Pankaj Kitchlu, Systems Engineering Leader, India and SAARC, Juniper Networks

Pankaj Kitchlu has been associated with the Indian telecom industry for the past two decades. He started his car­­eer as a senior network en­gi­­neer with Tulip Telecom and, over the years, has been associated with Crompton Gr­ea­ves, Reliance Communi­cations (RCOM) and Bharti Airtel. He joined Juniper in 2012. Currently, as Juniper’s service provider systems engineering leader for India and SAARC, Kitchlu is responsible for driving the GTM business for telecom-focused areas. This involves using network function virtualisation and soft­ware-defined network te­c­h­­­­­nologies to build solutions for the future networks today and enable network transformation for telecom operators.

According to him, the transformation of the Indian telecom industry has just be­gun. “Over the past couple of decades, we have been fo­cu­sing on unidirectional and single-service networks. But now is the time to explore real-time service delivery with vehicles like 5G, internet of things, arti­ficial intelligence and digital platforms,” he says. “While rising cost pressures and debt levels have made business models go haywire, the exponential increase in data de­mand will lead to a rebound once the consolidation phase is over and the right price points are achieved,” he adds.

Having worked with several key players in the industry, picking one favourite assignment is not easy for him. “All my assignments have been a critical part of my growth,” he says. At Crompton Greaves, he was instrumental in formulating remote access dial-up modems for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s national in­ter­­­­­­­­­net backbone project. “This is when I understood the routing and networking space.” At RCOM, he was the data lead for national and international long distance networks. Mean­while, at Airtel, he was associated with the strategy architecture and engineering function, where he led several transformational functions in broadband, internet protocol transport and core data networks. “It is at Airtel that my leadership and entrepreneurship skills were honed,” he says.

Kitchlu believes in leading by example and counts his optimism and conviction to do the right thing as his key strengths. A graduate in engineering, Kitchlu also has a postgraduate degree in business administration. Most of his spare time is spent with his friends and family, which comprises his mother, his wife Monica, and their two children. “I like travelling and cooking whenever I get a chance,” he says. He also en­joys swimming.