'Don't lament over youths' overseas migration, turn it into an opportunity'

A G Karunakaran | Photo: Manorama

Kochi: AGK is well-known in the world of investors, especially in the economic sector. He excels in developing the next generation Artificial Intelligence technologies and their effective implementation and has an active social life. But he is not in the ‘limelight’ in Kerala.

Who is AGK aka A G Karunakaran?
He is the founder, President, and CEO of the MulticoreWare Inc, based in Silicon Valley in the US. However, the entrepreneur from Palakkad in Kerala can’t be confined to just that. He has grown much above that and carved out a place for himself in the global cutting-edge technology field.

AGK occasionally visits Kerala. He has relatives here. He has good ties with Kochi too. Karunakaran is the President of the Silicon Valley unit of TiE International, an initiative of entrepreneurs to foster entrepreneurship. This explains his presence as a Special Invitee in most of the programmes organized by TiE Kerala in Kochi.

A G Karunakaran shared his thoughts on ‘Entrepreneurship and the Growth of Kerala’ with ‘Manorama Online’ on the sidelines of a debate programme organized by the TiE Kerala.

Excerpts from the interview

Please explain the whole concept of MulticoreWare? Especially the thoughts behind the name
I’m a serial entrepreneur. Will start a company and when it achieves growth, will sell it to someone else. Then I will again set up another venture. It was in 2009 that I first thought about the company (MulticoreWare). I will try to explain the concept in simple terms. CPU is the most important part of a computer. Microprocessor. Earlier, there used to be only a single CPU inside. Then they began to have multicore processors, which is an integrated circuit that has two or more processor cores attached for enhanced performance and capacity. We have to make use of all processing units in the computer; can term the same as Parallel Programming. It was my ambition to set up a globally reputed company in the Parallel Programming segment. This formed the concept of MulticoreWare.

“The company worked on multicore technology. For that, we entered into pacts with universities. We also managed to have tie-ups with microprocessor manufacturing companies. Gradually, our company began to develop. However, quick growth was not possible. During expansion and while foraying into a new land, we focused on having a tie-up with the university there. The varsities should be near our manufacturing units. We established a branch in India in 2012. Currently, we are celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“I will try to briefly explain one aspect of our company’s activities in simple terms for an easy understanding of the Manorama Online readers. A key technological component that helps in launching an OTT platform is video compression. Once a video is shot, it should be compressed to enable its reach to various categories of people. That is one of our main activities in India. When OTT platforms receive content, they will process and ready the same to suit all formats. This will enable people to watch the video in accordance with their bandwidth. Prepare the video so as to enhance compression format and working capacity. That’s what our company is doing. There are only a few in the video compression field who don’t know about the company now. The first unit was started in Chennai. Then we started offering decoding services.

Soon, we also started working in compiler technology. Now our Chennai unit is flooded with calls from across the world, seeking compiler development services. Most of us are familiar with Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning. We have made great strides in that too. The company is doing well. We have developed various types of car censors. Many companies are using our products in their active customer service. They use products that analyze the behaviour of people. We are also ahead in Perception technology.

“We have also made contributions to sports technologies. Our products are used for football match analysis. Not only in big tournaments, but they can be used in local matches too. One can use smartphone cameras to record matches. Four or five cameras should be placed at various parts of the playground. There is no need for a cameraman. When the ball rolls down towards the corner flag, the computer will automatically steer the cameras in that direction. Our technology will suitably modify and ready them and hand over the same to the coach or the team management. They can analyze the performance of the players using the same, and give shape to game plans for the next match. We have named the technology ‘Magic Vision’. Such technologies are now being used in other games like cricket and tennis.

“I know that they are not using Goal-line Technology (VAR) in India. Maybe because of the high-cost factor. The cost may fall at a later stage. If there occurs a lapse in deciding a goal in the World Cup, it will become a topic of hot debate and controversy. This may affect a lot of people, including the sponsors, and result in huge financial losses. Hence, people use VAR technology despite the high cost. I think such a situation hasn’t arisen here. Most people in this land even don’t know there are companies in India offering such modern technology systems. It was in our company that the radar-fitted car first conducted the test drive. Our people don’t know that it was our company that installed the technology system in the autonomous cars in Germany and the US. Whatever it is, technology is meant to better the lives of human beings. It should be like that.”

How do you get posted as the head of the TiE Silicon Valley?

