You are currently viewing [Techie Tuesday] From building systems at VMWare to creating a B2B edtech platform for colleges, meet Coll Poll’s Sabari Girish Parampoor

[Techie Tuesday] From building systems at VMWare to creating a B2B edtech platform for colleges, meet Coll Poll’s Sabari Girish Parampoor

As the CTO of Coll Poll, a mobile-first campus platform, Sabari Girish Parampoor is responsible for building a strong engineering and tech culture in the organisation. 

Sabari, who has close to two decades of engineering experience, was the director of engineering in the CTO office at Indegene and had earlier built a smart carpooling solution, Rideler. He also has engineering expertise and experience in the likes of VMWare. 

Hailing from a small town in Kerala, Sabari’s favourite subject in school – no surprises here – was mathematics. His father was a scientist at National Textile Corporation and his mother was a homemaker. 

The family, after stints in Kerala, in 1994, moved to Bengaluru. It was the norm in a middle-class family to choose a professional degree course, which meant either engineering or medicine. 

“I wasn’t particularly interested in biology, so engineering became the de facto choice. It was only in engineering that I got exposure to computer science,” Sabari explains. In his fourth semester, when college courses started on computers, Sabari realised his growing interest and love for the subject. 

“I had started taking the C programming classes, and I just knew that I wanted to play around with programming. For that, I needed a computer at home. It was in my third year that we got a computer. I think it was the year 2000. It was a desktop with a huge CPU and CD ROM. I remember being overjoyed and writing many programs,” Sabari says. 

Learning to code

Sabari’s coding trials were helped by a classmate who happened to be good in coding but needed help in mathematics. Sabari struck a deal – he helped his classmate with mathematics, and his classmate helped him with coding. 

“I kept working on my coding and kept getting cleaner and better at it. When I graduated in 2003, I knew I would get into coding and engineering,” Sabari says. He joined Altisource Technology and was there until 2005. It was here that Sabari learnt significantly about best practices and industry standards. 

“I learnt it is important to optimise your code and program to suit the requirements of the consumer. It is always good to spend time understanding the problem and then work on the solution. I understood the basic principles of problem-solving, and how to approach different programs for different problems,” he says. 

In 2005, Sabari moved to OpenTxt, where he worked for 1.5 years. The company was a supply chain spinoff,  focusing on supply chain solutions. 

“I realised how everything was easy for me, as my core concepts were strong. I had learnt everything that I could at Altisource. I was leading several projects, doing POCs, and solving some really complex technology problems,” he recalls. 

Sabari (right) with his co-founder of Rideler

The power of ownership 

Wanting to explore more opportunities and keen to work on open source, Sabari decided to move to the US. He first worked for CareGain as a J2EE consultant for six months. 

“It was my first experience of working in the US, and the level of professionalism and ownership is very high. When you own and build things from scratch, you realise it is a different kind of high and push,” Sabari says. 

After CareGain, Sabari moved to VMWare. “I was into Java development and doing some really important work for VMware. They were in that phase where it was still a startup and we were putting in a lot of effort to get a certain application built. The application had failed three times and we wanted to get it right. While building this application, I realised how important it is to be timely, and yet be perfectly right with every code you write,” Sabari says. 

Until 2010, Sabari was the technology lead for full-stack projects using J2EE. This included planning, estimation, and resource allocation. design, development, documentation, and user training.

A personal emergency brought Sabari back to India in 2010, where he joined Manhattan Associates as the technology lead for the R&D integration India team. He was involved in setting a yearly technology roadmap for the integration team.

Starting up

Along the way, Sabari realised he wanted to do something of his own and started Rideler in 2013.

“The idea came from a personal pain point. I was then commuting from Vijayanagar  to Whitefield, which took me about an hour or more. I realised that maybe we should think about solving this problem in a small window. Why not pool employees going in the same direction and use their daily commute patterns to offer a smarter way for them to carpool and get to the office, with less stress and with friends,” Sabari says. 

He started the company with a friend and a B2B focus – they had roped in Bengaluru’s IT parks. 

“We found some success because there were companies from the same park, and the trust factor already existed.  All we had to do was provide a platform for employees of these companies to ride with each other. At the end of the month, you would accumulate points and get rewards,” he says. 

The company then launched an Android app and opened it up to the B2C market.

While the company was doing well, the team realised it couldn’t scale much. A group of students in the US was building something similar, and the Rideler team sold their company to them. 

“But the experience taught me scaling a product as an employee and head of technology is so very different from doing so for your own startup. Looking at different options, I joined Exeevo in 2016,” Sabari says. 

Colleagues of Indigene

Back to work 

At Exeevo, Sabari led the full-stack team that was building hybrid apps that help modernise HCP engagement for different pharmaceutical companies. He built two different products from scratch and conceived, planned, and executed the conversion of the backend and the API team to a full-stack team. He also set the tech roadmap for the engineering and DevOps teams. 

While he was enjoying his work at Exeevo, Sabari knew he wanted to build something with a large-scale impact. In September 2021, he joined Coll Poll. 

“I felt the product is strong and powerful and can transform the ways colleges function.  I end up coding here and doing some AWS stuff, looking at why something went wrong, looking at the logs, strategising, working on a roadmap,  thinking about what is next for us in terms of technology, and how do we build a great culture and team,” he says. 

Today while hiring, he looks at one thing: attitude. 

“You can be good at your work, but if you don’t have the right attitude you end up messing up with the culture. The next thing is fundamentals. With the right fundamentals, you can solve for larger problems, do anything, learn anything,” he says.

Advising young techies Sabari says rather than be overwhelmed by the proliferation of new technologies in the market, it is important to weigh the problem before you get started. 

“Once you are able to deeply connect with the problem, you will find the best technology that can be used. You shouldn’t be doing it the other way –  looking at technology and then trying to find a problem. Find a problem, connect with it, and then automatically, you will know what technology to use. And, always try and connect the dots as you get into leadership,” Sabari says.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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