Q&A With Alumnus: Sugandh Rakha

Sugandh Rakha is a B.Tech (Hons. in Machine Learning) 2007 graduate from IIIT-H. He has been actively helping in the organization of the alumni meetups, especially the recent ones that were conducted on the occasion of the institute’s 20th anniversary. We caught up with him over an informal Q&A to find out what he’s been up to since graduating and discovered some interesting plans he has for alumni. Read on.

Please describe your career to date.

After graduating, I started working with Amazon as a Software Development Engineer. I worked there for 5 and a half years after which I worked with Microsoft for a bit (a little more than an year). Then I joined ServiceNow where I’ve been working since 2014. It’s a cloud-based software company. I work in the area of enterprise integration, blockchain and IOT.

Additionally, I have been helping Startups design highly scalable and lean architectures over the years. I have also helped startups with customer referrals, valuation and funding as well. I have personal done angel investments in 3 startups till now. And I am doing in the process of doing my 4th via the SucSEED Venture Partners.

Currently, I am building the IIIT-H Alumni Angels Networks (IIIT-H AAN), which would be an Angel Investment Network by IIIT-H Alumni and for IIIT-H Alumni or Student Startups. If things go as per the plan, you will hearing more about this soon.

What has been the most interesting/exciting experience in your work?

My first project at Amazon is the most memorable one. I worked on TextTrackIt. It is basically the Text or SMS-based solution that automatically gives customers updates on their purchases on Amazon from the time the shipment is dispatched from the warehouse to when it is out for delivery and finally delivered. It is used even today by millions of people around the world and I’m proud to have worked on it.

Another recent experience that I enjoyed was in July this year, when I conducted an IoT workshop in Vegas as part of Knowledge 2018, an international conference. It was originally meant to be on a small scale with a 200 seating capacity but it got over-booked with over 500 people registering for it. We had to split it up into two workshops over two days. The preparation that went into it taught me a great deal.

In what ways did your time at IIIT-H influence you?

I was basically a shy kid from Haryana, with a stammer to boot. IIIT-H not only helped me technically, by getting me a good job at the end of the course work, it also helped me find a great bunch of friends. Being in IIIT-H has given me a lot of confidence. I was surrounded by good people and excellent professors. Prof. Jayanti, Prof. Kamal, Prof. C. V. Jawahar, Prof. Rawat…they all went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable. The co-curricular activities on campus helped too in fostering great friendships.

What was your favorite course and why?

({Thinks}) I would have to list the DBMS 1 course by Kamal sir. He is a very good professor. What I especially like about his classes is that he gives practical examples and not abstract or vague ones helping us understand complex concepts instantaneously.

Is there any place on campus that holds any special memories of your college days, or do you have a favourite memory from your time at IIIT-H?

The coffee shop near the basketball court was our favourite adda. We would hang out there with friends. Along with regular chit-chat, birthday parties were celebrated there, discussions about projects took place there, we would spend hours there…

You’ve been actively involved in volunteering/pro bono activities. Tell us more about that.

I run the Hyderabad chapter of TISA : www.stammer.in Just like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), this is a self-help group for people who stammer. We meet once a month and fight stigmas associated with stammering. I was lucky in that I have an extremely supportive family and my peers were nice too growing up. Not everyone is so fortunate. We help people low on confidence who are ashamed and depressed. They worry about landing good jobs and having social relationships. We help them in preparing for job interviews. Parents of young children who stammer and are diagnosed autistic approach us too. We counsel them and refer them to good speech therapists. We give them impartial information and guide them accordingly. Often times, they are taken advantage of by quacks who dispense fake medicines under the guise of “curing” their children. I read a lot of literature about it to keep myself abreast with new findings etc.

When you’re not organizing Hyderabad Instagrammer Meetups or ToastMaster sessions, what is your favourite past time?

I unwind by watching something on Netflix. That’s my stress buster. I don’t have a TV at home. All the news that was coming in was negative, so I got cable removed. Now with Chromecast installed, I watch TV shows and movies.

Your wife, Taskeen Fatima is a very popular YouTuber with her channel, The Urban Fight. How do you assist her?

I hope this is off-the-record..({Laughs}) but my official role is that of a Spotboy! Apart from light setup and microphone setup, I help out in content planning, doing research and optimization, back office work like accounts and finance, negotiating with sponsors, and so on. In fact, that’s how the HydInstaMeets started..as a networking hack. YouTube channels need a strong Instagram community. We’ve met 4 times since its inception last year.


How would you complete the sentence: Behind every successful woman is a….

Her own strong determination.  Speaking of my wife, it’s all her own work. Not many know that she is a Robotics engineer by profession and an OU gold medallist.

What would be the one advice you would give incoming students of IIIT-H?

As a technical institute, technical skills of students will be taken care of by course work. But for soft skills, they need to put in extra efforts on developing communication skills, interpersonal skills, as well as financial skills. For instance, it’s a given that students will get a fat salary package at the end of their study. But not many know how to handle the finances, how to invest wisely and so on. Even with The Urban Fight, what first started as a fitness channel has now moved towards mental health and financial literacy. It’s important to be financially fit too. This is something I believe the alumni can help with.

I also plan on harnessing the strengths of our large IIIT-H community to create an alumni angel network. This will help alumni startups. We all know startups need money and contacts, For example if someone builds an enterprise software solution and wants to sell it to Amazon, they should be able to reach out to the IIIT-H network working in Amazon. This will also open up an opportunity for interested alumni to invest in such startups. I’m currently in talks with some alumni and I hope to take it forward.



Sarita Chebbi is a compulsive early riser. Devourer of all news. Kettlebell enthusiast. Nit-picker of the written word especially when it’s not her own.


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