Q&A with Netskope’s New Managing Director, India Operations, Alok Kothari

Netskope

Q: You’ve been at Juniper and most recently, Aruba. These are larger companies. Why join Netskope?

A: Actually I have only worked for startups since 1997. Fortunately, all of the startups (Aruba, Neoteris acquired by Juniper, and Healtheon) grew up to become big companies. I look for three things in a startup: 1) Is the company solving a timely and a real pain problem? 2) The team and 3) Investor validation and competitive landscape.

Netskope is a very compelling story and passes my criteria hands down. Additionally, I have been advising on India operations since early 2013 and had an opportunity to see the company performing closely. An easy working relationship with key individuals during this time was also a factor in the decision. To be part of what I think will be a huge opportunity and a fabulous team working on it—in the end—was a no-brainer decision.

2. Can you talk a little about the India team, their background, and what they’re tasked with here at Netskope?

Netskope India consists of world class talent. In fact, we started the India office only when some of these engineers declined to come and work in the US. Today, the India team is responsible for some key building blocks of Netskope’s solution. These include client and deep inspection technologies. Cataloging cloud applications by enterprise security practices they follow is an important part of helping corporations truly embrace the cloud and benefit from it. Our team in India does all of information research to enable that. Rahul Choudhury, our head of engineering is a veteran in network security and comes from Juniper Networks. He was an early employee at a startup called Funk Software which Juniper acquired in 2005. Ravi Balupari is a veteran from McAfee and an expert in deep inspection technologies. Both Rahul and Ravi have spent several years in the US after completing graduation from top US universities. Our small team has several patents to its name. We intend to continue to expand this team by hiring similar top notch talent to solve some exciting and truly cutting edge problems arising from tectonic shifts in the mobile and cloud arenas.

3. Why is now the time for Netskope? And why does this matter not just in the U.S. but in India too?

Innovations over the last few years have completely transformed the technology landscape. Two very disruptive megatrends have emerged: BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, and Software as a Service (SaaS) or “pay as you go” model. This user/device mobility and app mobility has complicated IT’s life beyond recognition, yet IT cannot stop or even slow these megatrends. Employees will quit if you disallow their smart devices and many CFOs will only use the SaaS paradigm for IT budgeting. BYOD has taken away the control that IT has had over user devices and the SaaS model has virtualized organizations’ datacenters.

So, the world over, IT organizations are reinventing themselves to deal with this paradigm shift. At the intersection of these trends is “loss of control over data” that IT is experiencing. BYOD means that user events, logs, and system health data are not as available to IT as on IT-issued devices. SaaS has made inline and offline tools IT used to gather interpret, analyze, and report on application access things of yore. More importantly, traffic from remote user sessions accessing a cloud application may not even hit the enterprise network. Without the right view of all data, several aspects of running a business such as compliance and business intelligence are at risk. IT must solve this very difficult, distributed problem that requires extreme expertise in client technologies, deep inspection, application awareness, and networking and system issues.

Netskope has very nicely zeroed in on this problem. The company has the multi-dimensional talent (both in India and the US) needed to solve it. Whether it emerges successful or not is a function of execution and how well we run as a team. Razor sharp focus, speed of execution, and putting customers ahead of all else will determine our success in the end.

Technology transcends geographies. The IT and information revolution has bridged the gap in technology needs across the world. While not the first region Netskope is targeting from a sales standpoint, India will be a very relevant market for our technology. In fact, we already have inbound inquiries. Added to that, there are perhaps more cloud engineers in Bangalore than anywhere else, and hence building our brand here is equally important.