Business

From finding free ways to contact friends to President, Product at Zoom – The Journey of Velchami Sankarlingam

New Delhi: In the late 1980s, an Indian college student in the US was looking for ways to communicate for free and keep in touch with his friends who lived halfway across the world. E-mail was not an option, phone calls were too expensive, the internet was barely in its early stages. Apart from snail mail, there was hardly any way left. Cut to 2021, the same man who once looked at free options for getting in touch is responsible for driving and improving a service that helps millions of people around the world stay connected on a ‘freemium’ basis. Zee Media had an exclusive chat with US-based Velchami Sankaralingam, President of Product and Engineering at Zoom Video Communications – of course, through the same service he is now at the helm.

Hailing from Virudhunagar in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Velchami grew up with three sisters. His father was involved in the tin-metal business and later selling stoves, while his mother raised four children. A promising student, Velchamy went to the CBSE (a national level board of education, considered to be the best in India) school in his district and later joined the famous Montfort School in Yercaud for his 11th and 12th standard. He completed his engineering degree from the College of Engineering Guindy (one of the oldest technical institutes in Asia), Chennai, where he first experienced the power of mini-computers, a rarity in the Indian academia of the 1980s. After his engineering education in the South Indian metropolis of Chennai, he moved to the US to specialize in computer science and business in the US, where he is now settled. His sisters and extended family still live in his native city of Tamil Nadu.

At Zoom, where Welchami joined in May 2020, following extensive experience in the software-as-a-service industry (including IBM, Webex, VMware), he is responsible for scaling up operations to meet the exponential growth of his operations. are. service and to meet the demands of approximately 300 million daily users, up from 10 million daily users in the pre-pandemic days. While this figure marks an overall 30x growth for Zoom over their regular user-base, the company has seen more than 60x growth in Welchami’s native country – India. This also meant setting up data centers in Indian cities, making the product more user-friendly for a diverse audience. Apart from their primary service of video calls, the company has also introduced Zoom Events (for the purpose of virtual conference management), Zoom Phone (voice call service across devices for companies) and Zoom App Marketplace.

Reminiscing about his formative years, Welchamy says that despite being the only son in a household with four children, his parents allowed him to define his career and choices instead of asking him to manage the family business. Gave permission. “My parents didn’t go to college, but they told me not to worry about my family business and let me do what I felt was right. When parents guide you a lot, you don’t make many mistakes and you do well enough, but you learn very little. In my case, I have made mistakes and have learned to get better at every subsequent step”, he said.

Regarding his education, Welchamy said that he was a high-achiever who often competed closely for the top 3 ranks, but more than the youth who studied for him. He also showed keen interest in other sports including cricket, table tennis, volleyball. He is grateful to the Principal of his school who emphasized the importance of learning and understanding rather than just memorizing. “He urged us to focus on developing the primary skills and enhancing them along with many other skills to enable holistic development” he recalls. Asked to compare the Indian and American education systems, he said that the Indian system was very structured, while the American system let students pick and choose what they wanted. “I think there are pros and cons, when you are young you need a structured education like in India, because you are not sure what to do next. In America, there is no fixed structure. So, When students choose a certain subject themselves, they like it and get passionate about it.But I also see that currently in India there is a lot of STEM(Science,Tech,Engineering,Mathematics) and attractive non- There are STEM options”, he added.

Interestingly, for someone working on the products and services that have enabled the work-from-home experience for millions of people across the world, Welchamy has always followed the habit of arriving early and leaving the office late. Is. Actually, he loves working from office. However, when he joined Zoom at the urging of his longtime friend and Zoom’s founder, CEO, Eric Yuan, Welchami had to adapt to the work-life of the pandemic. “In the last year and a half I’ve been at Zoom and reporting directly to the CEO, I’ve only been to our local office once,” he laughs.

Wechami’s major concern and dilemma when joining Zoom wasn’t on the technology front, it was on the people front – “How am I going to address all the new colleagues I’ve never known personally before? of or didn’t work with them. He even admitted that he was a bit hesitant, as he would have to break his long-standing practice and start over with WFH from day one. However, it seems that the 18-month long WFH experience has made a significant difference in his long-standing belief and practice of working from the office. “Looking back, I went to the local office, I knew a lot of people there and other people. But today, I know 500 people, but I don’t know where they are. So, that’s the experience. – I guess, immersive video makes for a lot of stuff that we do in a physical meeting”, is his view. Also read: In good hands: Twitter reacts to Tata Sons’ purchase of Air India

Despite not visiting his hometown in recent years and missing out on a lot of things about India (especially the food and hospitality), Welchami has stayed connected with his friends – people from kindergarten to college . “Meetings require you to have a time and place, but that location is not important unless it is virtual. I have attended (virtual) reunions more than ever in my life,” he quipped Lee, however, remains unimpressed by the fact that these reunions of his friends and relatives from all over the world are made possible by a service he has helped. But, beyond all the bells and whistles of the virtual world, he continues to create and Helps provide convenience, Velachami agrees that the experience of landing at Madurai airport and driving to his hometown of Virudhunagar (a distance of 60 km) is unparalleled. For Indians working and settled abroad, literally. Homecoming also means the freedom to walk casually to the homes of friends and relatives in India, without any appointments. Velachami Sankaralingam is no exception! Also read: Ola Electric raises $200 million at a valuation of over $5 billion: Report

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