Radha Ramaswami Basu needs no introduction. One of the few female pioneers in India’s tech industry, she is widely known for spearheading Hewlett Packard Enterprise(HP) in India. His more than 30 years of technology experience is based on growing HP’s e-commerce software division into a $1.2 billion operation, and as President and CEO of Support, a NASDAQ-listed company.
As global software engineering leader and author Shantha Mohan wrote in her book Roots and Wings: Inspiring Stories of Indian Women in Engineering, “Innovation is a constant theme running through Radha’s life.”
Coming from Chennai, Radha’s family placed great importance on education and considered mathematics and science to be the Holy Grail. “I went to a school for girls. At school, I saw myself more attracted to science than to mathematics. For me, it was more about applications, so physics really interested me,” says Radha. Your story.
Radha was the youngest of three siblings and had the tenacity to break the rules and get into trouble. In one such transgression, Radha ran out of school to attend a lecture given by someone who was talking about mechanics and medical engineering.
“That’s when I realized I had to do engineering. However, coming from a traditional family, I was pushed to focus more on BSc maths and not engineering. But I applied for an engineering degree without anyone knowing. I was in the news for applying for engineering in 1966,” says Radha.
Radha Basu was among just 17 women out of 2,800 boys studying at Indian Engineering College – Guindy
One girl among 2,800 boys
From a school for girls, Radha went to Indian College of Engineering – Guindy which had more than 2,800 boys and 17 girls.
“Once I got in, I understood why I had been told not to join engineering. It was a very different environment. But it was a fantastic experience. I went from a protected environment to an open environment. It taught me to be myself. It taught me the value of relationships with guys. Some of my best friends are from my Guindy,” she recalled.
After completing her engineering studies, Radha decided to pursue a master’s degree and decided to move to the United States in January 1972. She earned her master’s degree at University of Southern California in computer science and biomedical engineering.
At that time, the government gave him $8 for 30 days as financial assistance. But even though she didn’t have many resources, she learned to survive thanks to the food she received during orientation ceremonies from all departments of the university.
“Some of my best trends came from my engineering studies and the first year in the United States, where I learned to develop a positive attitude,” says Radha.
After completing her studies, she joined HP Laboratories.
Radha Ramaswami Basu with former students of her engineering school
“I was working on ultrasound transducer technologies and doing all the wonderful things I wanted to do in the medical field. My master’s thesis was on computerized ECG, and I would even publish an article,” she says. She also continued to work and build things on the instrumentation side.
After spending 20 years at HP in Engineering and General Management, in 1985, Radha founded the company’s operations in India and set up a multinational’s first software center in Bangalore. She then became general manager of Hewlett-Packard eCommerce Software Organizationthat she helped to become a $1.2 billion global deal.
“I had the opportunity to meet the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and we decided to create HP Systems. David Packard (co-founder of HP) was just awesome and he always empowered me. I always wish I could be like him and empower everyone like he did,” says Radha.
During his time at HP, Radha set up all the company’s operations in India amid the presence of software giants including Infosys, Wipro and others. “We have become an R&D center of 2,500 people and we have also created a joint venture with TCS. These are the people who led the IT revolution in India in the late 80s and early 90s. It was then that Indus Entrepreneurs formed to create TiE. I was even awarded by NASSCOM,” she recalls.
The trek that changed everything
Radha then decided to make what she calls one of the hardest decisions of her life – to leave HP in 1999. The decision came after she and her husband embarked on a 22 Days Everest Base Camp Trip.
“It was a real journey. When you get up there, you realize how small you are and how awesome nature is. It was such a transformative journey for me; it was a journey with myself, nature and the wonders of the universe. I thought about what I wanted to do and it also gave me the chance to be a bit away from my job at HP which I love, and I “I realized I was at the end of the road. I came back and told my CEO that I was going to leave HP,” she says.
She decided to join support.com as a CEO since July 1999 when he started and learn how to raise funds, what to do about it, how to take risks and build a product business from scratch. Until May 2006, Radha led the company through its IPO and built Support into a leader in support automation software.
“We went ahead and took the company public on NASDAQ. Three weeks later, in July 2000, the entire IPO market ground to a halt for about 14 months (due to Dot-com Bubble Burst). But we kept building and soon we were able to make a secondary offer about two years later,” adds Radha.
Support.com was listed on NASDAQ in 2000
Giving back to society with technology
In 2005, Radha and her husband decided to do something for people using technology and started Anudip Foundation.
The social enterprise works with young people from low-income households, especially young women, and not only trains them in English, but also provides work and technology readiness. This allows them to work with local employers and determine what skills are needed to get real employment.
“I found that there were a lot of young women who were very good at being trained in technology, but they couldn’t leave their house to find a job,” she says.
So far, the Anudip Foundation has trained 120,000 students.
“We started in Kolkata and decided to focus on the eastern region because apart from the booming cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai, but no one was really paying attention to these regions. This led to the birth of iMerit,” says Radha.
The idea behind iMerit Technology Services was to experiment with a small group of young people who come from rural areas and tribal groups of India, and digitally up-skill them to equip them to undertake online projects. The team also got help from Microsoft and eBay.
Radha, with eBay founder Pierre Omidyar Omidyar India Networkput in seed money and continued to add solutions as well as provide help.
Today, iMerit is a leader artificial intelligence (AI) data solutions company which provides high quality data through computer vision, natural language processing (NLP) and content services that power machine learning and AI applications for large enterprises
It provides end-to-end data labeling services to Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries, including agricultural AI, autonomous vehicles, commerce, geospatial, government, financial services, Medical AI and technology.
The company is funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Omidyar Network and Khosla Impact.
Advising technicians, especially female technicians, Radha says, “Never let your curiosity die. When at iMerit we were looking at AI, I had no idea what AI is and what it does. But I had the will and the curiosity to learn. Don’t let anything stop you, also stay open to always learn and ask for help. When you ask for what you need, nothing really stops you.