[Techie Tuesday] From creating a virtual reality simulation at DRDO to low-code enterprise infrastructure: Journey of Nagendra Raja

“I liked computers from day one because they actually allow you to flexibly change your thought process. Everything we talk about now is what we talk about 40 years later, but technology will make it better, ”says a scientist turned entrepreneur. Nagendra Kumar Raja, Founder of TejaSoft innovations.

Nagendra has kept this mantra throughout his 28-year career. Whether as DRDO-CAIR scientist, computer engineer, or entrepreneur, for him, engineering has always been a profession not to make money, but to discover and create things and make life better with code.

“In the early 90s, software ran on Silicon Graphics machines, then came the office, then people fought to run the same software on tablets, cellphones and now even wristwatches,” says Nagendra. Your story.

Today he successfully runs TejaSoft innovations, a boot started, for over 16 years. Offering the 2.0 service, it enables the software intellect to deliver products by experienced talents (15-25 years of daily experience) efficiently at lower costs on schedule and in a noisy highway. Working with a six month to one year commitment with its customers, the company has so far served 35 customers like BroadVision, Honeywell, Indian Railways, Nuware and others in five countries.

“I went to DRDO-CAIR five years ago. They remember me as a computer scientist, and even after 20 years they said that software is still in use and constantly being improved. But the seeding was done by me. That’s the power of software, ”Nagendra says.

Nagendra Kumar Raja

First date with computers

Nagendra was born in Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh. He was academically gifted from childhood which placed him in one of Hyderabad’s premium schools on the Government of India Scholarship for six years.

Sharing one of the incidents, he recalls that he once wanted to repair an old mechanical table clock and opened it fully. Although he couldn’t put the parts back in place, he developed his curiosity for how objects actually work, which later drove him to product engineering.

“It was in 1987 when I finished my studies. Medicine and engineering were among the two most popular career trends at the time. My older brother also went into engineering. So I chose mechanical engineering, ”he says.

However, it wasn’t until his second year of engineering that a friend of his encouraged him to learn computer programming.

“In 1989, a new computer lab was set up at our college, encouraging students to enroll. In my first lesson, I wrote two lines of code and got 80 errors. It sparked that thought process and that’s where my passion for solving problems with computers began, ”he recalls.

When he graduated he was famous among his friends as the “computer scientist” because of his attitude towards troubleshooting and debugging software. He had already learned languages ​​such as C, C ++, and even graphics despite systems that were then not very compatible with new software.

“I also wrote calculation software for an ice cream factory, which was implemented internally by them. I always believed that we should make computers do what we want to do, not the other way around, where we only do what a computer is capable of doing, ”he adds.

Later, while pursuing a Masters of Engineering (ME) at Anna University in 1993, he joined a network called Computer Society of India, an initiative of Anna University of Chennai.

“I was introduced to courses on artificial intelligence, computer vision, virtual reality, automation of production engineering and image processing. Fortunately, in the very first year, I received an offer letter from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) for a scientist position, ”he says.

In his college days

Join DRDO-CAIR

While at DRDO, Nagendra first had to take a break from his post-graduation studies to begin his one-year training. After training, Nagendra was assigned to DRDO Chennai in 1994.

He shares that the lab was good, but he could see scientists and mechanical engineers struggling with software. The main software was AutoCAD, but there was a lot of redesign and no reuse. Part of the work profile was also going to the fields, checking the performance of armaments made according to their design and recording them.

“The performance was recorded manually. I was able to see a lot of differences in terms of productivity. But being legacy systems, there were a lot of restrictions. I was only earning Rs 6,000-7,000 at that time. But I was so passionate about it that I bought my own Pentium 5 system worth Rs 70,000 and started working to fix the existing shortcomings, ”he adds.

He then improved AutoCAD with a lot of LISP (a family of programming languages), additional capabilities to automate field recording performance, capture all data and share analysis reports. It was the time when a 1 GB of hard drive costs Rs 70,000, so making a change was certainly difficult from a cost and mindset perspective.

Impressed with his work, Nagendra’s supervisor had him transferred to DRDO Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Center (CAIR), where he actually worked on building VR / AI software in mechatronics and simulation for the Indian military forces.

“We remember doing a virtual reality workshop for the entire DRDO community and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) when I was at CAIR. And everyone was shocked because at that time it was certainly new to see the practical use case of these technologies in the world, ”he says.

“Today, all of these technologies, whether it’s AI, ML, IoT or the cloud, have all been commoditized. But those were the days when these technologies were premium and working on them was a lifelong experience, ”he says.

Turning

After four years at DRDO, the passion to do more with technology drove Nagendra to work in the private sector. His first job was in LG Soft, where he was responsible for creating Java Group – Java Competence Center for LG Soft around 1997. He was also part of Java Card, Digital Broadcasting Association (Digital Broadcasting Association) organizations to introduce set-top boxes and payment products to this era.

In 2000, Nokia launched a challenge on smartphones. This was the time when he was working on a public-private key for the transaction, which is nothing but today’s OTP, and he earned Rs 13 lakh.

He later moved on to Satyam Infoway. However, it was during his stint at Solar Microsystems that he had a taste for entrepreneurship.

“Between 2003-2005, I worked a lot on the rationalization of complex codes on the concept of agile and clean code. With my team, we modified a code inherited from 10 years ago, by providing two patents, by applying a refactoring of unit tests, which became the genesis of my startup TejaSoft ”, he adds.

Getting into entrepreneurship

Nagendra launched TejaSoft in 2005 with its first flagship digital brand ‘Clean Code’. As he shares, money was not an issue by the time he started his business, and he had already built a credibility in the industry. As a result, some of its early customers were big names like Honeywell, Virtuosa, and Indian Railways.

“In 2004 Indian Railways started with online ticketing, but the system broke down at just 6,000 tickets a day. Now it has the capacity to manage more than 2 million tickets per day, ”he adds.

However, he later realized that the industry knows clean code as a philosophy. There must be another meaningful way to develop low-code enterprise-level technology infrastructure. That’s when he came up with another digital product: Code Doctors.

“This is basically a type of on-demand service from a CTO or technical team. We have a team of global experts to process and revive complex software code and to quickly build enterprise-level engineering teams for startups and service companies in a scalable and flexible way with an emphasis on solving critical problems and making the code sane, ”he adds. .

Key learnings

Having started her career in 1993, Nagendra cherished a number of learnings and shared valuable tips for new age techies. Here are just a few:

Unit tests are an important tool: Unit testing takes time, but to improve productivity and reduce costs, it is an important tool that developers should not ignore. Trying and failing 10 times, then going ahead 11 times can help create great products.

Follow clean code practices: There is always a way to reduce two hours of work to 5 minutes. There will be someone in the future who can do it in 5 seconds. “That’s the beauty of technology, always helping people do a better job and there is always room for perfection,” he adds.

The code is never wrong, the requirements are different: Nagendra believes that IT is an industry where the codes are not wrong.

“As a developer, instead of focusing only on what a customer wants, you have to look at the problem at its root and try to deliver a quality solution with scalability and flexibility given the future demands expected in the changing world. rapid technology, ”he concludes.

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