels High School, Mumbai in 1980, where Maths was his favourite subject, Parekh “went on to study financial accounting” at SIES College, Mumbai. He graduated in 1985. After finishing education, Parekh had a lot of options; one of which was to join his father’s gold and silver business. But he did not consider himself fit for his father’s business because of his educational background and also for the fact that the organisation was “too small.” Thereafter, Parekh went on to study technology. In 1997, he studied ERP and its implementations at Oracle Corporation and in 2000 he did an e-business course (distant learning) from Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP).

The ‘first job’

Meanwhile, in 1990 Parekh crossed the ‘first job’ milestone. He started working with a financial services firm then known as Money Care. “It’s now called Saurashtra Capital Services,” he reminisces. Parekh was happy to get a job in the field that he had studied in. After seven years with the firm, he had gained knowledge not just about the business, but also about the processes pertaining to the firm.

And it was “at Money Care itself” that Parekh had his first brush with IT. He had a lot of options at this company and he chose to work on user implementation, which led him on to IT.

That was also the time when he developed interest in ERP. “In 1997, there was an ERP wave. That was something I thought I wanted to do and that got me kicking.” Soon Parekh got an offer from a US company for the post of an ERP consultant. He was happy to go for it. “But when you go out, you find that India is much better.” He also missed his family a lot and that is why he came back.

CTP then offered him to take care of programme management for BSE Webex, which he took up as a challenge. “At Money Care it was all about the end-user perspective and now it was going to change.” Hence, he had to be a part of it. He indeed proved a point by scoring well in the project review.

In 1999, he travelled to Mauritius for an Air Mauritius ERP implementation. He returned in 2000. Two years later when Novell acquired CTP and the Indian operations were split into Bangalore and Mumbai-Delhi, Parekh was with Novell Mumbai for around 10 months where he got numerous awards for excellence.

Sharekhan beckoned him in 2003 and he has been there since then. “After the BSE project, I find this the most challenging,” says the CTO about his current job. He reasons this out by saying that earlier he had been on the end-user’s side and the consulting side but now attempting to understand the business user’s side in detail. “You’ve to keep accepting challenges and if I decide to do something, it’s done,” he explains.

Today and tomorrow

“I am multi-tasking at work right now,” says Parekh as he explains how he is working on a business model for collaboration with banks. He also talks of the BCP and DR projects that he has been working on. He adds that the most important thing he is doing right now is focussing on cost reduction for Sharekhan.

He doesn’t have any fixed plans for the future, but says, “I would like to ensure that my business value is of help to any organisation I work for.”

His achievements

The CTO says that his abilities of being able to learn fast and accept challenges of all kinds have helped him in his professional life.

Ask him about personal achievements and he says, “I value relationships.” He adds that he always learns from life.

Factfile
Birthdate: January 15, 1965
Place of birth: Mumbai
Family: Father - gold and silver business, mother - homemaker, wife - homemaker, one daughter
Idea of a great vacation: Chilling out at a place where I can eat, sleep, watch TV, talk to my wife and daughter and go to the gym
Likes: I like my job very much. I've got all things in place, my family, my work and my passions
Dislikes: When a person doesn't own up to his responsibilities, I get angry. Earlier, there were lots of dislikes, but time has calmed me down

Just chill

The pressure in an IT job is high especially for the team-leader. Parekh believes in “chilling out” to bust the stress. In leisure, he loves to sleep, be with his family and watch TV all day long. “When I’m not at work, I basically like to do nothing.” Here he pauses for a moment, thinks and corrects himself. “I also listen to what my wife has to say. Being a husband, that’s the only option you see,” and bursts out laughing.

The CTO likes to spare at least an hour each for his wife and daughter every day.

In the name of his father

Parekh insists that his father was his biggest mentor. “I seem to have inherited his business and negotiation skills.” He puts his wife next on the list for all the support that she has given him. “She has stayed up long nights waiting for me to come back from work.” The number three and four spots are occupied by his father-in-law and current boss respectively.

Ask him about his beliefs and he replies. “I’m a God-fearing guy and that is one belief I have held all my life.” He adds that there is a DVD continually playing bhajans at his home and office. Parekh says that he is religious and just like he finds time for his wife and daughter every day, he also finds time to pray to God. “Till recently, I used to walk from Sion (where he stays) to Siddhivinayak temple.”

About superstitions, he has a monosyllabic negative answer.

According to Parekh, the biggest turnaround moment in his life was when he got married. This, he says, made him realise his responsibilities.

Much to learn

When asked to rate himself as a CTO on a 1 to 10 scale, Parekh came up with “one” after a few moments of thought. “There is a lot left to learn and anything above one would be an exaggeration.” While he may rate himself the lowest on the CTO scale, he definitely ranks highest on the modesty scale.

Parekh says that he is not thinking of retirement as of now because there is a lot to learn. “I’ve only rated myself one today and I need to go to the level where I can rate myself 10.” So, we shouldn’t be expecting this God-fearing CTO to call it a day anytime soon.

Rapid Fire
This CTO knows what he wants; be it his work or any other aspect of his life
  • Music: Bhajans devoted to Lord Shiva and slow, old music
  • Film: My likes have changed over time. Earlier I was a Jackie Chan movie buff, but I don’t watch movies any more
  • Book: Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. Currently reading The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman
  • Wish the most in life: There are many wishes. I need to be a better human being. I want to help people grow so that they can help me grow in turn. I’d also like to lose a little weight
  • Miss the most in life: Nothing. I’m happy with what I’m doing
  • Most memorable holiday: In Mauritius. We were working for 14 to 18 hours a day for nine months. My wife came down and I managed to go home early everyday. Those four days were the best holidays. I’ve been to chaar-dhaam, which are among the four key religious places in India, and this journey made me notice the real beauty of India
  • Colour I like: Blue
  • Favourite spot in India: Siddhivinayak temple
  • Message to fellow IT heads: Today, the world is about mapping business with technology. Technology is not a business driver, it’s an enabler. So focus on letting business drive technology and not the other way round.
 
     
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