Building our Engineering Force in India with Hariharan Thirugnanam, Software Engineering Leader
We’re excited to spotlight Hariharan Thirugnanam, Engineering Leader at Instabase. Hariharan joined in 2018 as the first leader on the ground in India as Instabase began its efforts to build a world-class team in the region. In this spotlight, we’ll share Hari’s journey from being the first Instabase employee in India and how he donned multiple hats to scale from 1 employee to a tribe of 50 (and growing!).
Tell us about your journey to Instabase:
What a journey it’s been over the last 3 years building Instabase’s presence here in India. It was fun to take a walk down memory lane for this article. In 2018 when I joined the Instabase team I had no idea what it would entail to be the first employee for a Silicon Valley startup in hyper-growth mode. It’s been an exhilarating ride and I am truly proud of all we’ve accomplished in 3 short years.
It’s a funny story of how I ended up joining the team. I was working at a startup company that was evaluating Instabase as a possible solution to help solve a key challenge. We were working on document processing and a data extraction pipeline for US tax documents. During the solution evaluation, I met Instabase CEO & founder Anant Bhardwaj. I was fascinated with the Instabase technology and intrigued by the problems that Instabase was attempting to solve. I knew these were very hard computer science problems, yet Anant and team were fueled by these challenges and had a healthy disregard for the impossible. They were tackling problems where there were enormous amounts of data to process, and traditionally there was a strong belief that only a human could read and understand this data. Though I was supposed to be evaluating Instabase as a potential vendor, Anant’s vision pulled me in. Anant wanted to redefine computing. I remember he explained it to me as building a distributed operating system where one can build rapid business applications. I knew this was something truly special so I had to ask him… “Are you hiring??”
I recognized the passion that I felt for Instabase’s mission was not random. This quote has always resonated with me:
“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.”
This rang true more than ever and was the explanation for my strong desire to want to work with Anant and the Instabase team. In March 2018, my Monday morning environment changed drastically, from seeing hundreds of people in a buzzing office to being the only one in an office. Prior to the startup where I’d been evaluating Instabase, I’d spent 10 years as a lead engineer working on computer vision and content management systems at Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor company. I went from working with ~8,000 employees to joining Instabase, where I was the first employee and the first engineer in India. I knew my work days would be a lot different so I was anxious but also very excited. On my first day, I met the entire team on a video conference to say hello, and then I started digging through the discussion forums, the codebase, and ongoing projects. Everything I read got me more and more excited. I knew I’d made the right decision to join the team.
What do you value most about Instabase?
It was evident very quickly that it wasn’t just the technology that made Instabase so unique, it was the people and the company values. I remember one day back in April 2018, we were on target to deliver our first project rollout to our first major enterprise customer. We had a big task at hand, we were facing tight deadlines, and the pressure was on. I was on the inside for the first time, representing Instabase, and had the rest of the team supporting me from our office as we pushed to production. This was not the first time in my career that I was onsite working with a client for a big deployment project but this time I could sense a big difference. This wasn’t the usual pressure to deliver on time or to deliver right, but a strong desire to put our customer’s success above anything else. I was working with a small team with massive talent and it was at that moment I realized how important customer obsession is to Instabase and why our customers trust us to solve their most challenging problems. In my 3 years at Instabase, I have given sales demos, spent time with customers learning about their challenges, and developed features to revolutionize the way they work. It’s all in a day’s work, and it just keeps getting better.
At Instabase we also have a healthy disregard for the impossible. When we discuss a customer challenge, we hear a lot of statements like:
“This problem is tough yet at the same time amazing and very interesting. We should solve this!!”
It’s not often that we hear “tough” and “amazing and interesting” together. I keep saying to myself and the team, “These are not problems we can Google our way out of, these problems demand we think outside of the box.” We learn from both successes and failures. We work with some of the largest banks in the world with thousands of incredibly talented engineers, and often we hear from our customers that they have attempted and failed to solve a problem that we have ultimately helped them solve. There is extraordinary motivation in this extremely talented team to solve the unsolvable and live out our values each day. At the end of the day, that’s what makes my job so satisfying.
What’s it like to be a part of Instabase India?
My journey began with the responsibility of building products for our APAC customers and setting up Instabase’s India Engineering function. I was fortunate enough to have some great people join me in building the Indian operations which included leasing the office, putting forth a framework for initial hires for the India office, hiring top talent, tooling, training, and making the team fully operational.
Today the Bangalore team continues to own product areas like document processing, platform observability, and building document extraction solutions for our global customer base that includes top global financial institutions. These product areas are pivotal to the success of India and we’re proud to be an integral part of the company’s overarching goals. This fuels our team and gets us excited to show up to work every day.
From a one-person India team to a tribe of 50 based out of our Bangalore office, I continue to pursue my passion with Instabase as we propel together towards attaining the Instabase vision. The global Instabase tribe has grown to over 150 employees. Won’t you join me as I continue on this amazing journey?
Click here to view our open positions at Instabase India.