Learning from our Fathers

Happy Father’s Day, green heart-ers!

We hope you’re having a wonderful day so far showering your dad with love and appreciation. To celebrate this day, we wanted to spotlight someone very special to the Sui team who has helped us grow in many ways. Sunil Gujral, our green founder’s father, has been nothing but a wealth of information and wisdom. He’s been an integral part of our journey and so Mahima took the time to have a chat and talk more about business, entrepreneurship, and how they work together in this interview.

This is just a preview of the full interview available below to watch so you can hear all the full details there!

Without further ado, here is their green conversation...

Hi everyone, I’m Mahima, the founder of Sui. As you all know, it’s Father’s Day and I thought it would be interesting to go live with my dad who has actually been mentoring Sui since 2017. My father has been in the tech industry for more than 30 years now. In 1988, he founded his own company called FutureSoft and works on multiple consulting projects with the vision of using technology to build better businesses and also use it as an innovation platform. He is also a part of Sui, helps us in that same way, I would say 50% of my own entrepreneurial spirit, or maybe more than that, comes from him, and my eagerness for doing business for good also comes from him. I’ve taken a lot of my business ideas to him and Sui ended up being the one that really connected closely to his values and he’s been there teaching us good business practices, helping us with all our tech issues, being there for our business development, being there for our strategies, and has really helped our growth in the past couple of years that we’ve been there as a brand. 

Now, let’s hear from him! Hi dad, thanks for doing this, dad is in Delhi while I’m in Singapore and this is how we normally work as well, though this time I haven’t been home for a long time. Dad, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your journey, what got you interested in technology and how you really got here now?

Thank you for bringing me here on this very, very special occasion and Sui has been something which has become very dear to me over the past two years, I’ve really enjoyed what you do and I’m connected with this as a father because of your own passion and commitment to this brand, I feel very proud to be part of that. I see a lot of what I went through in my younger days. If I look back in childhood, I wanted to be an Air Force pilot and I did make it. I got selected to join them and life just takes turns and I met my wife, your mother, just a little while before that. I was wondering should I go to the Air Force, be away and live a different life, and instead took the decision that I’m going to look for a new future for myself. I went back to school and went back to studying and learned that if you put your heart into anything, you will get it but that does not mean you can’t put your heart into anything else, you just have to make up your mind and nothing pays like effort. So effort went in [to my studies], I got reasonably good scores, got into a good college, got into engineering at BITS Pilani and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do. And at BITS I think it was one particular program, one particular course I was attending by a professor of mine, and incidentally that professor is currently one of the pillars of a big college in Singapore, and I attended his microprocessing program. He was an amazing teacher, his ability to convey, explain was so good that I fell in love with that course and that was the beginning of my exposure to computers.

At that time, computers were very different, just imagine the size of a computer at my college was bigger than a university building and it was a million times slower than the computer you have in your phone, and it would give you results in a few days, it was a very different world. Long story short, it was that one exposure to the subject with my teacher that got me into it and I said while I was pursuing a degree in electronics, computers is where my focus is going to be. And that’s when I started looking at opportunities and the next exposure I had was during college, in my last 6 months, we had to do an internship where I worked with a company called DCM products, one of the first Indian computer manufacturing companies that decided to manufacture locally. And, again, I was very lucky with my boss, he was a slave driver, he would make you work and make sure that you learned everything and started delivering very fast. It’s lucky to have bosses like that make you slog, learn and deliver. After that, my first job was with Wipro. The rest is history, that’s how my computer career started.

The passion I picked up through my career lead me to spend a lot of time learning about computers outside of the company, it was a time when PCs were coming out, Microsoft started announcing its products for the first time, these were all very new things, there were no books, no internet to teach you, you just had to sit on your computer and learn yourself. You spend hours yourself, work your hours at the company then use their computers to learn. So I share that with all of you to be hungry, be foolish, it’s what Steve Jobs said. Just keep wanting to learn because sometimes you don’t realise why you’re doing it but somewhere in the future it’ll pay off. And that’s precisely what happened, in my time with Wipro I moved ahead much faster than my colleagues because I had learned things myself which the company had not taught me. That’s when I got an opportunity to very quickly work with American Express as they were looking for someone with relevant experience that I had not been taught through work but had learnt on my own. I got a fairly large global experience going around the world and learning more about computers, and my love for computers just kept going on and on and. I learnt more and wanted to get involved in solutions in technology. Finally, I felt the company was constraining me because I wanted to learn more. That’s when at 23, 24, I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and said this is not going to work, I need to get on and do something on my own. Linking my passion with my career, to me, that’s a very important thing in life because if you can find your passion and your career and if you can mix the two, success is bound to come. Not immediately, it may take a while, it’ll take hard work but if your passion is there, you can’t go wrong. So, don’t do things outside of your passion.

I remember when I was younger, I used to tell people when I grew up I wanted to be a computer engineer because I was fascinated by technology and I think because of you we were always a notch ahead when it came to understanding little things, understanding how to fix your internet, understanding how to fix your computer because we had someone in the house who kind of trained us.

What intrigues you about technology per say? What is it about technology that makes your heart race and how do you use it to problem solve because I know that whenever you look at a problem you think about how you can insert technology to fix it. I think a lot of people, even in the fashion industry, are still not there, how do you problem solve with it even if it’s just on a day-to-day basis?

