Suresh Kalpathy

President, Rapid E-Suite

Life is a Melodious Medley of Hat-tricks!
by Sunayana Nair
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American composer, John Cage penned in Lecture of Nothing, “We carry our homes within us which enable us to fly or to stay”.  Here’s the story of a gentleman – incidentally, one who loves to play cricket – who came to Singapore from India and found an abode that helped him soar not only in terms of establishing a rather successful career in IT, but in also preserving his identity, deeply entrenched in its Indian roots, with his love for singing old Hindi, specifically Kishore Kumar classics, and an obsessive penchant to play and propagate cricket – a sport that is more of a religion in India.

“One thing that always amazes me is how life has its own way of changing shape as you move along and as you move along, to be able to do what you have aspired to do, continuously.”

Suresh Kalpathy, Founder & President Rapid E-Suite, landed in Singapore in 1992 – a time when Singapore had bolstered its slew of initiatives to attract foreign nationals and its vision to up its R&D and innovation prowess with the launch of National Technology Plan 1991 – armed with a novel Computer Science degree from Delhi, his young bride and their eyes full of dreams. Singapore was supposed to be a stopover – a preparatory ground before taking off to fulfilling the coveted Indian middle-class dream of going to the US. However, destiny had other plans.

Suresh Kalpathy Rapid E-Suite

Rapid e-Suite wins the ‘Partner of the Year’ award at the Oracle suite World Conference in Las Vegas 2018

“When I landed in Singapore, I happened to be staying, for a couple of weeks, at the YMCA just opposite to IBM. I used to step out in the morning and would look at the IBM towers imagining myself in that building. So, in 1994, when I actually got a job there, it was a real dream come true -something that I didn't think would ever happen in my life!”

Suresh had come to Singapore with one of the largest IT companies in India, HCL Technologies, and consequently got an offer from IBM which was a cherished dream. He worked with IBM for 4 years and then moved to Oracle where he met one of his biggest mentors – Dennis John – whom Suresh mentions as the ‘best manager I have had in my career’ from whom he learned the importance of hiring ‘people better than you and giving them the full reign to do what they wanted to do’. This empowering environment probably incubated an entrepreneurial mindset within Suresh. After a six-year-association with Oracle, he joined a start-up, UST Global, helping the Californian IT services company to set up its operations in Asia. It was a promising leadership opportunity at Microsoft (of driving its SME Solutions Business segment) that pulled Suresh back into the MNC-fold. After a near-two-decade stint of working with all the major IT tech companies, Suresh decided to plunge into entrepreneurship and began his first venture under Rapid E-Suite, specializing in Products & Solutions for Oracle’s Cloud offerings.

“There came a time after about 20 years of corporate life that I did not want to be really bothered by a manager above me. I hated the early morning and the late-night conference calls. Then there was this passion of taking all the knowledge that I had gained in these major corporate environments and seeing that if I just flashed a ‘Suresh-card’, if anybody would give me that same respect. Additionally, there was this whole passion about giving an opportunity to other people. All that culminated in my first company which I set up in 2010.”

Suresh Kalpathy Award

With the HR Vendor of the Year award for ServiceDott in Nov 2017

While there was always the fear of failure lurking, Suresh was given a ‘free-reign’ for 12 months by Nidhi, his wife, to establish his business.  Nidhi, an astute IT professional herself, supported him by ‘taking care of the bills’, never once asking Suresh to reconsider his decision of quitting a high-profile job, even when the going got a bit tough. (His wife has had a major influence on Suresh in terms of also choosing the postgraduate degree in Computer Science which they both graduated from the first batch of Delhi University and thereafter seeking a global stage to compete professionally.) Gradually, opportunities started flowing in and he was able to expand the business beyond Singapore to the US. Describing entrepreneurship as addictive, Suresh, went on to set up four ventures in a matter of less than 8 years within the tech solutions space! What had thus begun as a three-year plan to test the waters of living in a foreign land, gradually extended to five years and then, decades.

“Singapore is probably one of the best places in the world that allows you the time to probably spend on the passions of your life.”

