Sramana Mitra: You left TCS in 2003. What was the reason for that move?
San Banerjee: I got married in 2003 to Venkat Kandaswamy, and I also wanted to pursue my MBA. I had taken my GMAT earlier, so I applied Louisiana State University and was accepted there. My husband, who is my business partner now, was doing his MS there. I chose LSU for my MBA since he was already in school there.
Upon graduation I was recruited to work for Capgemini in the U.S. I did a lot of work there with SAP and ERP systems. In that job I essentially lived out of a suitcase. I would fly out on a Monday morning and return on a Friday evening or Saturday. I lived that way for one year before I realized that was not the way I wanted to spend my life.
We made that decision in 2006 which was around the time that India started to emerge with a great story for the world. Venkat and I both wanted to return to India. After we returned, the main difference we started noticing was that compared to US, our people used very little tools/automation. I remember standing in the train station and watching the reservation list being put up on each coach of a train. The railway employee would dip his bare hand in a can of glue and then spread the glue on the wall of the coach, then stick the list to it. This he did for each coach. For the life of me I could not understand why he did not use a brush. Was he too lazy, or was it too hard to find the right tools for the job? I noticed this attitude in every walk of life.
We both settled down into our new lives. I started working with SAP in India doing ERP consulting. I still had quite a bit of travel. In 2008 we decided to stop renting and purchase our own flat in Bangalore. We moved in as the sixth family. There were a small group of us owners who had a lot of problems in the apartment complex. We had problems with things like plumbing, electricity and water supply. Some of the construction remained incomplete, and none of this was transparent from the builder. Different owners would receive different answers when they asked the builder a question. He did everything he could to keep the owners from coming together to talk to him.
By this time Venkat and I were used to global standards. We had plenty of exposure to life outside of India, so we decided to start to think about ways that we could fix this dilema. We noticed that some of our neighbors started a Yahoo group to help owners communicate, but they quickly found out that as a solution it was inefficient. They wanted to know which owners belonged to which flat. When they were dealing with people through the Yahoo group, they did not know if they were talking to the owner or a tenant.
We really felt there should be a way for homeowners to discuss these issues in privacy. We found that we were spending every single weekend we had in various discussions with homeowners. We talked them through things like forming a homeowners association, how to collect money, and how to assess legal fees. There was no knowledge base for any of these topics online. None at all. Google came up with zilch.