Remembering Pran – my friend, my mentor, my inspiration


I am still in a bit of shock on the sudden passing away of a good friend and mentor of mine Pran Kurup due to a cardiac arrest. I had the privilege of knowing and interacting with Pran for the past 18 years and in all these interactions, my impression of him was that of a very passionate entrepreneur always on the cutting edge of technology and a kind human being who believed deeply in the upliftment of India and actually went about in his own way in getting that done. You could disagree to his political views but you could not but help admire the passion that he had for everything that he did.

I vividly remember that day in 1997 when he and his fellow co-founders from Bytek Designs, interviewed Anand and me in Bangalore. We were fresh out of college and they were looking for fresh IIT graduates to jump start their online training portal. The interview was more a formality as we ended up discussing the India-Pakistan (Toronto) cricket match going on at that time on TV. Ever since that day, cricket had been a very strong unifying force for Pran and I – even when we were going through tough times in our startup, we never failed to catch up on cricket and the scores and what should India do next.

Anyway – when we landed in USA, Pran was there personally to welcome us. On the way to the apartment where the company had put us up, he made 2 pit stops – one at a park where there was a cricket match going on and another at our company. For a certain moment, i had to pinch myself to believe what was going on – i was in the heart of Silicon valley overlooking a cricket match – circa 1998. I knew that i was at the right place and more importantly, i had the right company and the right boss.

Over the next few years, the company grew and of course, changed its name to Vitalect – which is still its identity even till today. During this time, Pran’s entrepreneurial spirit could be seen in full glory – never a man to shy away from taking risks, he made some great strategic and tough decisions to keep Vitalect going. In fact, it was largely due to his untiring efforts that the company continues to exist and thrive even today. That is a sharp contrast to the tough times the company and Pran, especially, had to endure post the dot-com bust. I vividly remember the day when he had to lay-off people for the 1st time – it was really hard for him because he considered every one as family. In spite of all the hardships, he still managed to sponsor more than 50% of my part-time MBA from Santa Clara – almost unthinkable even in today’s times.

Even after i left Vitalect to pursue a career at Yahoo and other companies, we continued to keep in touch regularly – either because he wanted to brainstorm on an idea for his company or because of some cricket match or lately, on how India was going to get better under AAP. We would meet on social occasions too with family. One thing that many didn’t know about Pran was that he was an excellent cook – i still remember the Sambhar, Chicken Stew and the fish curry he had cooked for us for dinner.

He was a voracious reader and an avid Blogger. A couple of months ago, during our regular chat, he had told me that he was looking forward to the book launch. He was going through some trying times from his health perspective – but he had pulled himself through and he was excited about this new venture. Little did I know that it was the last time I would talk to him in person.

As I sit and reflect back on the days that I have spent with Pran, there are so many memories to write about. But I will leave you with something that I have always treasured. Circa 1999 – Cricket World Cup in England. At that time if you had to watch a game of cricket, you had to head to Naz Cinema hall in Fremont, CA OR install a dish at home (expensive). I made a casual remark during an office lunch that it was going to be a great world cup and how I wish we could be watching in USA. By evening time, Pran had set up a Dish at home and called me & Anand for dinner at his home to watch the 1st of the many India matches – that gesture truly epitomized Pran – a person who was always ready to listen and always willing to help. I will forever remember Pran for the influence he had on me and will forever cherish the memories of time spent with him and his family.

RIP Pran – you will be sorely missed.