The Express IT Awards, now in its fifth year, just got bigger. With 500-odd nominations — the highest till now — the task for the five-member jury panel involved sifting through the burgeoning nominations and preparing the final shortlist done by our knowledge partner, PwC. This year, the eminent panel comprised Rajan Anandan, vice-president, India and Southeast Asia, Google; Sharad Sharma, former head of Yahoo India R&D and co-founder of iSPIRT; S Sadagopan, director, IIIT-Bengaluru; Ravi Gururaj, chairman, Nasscom Product Council; and Umang Bedi, former MD, Facebook India. The panel comprised members having diverse experience with some of them being associated with the largest technology companies in the world, while others are closely associated with the vibrant start-up ecosystem in the country. There is also the presence of a lifelong tech academic moulding the minds of future technologists and budding entrepreneurs. Anandan has the experience of working with marquee technology companies in the world — Dell, Microsoft and now Google. Given the advantage of a ringside view of the rapid technology changes shaping the world, Anandan has always presented incisive views when decisions have to be made while deciding the winners.
The panel members always present very healthy and differing views with the final decision being made on sound logic with a dash of perception. Sharad Sharma, as the evangelist for software product companies from India, has revealed the ability to spot the big trends in technology and how nascent firms are capturing this opportunity. The nominations at the Express IT Awards is a mixture of the big, medium and small companies with each jostling for the top spot. In many of the categories, there is a face-off of technology solutions between a large company and a start-up. This can present a tough decision to make. Here, the five-member jury panel are able to bank on their experience to size up companies, especially the smaller ones. In cases like these, Gururaj lends his expertise not only in his capacity as the head of Nasscom’s Product Council but also as an entrepreneur-cum-angel investor.
The Express IT Awards is all about selecting the best and there have been cases in the past where the call was too close to take. Here, the experience of somebody like Bedi comes into play. Bedi has predominantly worked in India through establishing the operations of global multinational corporations like Adobe and Intuit. As the former India managing director of social networking giant Facebook, it gives him heft on decision-making. The Express IT Awards is not just about the current technology but also a dash of legacy and how it has evolved. All of it lends weight to the jury panel. Sadagopan, as the director of International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Bengaluru, provides the perspective on how technology has evolved over a period of time while being closely engaged with future technologists as a teacher. A professorial outlook to the entire deliberations on the nominations of the Express IT Awards lends gravitas, which is much required in deciding the winner.