So, the first thing that intrigued me when I learned about computers, what they could do, the power they had, it was very fascinating, but I’d not quite done it myself. So, I remember when I wrote my first program on a small basic machine, I made the snake game, and the fascination was seeing it actually working. You could see within a few minutes or hours of your work, the deliverable was right there. You could immediately get the result of what you had done and then when you started solving small problems on your own like at college, when we had a problem we would write a program to solve it and you’d figure out how things could be done much faster. And, then when I joined my first company, I was working on a project for the Indian Army. They were our largest employer and it was a massive job. And you realise when writing the program, the Army had a lot of amazing, crazy kind of allowances depending on if you’re in the hills, on the ocean, what kind of difficulties they faced, so it was quite complex. But we created a program that seemed to solve hundreds of thousands of peoples’ lives making it very simple. So, the smiles on their faces to see how their work could be done so much better. With technology, you can take the most complex of problems, apply it in the right manner and solve it. So, that was one part of it. Another special part of computers that got me really hooked was hacking. When viruses came to be, I fell in love with the idea of computer viruses. I used to take viruses and write them as a joke to use on friends, like I created a virus that sounded like water gurgling in your computer. You’d put it into a machine, the guy would be shocked. So, in this way you could be playful and be able solve peoples’ problems is what really fascinated me. At FutureSoft, we developed some really great antivirus software, we help many companies solve their problems. 

And you did a lot of ethical hacking, right? That was something that you studied very deeply.

Right. So, I worked with the Indian Government, I actually represented the Indian Government at the US State Department in 2004 or 2005, and and explained to them how we Indian companies have some of the highest level of cyber security practices given the nature of our businesses. And that was a very proud moment to be dealing with top industry defence  and police from the US side. It was very interesting.

What is ethical hacking exactly?

To be a good cop, you need to know the mind of a thief. So, ethical hacking is attempting to act like a hacker for the purpose of finding weaknesses in peoples’ systems. If a bank has developed a system and doesn’t know how strong or good the system is, you can either wait for a hacker to hack it or you get a good person to act like a hacker, so they go here’s the problem, let’s fix it now. You’re doing it for the benefit of the company rather than them being caused harm at some point. It’s a good feeling because you get a thrill of hacking because you find the faults, the bugs that need fixing, finding something no one else has found and then you’ve avoided a major potential future problem for someone else.

What do you think about sustainable fashion and technology? How do you think and industry like ours can benefit from technology because a lot of people have been taking about blockchain, just finding ways to trace your supply chain, that is one way for the future of sustainable fashion to go, so that as a consumer you will know from the point of where your cotton is planted to how it is produced, we can use technology to trace it, that’s one example. Some people are using it to create newer fabrics or innovate with waste and I think that’s about it. So, what do you think we can learn from technology?

I look at it from two different perspectives, one is how technology helps the sustainable world, the other is what we can learn from how technology has evolved that we can adopt in our sustainable practices. With the latter idea, when computers came to be, we tend to update and upgrade our computers, we added more memory, more hard disk, we didn’t throw away computers immediately, So, we really tried to sustain the life of a computer. We would even change the motherboard to make it operate faster because you wanted to save the monitor, the keyboard, all the basic parts. So in the past at least, we worked with computers in a sustainable way. And we kept adding more and more software power to it so different people could use it. So, in the morning, the accountant could use it to do his work and in the evening the designer could also use it to do his. So there was a bit of sharing, a bit of reusability, it was all about giving computers a longer life.

Secondly, there has been a lot of focus on the carbon footprint production in the world of computers right from the manufacturing with what materials are being used, and then in its usage as well. Computers have over the years become cheaper but more powerful which is an important learning, so it shows you can build technology in a manner where it’s made better at a cheaper cost. Another trend in technology is figuring out how to use alternative materials. So, today we’re looking at things like figuring out how to use human DNA to store data, to a point where we may be able to store the data of the entire world in 40 grams of DNA. If we look at the Cloud, it’s a sharing concept, a system shared by multiple people that then reduces waste that may occur. In fashion you have things like being able to rent not own clothes, like a shared system, a subscription based model essentially. So these are learnings that the fashion industry can draw on, if computer technology can do this, why can’t we try to follow these paths.

In terms of how we can use technology directly, blockchain is a very important part that helps you authenticate, validate and ensure that my trust factor is not being rattled. It ensures a stamp of authenticity that cannot be tampered with. There are catches to that, there are ways to tamper with it in which the blockchain itself is accurate but if the information fed from the source isn’t then it’s all corrupted. So, you have to take it with a pinch of salt with how you’re treating it. But yes, blockchain is very important to authenticate and ensure consumers they’re getting their due benefits of the product, it gives transparency and visibility by ensuring that the entire value chain is well controlled. Another technology I’m interested in is 3D printing, digital printing I think is amazing. While today it’s still expensive but once it comes into being it prints exactly what you want. 3D printing can probably print from the yarn to the clothing itself so you don’t have to go through the process of fabric creation, your wastage can literally get down to zero. These are important technologies for the industry.

You can listen to the rest of this interview here!


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