‘4420’ is an ordinary number by all measures.
But for Anil Kumar, CTO at ToneTag, the number has haunted him his entire life. This is what Anil earned in his first job after graduating with a Bachelor of Technology degree from an engineering school in Rajasthan.
But, in many ways, the number also motivated him, forced him to work harder, to free himself from mold and, above all, to introduce him to the love of his life: software.
“When I looked at that paycheck, the first in my life, all I could think of was how the lowest employee in our family business was being paid over Rs 4,420. I realized it wasn’t for me. I’m comfortable admitting now that what I did next was for money, but without realizing it, it brought into my life what I love to live and breathe now – software ”, Anil said. Your story.
After his bachelor’s degree, Anil enrolled at IIT-Delhi, which set him on a lifelong path of software engineering and coding.
View the code
Anil Kumar says he frequently thanks his stars for failed his round of group discussions for recruitments by Maruti and Mahindra – his dream companies at one point. These failures, combined with his exposure to software engineering at IIT-Delhi helped him land his first job in a software company specializing in supply chain management, i2 Technologies.
At i2, Anil tasted for the first time cloud computing and optimization, and he quickly became an expert.
“In college I used to read a lot about optimization, specifically how software can be used to optimize a company’s resources, how it fits into everyday issues such as leads for air traffic control, manufacturers, vehicle traffic, etc. fascinated me, ”he says.
Back in college, Anil used MMicrosoft Excel to run optimization programs, which received a lot of appreciation from his teachers, and consolidated Arun in his belief that he did not need to learn complex programming languages. But at i2, his assumptions and beliefs were disputed, especially when he was tasked with working with a team on code to optimize a company’s supply chain processes.
While he was pondering the problem and trying to figure out the process of writing the code, his colleague – RK Maniyani – became one of his good friends. Anil confided in his friend that he was not very confident in his coding skills, and that he did not know where to start or even how to think about writing code.
A sympathizer, RK suggested that the coding was perhaps beyond his capabilities and that he probably “wouldn’t get it.” This stimulated Anil, whose family had taught him never to shy away from a challenge, to dive deeper into it – and he asked his friend to help him figure out the ways in the coding world.
After much pushing, RK told Anil to go to a bank. “He told me to observe the operation of a bank,” says Anil ironically.
Then RK told Anil to write code that could optimize the bank’s software – and Anil did. However, to his chagrin, his friend told him that it was one of the the most badly written codes he had never seen.
“I was injured, but I was also surprised. I continued to harass RK to give myself another chance. He did, but before he left he gave me a little tip: he told me to visualize the banking process, the way it worked and everything I had observed when I was there for a day.
It was a game-changer for Anil.
“This visualization of the process was key to my understanding of coding, and this lesson is still central to how I code today,” he says.
Address the issues
When tackling a problem today, Anil prefers to use a proven formula he gleaned from years of coding – not just at i2 Technologies, but also during his a decade spent at Oracle.
He says he starts with visualization the main problem, then move on to finalize some facts of the solutions, then get off from there
“I would say that’s probably the best way to approach a problem: to take a top-down view of things. It gives you a holistic view of everything before you approach or solve it, ”says Anil.
The next step is to ask the question “why” – which is perhaps one of the most important things to do. “I ask ‘why’ over and over, at every step. Why do you do that? Why is this important? Why is this the best possible approach.
Then he asks other questions, like what the software hopes to achieve, what processes it hopes to simplify – which generally leads to a structured version of the final code.
However, despite all the planning, brainstorming, and creating a flow to the code, Anil says any coder worth his salt always be prepared for surprises.
“No matter how much you think and plan, as soon as you start to go into detail, you will always find a new instance or a new situation emerging. The trick is not to stray from your main problem statement, and continue to resolve any issues that arise as they arise, ”he says. In other words, keep debugging while you dig up the bugs.
An area that is too comfortable
After i2 Technologies, life led Anil to Oracle, where he did much of what he did in his previous role. The only difference was that he built all the business optimization software for use in the cloud, instead of physical machines.
“It was another time. Everything was in the cloud, and companies wanted a cheaper, smaller footprint, and no hardware solution – cloud computing was everything, he recalls.
Supply chain planning was at the forefront of the concerns of many companies at the time – around 2008-2014, especially in terms of optimization. With a boom in Internet services, cloud computing has become the preferred mode of operation for many logistics and manufacturing companies. In 2014, Anil became Director of Value Chain Planning at Oracle, where he played a key role in launching various Fusion applications.
The merger is that of Oracle enterprise resource planning product that helps companies quickly adapt models and processes so they can scale quickly, reduce costs, refine forecasting, and innovate better.
At the time, Anil met his next door neighbor, Kumar Abhishek, who at the time was developing a product to enable payments and financial services using sound waves. Anil took a personal interest in the project and helped Kumar with various aspects of the product he wanted to build. He even agreed to help her hire a technician to help make her vision a reality.
As someone with a natural gift for finance and fintech, Anil found a lot of enthusiasm in his relationship with Kumar, who founded ToneTag. On the other hand, he realized that he was losing the taste for his day job at Oracle.
“At that time, I had been doing the same things for over a decade. I was in a very advantageous position – I had a good, well-paying job, my career progression was good. But that was my problem, the fact that I felt comfortable with everything I did, sso much so that I realized I had started doing things on autopilot.
This did not suit Anil and, by an ironic turn of events, he gave up on a successful career – which earned him much more than Rs 4,420 – for passion.
“It became a situation where I realized that I was not learning anything at all, and I needed to be in a place where I could continue to learn. So I had to get back into learning mode and open my mind. It got me to explore the world of startups, and ultimately, ToneTag, ”he says.
Building proximity communication technology
At ToneTag, where Anil joined as Technical director in 2019, he pioneered the creation of a proximity communication technology, and test its applications for not only payment solutions, but also non-payment use cases, like to shop or scan neighborhood stores.
An example of using Oyeti (Image credit: ToneTag)
“Imagine walking into a point of sale and without even pulling out your phone or opening an app, the salespeople in the store to know your purchase history and consumption habits. They can then help you better, offer better discounts and make your shopping experience more pleasant and optimal, says Anil.
The product is tested for voice boxes, restaurant orders and the use of sound wave technology in devices such as light bulbs, in addition to allowing phones to communicate with each other using sound waves, for payments.
With Oyéti, a platform that Anil built with his team, the Bengaluru-based startup is looking to get into the portable space. it is to conceive smart headphones which can be designed to perform tasks such as ordering clothing, food, groceries and accessories, via voice, as well as enabling frictionless transactions and purchases.
He was also responsible for setting up ToneTag’s R&D center, as well as the constitution of its technical team to take the startup to the next level.
“Trying to improve the lives of clients has always been a driving force in my career. At ToneTag, too, I always focus on how my software helps people save money and time, and do things better, ”says Anil.
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