Prof Ramesh Loganathan reminisces on Jay Pullur, Founder and CEO of Pramati Technologies’ deep impact and influence, his association with IIITH and the city’s entire startup ecosystem.
Today we lost a fantastic human being who was a pioneer in the technology intensive systems products space in India. Jay Pullur. Founder of Pramati Technologies. A person who had a vision to create serverside products in the 1990s. A start up, raised funding from tier 1 VCs, built a Java App Servers when Java was very new. Got global recognition for this product made out of India, Hyderabad. With grit, determination, and an amazing flair for putting together fantastic teams. Helped shape many strong techies. including me. And was a great friend of IIITH.
Personally, for me, much more. My grounding in tech products. My association with IIITH (one of my most cherished so far, that started with Middleware Lab we setup in 2002 and I started to teach here). My link to startups. My engagement with IT industry associations and HYSEA (Jay got me into HYSEA in 2008). And much more. Many things I am today professionally and intellectually is due to Jay and Pramati. Heart is heavy. Pensive. Memories flooding. Penned this down some thoughts about Pramati’s journey and my association.
The Pramati Journey
Jay and Vijay, brothers who were at Wipro for the first decade of their work life, quit and started Pramati Technologies in 1998 to build tech infra products. Products were rare then. And systems products, even more so.
The first product they built was an app server with its own development tool called Proton server. And around the same time server side Java standards got released. A Java Servlet engine was built. And soon Java EJB server was built. And at 1999 JavaOne conference, Pramati amd Weblogic were the only two companies with an EJB Server built having full Java serverside stack (servlets and EJB). At a time when Sun was intensely heralding serverside Java, and all tech majors including IBM & Oracle were on that path.
End of 1999 Pramati raised first round funding of $1.5M from a VC. Started full steam to implement the then latest Java standards, J2EE (integrated server stack). At 2001 JaaOne, CEOs of Weblogic amd Oracle challenged each other to be the first to implement J2EE standard. And that December, Pramati was the first to complete and get certified. IBM came a week later. Weblogic c a month later and Oracle 3 months later. This got Pramati even larger recognition across the Java community globally. By then Intel Capital had invested 5M. Pramati was poised to go places but the 9/11 and 2002 recession happened and dampened all growth plans.
The Founders Grit
The two founders had amazing grit. Stuck at it. Even as journey post 2002 was very hard. Reached a low end of 2004 but bounced back from the brink. While the Java wave was lost (open source JBoss took over), Pramati continued to build products. And also started Product Development services. Few products started doing well. And one was acquired by Autodesk in 2012 for $26M .
The founders’ drive, energy, and the ability to attract, inspire & fireup teams was extremely uncanny. Put together one of the smartest engineering teams ever, right from start. By 2001 was extremely well regarded (so much so that new deeptech companies coming into India used to hire from Pramati at over double the comp). The passion for Indian products was very high. The relationships formed amongst the teams was super deep (most of my closest friends are from Pramati, more than those from earlier jobs or even from college). And yet the founders always remained simple, grounded, and purposeful.
When I was working for Informix in the valley, I chanced into a meeting when Vijay had come for a presentation in 1999. Informix was looking to OEM License Pramati app server, to embed into the DBMS as a Java stored procedure engine. I was super impressed that a company from India, from Hyderabad, had built a Java server when Java itself was still new. Our group also got involved in the evaluations and I got o engage with Vijay. Was super impressed with him and Pramati’s plans. That summer we were all set to return to India (Bangalore). I changed my plans (thankfully Kalpana agreed and indulged me) and we moved to Hyderabad instead in June 2000.
I started in engineering at Pramati. Professionally and beyond (industry, academics, startups and more), everything I am today is due to Pramati and Jay & Vijay. Apart from a lot else, two most significant things – Jay got me to IIITH in 2001. And in 2002 we started the Middleware lab and a few courses. That seeded one of the most cherished associations ever of my life, IIITH. 19 years now (last five years as full tme part of the institute). And what a journey that has been, around academics, startups and translation. The second was, getting me into HYSEA in 2008. By then I was quite involved with startups. At HYSEA, I was anchoring the products/startup forum. We scaled it up significantly. And 2014-16 I was President of Hysea. During that time the city startup ecosystem was also growing (starting with our CIE in 2008). I was quite involved in many things, driven by a heady combination of Pramati, HYSEA and IIITH. By then (2008) a part of Pramati was acquired by Progress and I was heading the Progress India labs.
Jay & Vijay
Through all these Jay and Vijay remained a constant in many of our Pramatian lives. Standing tall. Inspiring. As individuals. As leaders. As technologists. As entrepreneurs. I and many others will always hold them in extremely high regard. They have spurred solid tech leaders. Super solid engineers. Several entrepreneurs (including Bhaskar who cofounded AppDynamics, that was acquired by Cisco for 3.4 billion $). Instilled deep belief that we can do it.
So sad that Jay had to go through a rare degenerative condition. And passed away yesterday. Terrible loss. He will remain in our hearts, memories and through the unique high-performing heart-driven work culture they have created, and since spread through many ex-Pramatian.
Jay will be missed!