Suresh Kalpathy with wife Nidhi, son Karthik & daughter Kritika

But, apart from the mind getting fuelled, it was a full heart that glued Suresh to the ‘city country’. Becoming a parent cemented the bond further, accentuating the ‘simplicity and ease with which you could live in this country’. However, the biggest cherry or the icing on the cake (apart from being able to celebrate Indian festivals, Indian food, having friends as closely knit as a family) was something which Suresh had not even expected, much less, hoped – being able to pursue his ‘first love’, cricket. Little did Suresh know, that enrolling himself with a local cricket league, months within landing in Singapore, would one day lead him to becoming the Deputy President of the Singapore Cricket Club – the second oldest sports club in Singapore (established in 1852). The leap from ‘playing cricket to administering cricket to actually facilitating the game for others to play’ was driven by Suresh’s sole passion of bringing more facilities to the game in Singapore.

“Having played a lot of cricket during my school and college days in India, I completely shut myself off from cricket when I walked into Singapore. But then I heard about a local league; there were only about twelve teams playing the local league at that time. I enrolled myself in one of the teams and then I was playing every other weekend! What could be better than being in a foreign land trying to establish yourself with your work but your greatest passion in life is available to you over the weekend!”

suresh kalpathy with muttiah muralitharan

Suresh Kalpathy with Muttiah Muralitharan

Suresh Kalpathy - Masters Championship

With team members after winning the 2016 Masters Championship, a Tournament involving cricketers over 35 years of age, where 5 teams vie for the trophy over a round robin league. SCC has won the championship for the past 4 years. Suresh had captained the SCC team in the 2017 tournament.

“I had never imagined that I would be sitting in a room of hundred and two people with the ICC (International Cricket Council) president and the Chairman sitting on one end of the table and me sitting on the other end.”

Suresh, who calls himself a ‘bowling all-rounder’, is primarily a left arm spinner and has captained teams, earned his hat-tricks and led tours internationally while serving as the Deputy President of Singapore Cricket Club. Suresh believes that it is solely the passion of the players over the years due to which, despite the lack of facilities and grounds (only 7), there are about 120 teams that play in the local league cricket today from the 12 teams earlier, not including the hundreds of teams that play friendly cricket matches on weekends. His entrepreneurial journey meant relinquishing his responsibilities at the Club to be fair to both his roles. However, Suresh is eager to renew his cricketing commitments now that his entrepreneurial venture is successful. He also plans to open a Cricket Academy in Singapore in the future with a few of his cricket-crazy friends. Suresh is indebted to cricket primarily for teaching him discipline, fostering passion and honing his skills to think strategically. Though, for Suresh, the best gift he received out of following his passion was listening to a BBC commentary in which his son – Karthik Suresh, who studies in the Cambridge University and plays for the Blackheath club – was referred to as ‘Suresh’ when playing a match at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground. A priceless ‘Suresh card’, we say!

With Fellow SCC members on the tour to Melbourne Feb 2018

“There was a time we had about 38 schools that were playing cricket but unfortunately that number has diminished now and that's where the work is needed to be done. If we promote cricket in schools with the local fraternity and if there are local players coming through the ranks then you see a big future for cricket. That is when you will have a continuous supply of good cricketers.”

“I think cricket has taught me a lot of passion and a lot of discipline as well. I think it teaches you to not be euphoric when you win and not be delusional about the kind of achievements that you make; to respect your opponents and also to applaud when an opponent does well. Cricket has also taught me to think strategically because cricket is probably one game that you have to think 20 overs ahead.”

Suresh Kalpathy SCC Chepauk

SCC team before their game at the historic Chepauk ground in Chennai, Oct 2017

Now, for the cards up Suresh’s blue sleeve (you guessed his favourite colour!), cricket is not the only one. There is golf and singing Hindi songs, apart from emceeing events! When Suresh isn’t playing cricket, he loves to play golf with his group of friends. While he had to unlearn quite a few lessons of cricket to learn golf – it took him 10 lessons that he would take promptly at 6.45 a.m. every Saturday morning on the driving range – by the end of the beginner’s course, golf had him hooked for life. Suresh has played on some of the best courses around the world, including in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and some of the classic PGA courses in Thailand and Malaysia.