I have migrated to the US in my capacity as a representative of the HCL company. I was among the first few representatives who went to the US when the company started operations there. It was from there I got the intrapreneurship experience. There I met with the officials of the organization called TiE. TiE was started in 1992. I began to associate with the organization in 1995. It extended a big helping hand and support during my entrepreneurial journey. They will teach you, advise you and also help you with networking. I was a board member for two years before holding the Presidential Elect position. Now I’m its President. My term is nearing an end. The organization has grown by leaps and bounds. Now it has over 60 branches in various countries. The TiEcon conference in California is usually held in May. This is a major event, one of the most important events in the world.

“When we start interacting with entrepreneurs, we begin to develop certain leadership qualities or such qualities will automatically start reflecting in us. When I handed over a company and was about to start another in 2007, the thoughts just began to seep into my head: ‘Now I have time at my disposal for doing many great things. But what all should I take up? I will divide my time into three equal segments. I have to do something for my society. One-third of the time should be allocated to my own enterprise. For MulticoreWare alone. The second segment should be devoted to social welfare activities. Thus, I began to work for three organizations -- India Community Centre, Pratham, and TiE. When you indulge in social welfare activities, your experience, your knowledge about the world, and the ability to guide others will benefit others. My association with India Community Centre is via TiE.

It happened when I reached Jaipur to attend a TiE conference. Thus I became a board member of the Community Centre. I worked in that organization for six years. It undertakes a host of welfare activities from daycare of toddlers to extending old age care. My association with Pratham was initially in my capacity as a fund contributor. It was mainly focused with the uplifting of downtrodden children. It is not active in Kerala and West Bengal. These two states are ahead when it comes to the education of children. The situation is different in many other states. Even the Class 5 students there don’t know to read quickly. Often the children are learning many lessons by heart. That is not sufficient. What Pratham is striving for is to implement the theory that reading makes them strong. In many states, there is a tendency for girl students to suddenly stop learning when they attain menstruation. Pratham started Open schools to help such girl students pass the 10th-grade exams. They also started providing job training in states like Bihar and Jharkhand. They teach the children automobile repair, house keeping, and other things. When I was its president, Pratham’s budget was 30 million US dollars. Many big names in the US used to contribute then.

There is a growing concern that bright students and youngsters are migrating to foreign countries. What is your inference on it?
“We should turn that concern into an opportunity and exploit it. It is only natural that youngsters want to go abroad. Let them grow abroad. They will think about what they can do for the homeland when they turn 40-45 years. Will they not give back something to the homeland? It should be similar to what members of alumni associations of educational institutions do for their alma mater. Each panchayat should hunt for their ‘children’ abroad. The ‘children outside’ will help to better the lifestyle of people back home or create job opportunities here by investing capital or bettering infrastructure, or by contributing ideas.

“I haven’t rented out my home in Chennai. I have turned it into an M-Space – Mind Space, which is the space to realize ideas. To the motherland of Kerala and the foster mother of Tamil Nadu, my team and I are giving back several things. Years ago, we started the Engineering Embedded Development Centre at Rajagiri College in Kalamassery. We are playing our role in different service-oriented projects in India. At Palakkad IIT, we started the MulticoreWare Academia Global Innovation Centre (MAGIC). There, three professors, PhD researchers, and master’s students are working as a team. Any engineering college student in Palakkad can join there. Kollengode native Dr Prabhakaran who was a professor at Virginia University started Society for Rural Improvement in Kerala. In the microfinance sector and education of marginalized children, they are doing a lot of things.

“Of college students, only 2% to 4% become entrepreneurs. If 10% become entrepreneurs, Kerala will have tremendous growth. In the growth behind Silicon Valley are the universities in the nearby areas and the students there.”

There is an allegation that there aren’t environment-friendly industries in Kerala. What do you say about it?
“If Kerala wants to be environment-friendly, the most suitable sector for it is tourism itself. But if the transport sector doesn’t improve, tourism won’t benefit. The development of roads is key. Potholed roads and traffic snarls will derail tourism. Even if adventure tourism is not promoted, Kerala can bring trekking tracks. Everybody likes to walk and climb. It is good for health also. Trekking possibilities will easily attract the youth. Another drawback is that Kerala doesn’t have nightlife. It can create an environment congenial for nightlife. I have noticed an aspect in Mattancherry. There are a lot of stalls of north Indian people with north Indian articles. Ideally, there should be more shops with our handicrafts. I could not see many of our clothes there. Why?”

A G Karunakaran
Karunakaran is the head of TiE Silicon Valley. TiE is an organization started by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. He is a Palakkad native and has stayed put in Silicon Valley for the past 30 years. MulticoreWare, the software products-solutions company this entrepreneur - better known as AGK – had started, has now spread and been established in different countries. It harps on machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, and audio-video solutions.

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