KIRTHIGA REDDY, Head, Face­book In­dia, on com­plet­ing a suc­cess­ful year in the coun­try

India Today - - WOMEN - By GUN­JEET SRA

As the head of one of the fastest grow­ing so­cial net­work­ing web­sites in the coun­try, 40-year-old Kirthiga Reddy, Head and Di­rec­tor Online Op­er­a­tions, Face­book In­dia, is a busy wo­man. We catch her in be­tween meet­ings for a quick photo-shoot and an in­ter­view. Her af­fa­ble charm com­bined with her go-get­ter at­ti­tude make her the fresh­est face of suc­cess in the coun­try. The com­pany, which opened its In­dia op­er­a­tions last year, has man­aged not only to grow its In­dia user base but has made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to its global busi­ness through ad sales and ma­jor tie-ups—all in a lit­tle over a year.

The In­dia leg came at a sig­nif­i­cant time of Face­book’s in­ter­na­tional growth as more than 75 per cent of Face­book’s over 800 mil­lion plus users are out­side of the United States. In In­dia alone, Face­book has seen rapid growth. Last year, when the com­pany an­nounced its de­ci­sion to set up an of­fice in the coun­try, there were 8 mil­lion peo­ple ac­tively con­nect­ing on Face­book. Within a year, the num­ber has grown to 25 mil­lion peo­ple who use the so­cial net­work­ing web­site to con­nect with their fam­ily and friends. “We opened our of­fice in In­dia to sup­port the com­pany’s grow­ing num­ber of users, ad­ver­tis­ers and de­vel­op­ers world­wide who are cap­i­tal­is­ing on Face­book’s global ser­vice to foster re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple and reach out to new cus­tomers lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” she says.

As the first em­ployee of the com­pany in the coun­try last year, not only did she start the In­dia op­er­a­tions from scratch but also had to ac­tu­ally open the of­fice shut­ters on day one. She calls that her ‘AHA’ mo­ment. In just one year, she has helped build a con­nec­tion with cus­tomers. For ex­am­ple, Pep­sico In­dia used the Face­book plat­form dur­ing their Cricket World Cup ‘Change the game’ cam­paign to see high en­gage­ment with con­sumers. They got more than 22 mil­lion hits, ex­ceed­ing cam­paign tar­gets. The Face­book plat­form has been used by big brands and small and medium busi­nesses alike to lever­age the power of word of mouth on a mass scale. Reddy was work­ing with the Us-based Phoenix Tech­nolo­gies when Face­book of­fered her the job. It

was a “dream come true” and she jumped at the chance. The fact that she would be shift­ing base was not a de­ter­rent as, “af­ter fre­quent work-re­lated vis­its to In­dia, one could clearly sense the change hap­pen­ing and how it was the place to be, pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally,” she says. She moved to the coun­try in 2008, “That’s when I be­came an ac­tive user of Face­book to keep my hus­band—then still in the US (now back in In­dia)—con­nected about things con­cern­ing our two daugh­ters, Ashna, 9, and Ariya 6. Also, hav­ing lived in the US for 14 years, Face­book al­lows me to con­nect with my friends there,” says Reddy. It’s her dream job. “There isn’t any other com­pany that is touch­ing lives in such a fun­da­men­tal way—ful­fill­ing the ba­sic hu­man need to con­nect, share and be part of a larger com­mu­nity. I am hum­bled to have had the op­por­tu­nity to work for a com­pany that is chang­ing the world, mak­ing it more open and con­nected,” she says.

Reddy grew up in In­dia. Born to mid­dle-class par­ents, her fa­ther, a govern­ment em­ployee, moved ev­ery ev­ery four years. She says that is what makes her an adapt­able adult. Mum­bai, Chen­nai, and smaller towns such as Dan­deli and Nanded is where she spent her for­ma­tive years. “My mother and fa­ther be­lieved that if there was a school in the neigh­bour­hood, that’s where I would go. That made me learn to make the most of any sit­u­a­tion,” she says.

She fin­ished her com­puter en­gi­neer­ing from MGM Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing, Nanded and stood sec­ond. It was around her grad­u­a­tion that her par­ents moved to Nag­pur and she moved with them. “As I asked about soft­ware roles in Nag­pur, all roads led to Kanetkar (author of Let us C and Ex­plor­ing C), which are sta­ples in en­gi­neer­ing col­leges,” she says. That was her first job and her role in­cluded, soft­ware pro­gram­ming, train­ing and help­ing Kanetkar with the pro­gram­ming ex­am­ples in his books to il­lus­trate key con­cepts. She says it was her time there that pro­vided a learn­ing ground to strive for world-class ex­cel­lence. It was also her first taste of work­ing in a small startup environment where one had to wear many hats— cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion ruled. “I started study­ing for my GMAT then, and I vividly re­mem­ber my col­leagues do­ing flash­cards dur­ing breaks to help me work on my GMAT scores,” she fondly rem­i­nisces. She then went

on to be­come the first in her fam­ily to get a tech­ni­cal and busi­ness de­gree in the United States.

Reddy holds a Mas­ter’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion from Stan­ford Univer­sity and an M.S. in com­puter en­gi­neer­ing from Syra­cuse Univer­sity. Ex­per­i­men­tal by na­ture she has worked with es­tab­lished brands such as Sil­i­con Graph­ics and Mo­torola. At Sil­i­cone Graph­ics, she was the youngest di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing and the only wo­man at that level in her team. One of the ca­reer chal­lenges for her was when she moved from run­ning prod­uct man­age­ment at Mo­torola to com­ing back to In­dia for an 18-month as­sign­ment for a gen­eral man­age­ment role. “Change is hard although, in hind­sight, it was a great ca­reer de­ci­sion and led to the role I now have that I con­sider it a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity,” she says. Her big­gest sup­port sys­tem through tran­si­tions has been her fam­ily. “My par­ents and my hus­band, Dev, have been truly the pil­lars of strength in my life, en­cour­ag­ing me in ev­ery step and guid­ing me to bring out the best in me. They have been the rea­son for my growth and my suc­cess to­day,” she says.

The un­der­stand­ing that it’s about work-life flex­i­bil­ity and work-life in­te­gra­tion, not re­ally work-life bal­ance, is what keeps her fire from burn­ing out, she says. For ex­am­ple, when her sec­ond daugh­ter, Ariya, was born and she wor­ried whether she would have to make a choice about ex­celling at work which in­volved travel or ex­celling as a mom and want­ing to tend to her for the first year, “I de­cided I could do both. While a lot of travel was del­e­gated, for the must-travel times, I trav­elled with her, and I found lo­cal day care wher­ever I went. When you de­cide some­thing is im­por­tant, it is amaz­ing how na­ture con­spires to make things hap­pen for you. The mes­sage here is to cre­ate your own choices. To not ac­cept the tyranny of the ‘or’ but em­brace the power of the ‘and’,” she says.

Ex­cited about build­ing on Face­book In­dia’s foun­da­tion of the past year, her big mis­sion now is to cre­ate a Face­book In­dia ad­van­tage for Face­book glob­ally along with fos­ter­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of women lead­ers in In­dia, driv­ing chil­dren’s causes like safety and ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, and mak­ing an im­pact at a national level. Young and rest­less, here is a leader to watch out for.

A PRAB­HAKAR RAO/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

Young Leader: Reddy

with her team

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