Addepar opened a new office in Pune, India in March 2023 as we deepened our commitment to global expansion and R&D investment. Abhimanyu “Abhi” Prabhavalkar recently joined Addepar’s engineering leadership team during this exciting time of growth as our R&D regional lead in India, bringing nearly 28 years of software development and team leadership experience to his new position. While his passion is engineering, he believes that technology is fundamentally about solving business problems.
We recently sat down with Abhi to learn more about his background, career journey and his plans for Addepar India.
Please describe your engineering journey. How did you start and choose your career path?
I was born to be an engineer. At my core, that’s when I’m happiest — doing any sort of engineering, whether it’s household projects or software. Engineering has always come naturally to me since my early school days when I learnt basic electrical engineering from 8th standard as a vocational course and then continued with a focus on electronics engineering in high school and undergrad.
Quite early on, I worked as an electronics/hardware engineer developing arms training simulation systems for the Government of India. I then moved up the application programming stack by joining Oracle to develop a variety of enterprise software products in the domains of BI, SOA, Business Process Management, Data Integration, IoT Apps Cloud and Blockchain Apps Cloud and grew from programmer to engineering VP roles. To broaden my experience, I then joined JP Morgan Chase as CTO for India/APAC, focused on building technology platforms for business applications and driving the technology modernisation agenda in the region. Next and a completely different challenge was to work with Stemly.ai as CTO developing SaaS and ML products to solve some challenging supply chain problems. I really like to dream big, set new goals for myself and work hard to achieve those.
What lessons did you learn along the way?
For starters, that I have a true passion for software engineering. I’m thinking about building products all the time, particularly large enterprise products for a variety of business domains.
One of the great things about software engineering is that one can apply the core skills to build products in many different domains, whether it’s finance, supply chain, utilities or government. Fundamentally, software engineers apply technology solutions to business problems. And while technology is obviously important, as I’ve grown into my management roles, I’ve realized the key is enhancing the potential of individuals and teams. It takes a team to build great products. So, maximizing human potential might be the most important skill for an engineering manager.
Another key lesson learnt is to lead with first principles and core values and not process, as it helps immensely in clarifying the ‘why’ and not just the ‘what’ or ‘how’. While I can go on with a lot more lessons learnt, I would like to end by calling out an almost supreme lesson, which is, putting the customer in the forefront of all decision making.
What else have you experienced over the past 30 years?
Professional journeys should be about gathering experiences of all kinds. I’ve worked for many organizations in different fields — from large enterprises such as Oracle and JP Morgan Chase to seed-funded startups. This offers you different lenses and helps you develop different ‘tools’ to use. There’s no right or wrong — just various resources and mechanisms to apply.
In larger companies, it’s easier to go to market because you have the luxury of funding and have an existing customer base to expand into. In the startup world, especially for seed-funded companies, it takes much more energy and resourcefulness to build the technology stack and then deliver the products to customers due to a variety of constraints.
In a startup, you don’t always have the luxury to hire large teams of programmers. Sometimes, even as chief technology officer, you have to get back to your ‘roots’ and just sit on the floor and code. You can’t simply draw up an architecture that reflects your vision — you also need to implement that architecture and build the products.
But what I have also found is that the startup environment is immensely propitious for innovation exactly because of the various constraints - such as time and outcomes.
What drew you to Addepar and the challenges we’re solving here?
I came to Addepar because I wanted to continue my journey in a growth-stage organization. At heart, I’m really a product engineer. The best fit for me is an environment where innovative products are being built. Addepar’s core belief centers around empowering customers with data and insights by providing SaaS products built with cutting edge technologies. Another engineering accomplishment that attracted my attention was the amount of customization and flexibility offered in the platform. Addepar’s growth journey as an organization has been phenomenal — from primarily serving single family offices to now supporting large enterprises as well.
Addepar has an exciting, highly ambitious product and platform vision and a strong roadmap. At the same time, corporate culture is very important to me. I observed that even with all its success, the team has remained so humble, low-ego and customer focused. There’s a cohesiveness in how the vision is interpreted. The team is also very strong technically, with a ton of talent and domain experience — so our execution is very effective.
What’s the R&D growth opportunity, specifically in the Pune, India market?
I’ve been a part of the Indian IT ecosystem for nearly three decades. Pune has emerged as one of the leading software development hubs in India due to the highly educated talent pool (often referred to as ‘oxford of the east’ because of the highly regarded educational institutes) and availability of great software expertise. Also relevant for Addepar is the availability of finance domain expertise in and around Pune.
Addepar India will continue to grow as a wholesome ecosystem of product & platform engineering, product management, data operations and customer implementation/on-boarding services, thus enabling a thriving ecology of cross functional collaboration and a breeding ground for innovation.
As Addepar expands its business in India and APAC going forward, the R&D team in Pune will play a significant role in that expansion and will own the products and customer deliverables for the region. Our presence here provides us a very strong base from which to build our team. Pune is ideal for us.
What’s your typical day at Addepar?
My team and I are building products to efficiently manage the world’s wealth. I’m focused on assembling high-performance engineering teams out of India to do this. I’ll also be looking for ways to grow Addepar’s business in the region, especially in India and Asia Pacific — which obviously offers enormous potential.
The financial ecosystem is complex — with many legacy, regulatory and legal considerations. At Addepar, we are a ‘tech platform and product first’ company and it is reflected in the fact that 60% of our overall staff is R&D. Additionally, our presence here in India will enable us to provide timely services to clients around the globe with our ‘follow-the-sun’ model.
On a typical day, I spend a lot of time listening to our teams across different functions and supporting them by sharing my experiences. I am involved in a variety of discussions around product, engineering, operations and also facilities (we have a nice and highly functional office setup here) etc. Given the cross functional setup here, there are exciting conversations about cross team collaboration, new features/enhancements, technology adoption, product ideas and also fun events so there is never a dull moment.
Given that we are building up India teams, with many roles currently open, I interview candidates to identify the diverse and passionate technologists who can make a difference to the lives of our clients. Given that we are a multi-product and multi-geographic team, I have meetings with my fellow colleagues in the US and UK.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Never be scared of failures. I learned that from one of my mentors. If you’re afraid of potential failures, you’ll never realize your creative potential.
Finally, what’s your vision of helping Addepar maximize the world’s capital?
It’s about your ikigai — a Japanese term that roughly translates to ‘sense of purpose.’ During my interviews with the Addepar team, I discovered that our ikigai is to maximize the positive impact of the world’s capital. To me that means providing people with the tools to effectively deploy, manage, grow and enhance the impact of the world’s wealth. That’s important to me and it was a key reason for joining this organization.
Given the religious focus on providing an operating platform for financial services to robustly process data at huge scale, I am excited to contribute to this journey along with my teams here in India. The teams in India have an enormous opportunity in not only building products for our global clients but also in helping Addepar expand business in APAC and thereby increasing the positive impact on the world’s capital even further.