“I remember my very first shot in golf. I moved my feet and hit the ball and the ball didn't even go a foot that way. The instructor asked me ‘Do you play cricket’? When I replied affirmatively, he said, ‘You don't move your feet in golf’.”

Music is another love that is as close to his heart as cricket is. Saturday afternoons are reserved typically for learning new songs which entails Suresh methodically pulling up the lyrics of a song, putting on his headphones and grabbing a quiet corner at home listening intently to the song on Youtube before attempting a rendition. Suresh is self-admittedly happiest when he is singing and shares how his mother, Rugmini Sundaram, a trained singer in Carnatic music would often listen to the radio and a three-year old Suresh would grasp the tune of a song and sing it, even before he began speaking.

Suresh Kalpathy emceeing at an event

“I think I had an ear for music. So, I could listen to the tonality, the music and could just reproduce it somehow. Gone are the days though when I could simply listen to a song few times and memorize it. But I hate to look at the lyrics on a paper and sing because I don't then get into the real mood of singing. So, I always sing out of memory.”

“If there is a test match starting at 6 p.m. in the evening, I switch off work and I am in front of the TV watching cricket. If there is an AR Rahman concert going on, I am going for it no matter what. So, to me, it's the ability to be able to switch on and switch off depending upon what is important to you at that point in time, which construes work-life balance.”

In spite of not being trained formally in singing, Suresh had won quite a few prizes in college singing competitions and considers himself lucky to have sung with his namesake, the renowned Indian playback singer, Suresh Wadkar, when he was on a tour in Singapore some years ago. He worships Kishore Kumar – the legendary Indian playback singer, composer, actor, director, producer who also received no training in singing and is regarded as among the most loved and popular singers of the Hindi film industry. Suresh might have sung even before he spoke, but this spinner paced and developed quite a gift of the gab and a talent for public speaking. This potent combination of singing and talking made him progress into emceeing private events of people within his network. His confidence stems from the discipline he maintains in researching before an event and as Suresh puts, his ability to break into a song the rare occasions he gets tongue-tied!

“I don't think I have really chased something. I have just been myself as much as I can. I have tried to do what I thought was best at the given time but that has actually brought happiness to people around me and that has brought happiness to myself. That's something which is amazing to me. Also, the kind of support I've had in life from within the family and outside the family. It amazes me.”

“I would like to keep alive this passion of making people happy. I would be the saddest person in the world if I am the reason for somebody's sadness… To me, it is controllable if you make a commitment to yourself that this is one thing that I would live by no matter what. Then all other decisions become a lot easier.”

Is there a trick to being an all-rounder, a serial hat-trick’er’? We are compelled to ask this effervescent cricket-lover, tech-aficionado, singer, golf-enthusiast, entrepreneur. ‘The ability to switch on and off’ depending on what requires your attention, is the simple reply. Suresh concedes that he did not chase any of these identities or labels but only focussed on taking the best decision at hand whilst following his gut. It only had one non-negotiable clause.  It would bear in mind the interests of the people associated with the decision. While that thread of being people-centric is visible for someone whose entrepreneurial obsession is about using technology to automate and make other people’s jobs and businesses easier and simpler, Suresh is amazed at how keeping other people’s happiness at the core only led him to avenues that gave him happiness and in turn made others happier!

Some stories aren’t about the ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ (Suresh’s favourite movie) as much as it is about Celebrating a Full Circle of Happiness! 

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Suresh Kalpathy, President Rapid E-Suite on entrepreneurship, cricket, music

CXOFUNFACTS with

Favourite colour

Blue

Zodiac Sign

Gemini

Favourite Place To Travel

New Zealand

Favourite Machine

I love cars

If you had to choose between Singing and Cricket?

Tough one, but it will be Cricket

Favourite Musician

Rahul Dev Burman

Favourite movie

The Pursuit of Happyness

Lesser known facts about you

Owns about 14 pairs of shoes and 7/8 pairs of spectacles!

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