Selected as World’s Leading Leader 2023 in the category of Robotics (Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence), Karthikeyan Yuvaraj is a special industry talent. He is an ideal story of Passion to Excellence using his intelligence and knowledge to serve others.
In conversation with Karthikeyan Yuvaraj
What makes a reliable and trustworthy business leader?
At its best, leadership inspires people to pull together collectively to achieve something
great. However, that kind of inspiration requires a trustworthy leader who treats
leadership not as a source of personal power but as a channel for serving others.
Some top qualities of trustworthy leaders:
They stand on principle even when they have to stand alone. Standing up for your
beliefs takes great character, especially when everyone else is standing against you. A trustworthy leader will always act in the interest of the greater good, even if that means going against the prevailing trend. They help others become better and improve their lives. A trustworthy leader will always invest in relationships with others. They’re invariably supportive and willing to go the extra mile to help those around them grow and improve. At the heart of a trusted leader is a core of service and support.
They listen with an open heart and mind. Listening may not appear anywhere in a
leader’s job description, but it is a critical responsibility. A leader who attends is much
better positioned to lead their organization to tremendous success. Listening, asking
questions, and listening to what people have to say all signal a leader who cares and can be trusted. They stay steady under pressure. The pressure on leaders is real and constant, and sometimes it can become extreme. Yet, trustworthy leaders can remain calm and stable in every situation, however tense or hurried. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is peaceful; it’s during the storms that true character is revealed.
They take responsibility, and you can count on them. One of the highest marks for a
trusted leader is a reputation as someone people know they can count on. That means being willing to take charge when everything is falling apart and taking the blame when things go wrong. The trait of accountability is a critical element of trustworthiness. They say what they mean and mean what they say. We’ve all been around people who say one thing but do another or try to deny their words or actions—and it’s infuriating. But, on the other hand, a leader who says what they mean and means what they say can always be trusted.
Lead from within: A trustworthy leader isn’t easy to find, but they’re unforgettable
when you do.
What are the clear changes that you have made to your journey in the last decade?
Some of the tweaks I started to implement are:
Always be open to taking on the most challenging problems when at work. Primarily, the most complex issues yield the most rewards.
Don’t be afraid to be an outlier: Sometimes following your passion may lead to an isolated journey. And it gets scary when you do something different from your peers. So remember why you started this journey and stay on track during these moments.
Prove them wrong: Some people vouch for you and cheer for you when you are down. But then some naysayers are there to put you down. But whenever I hear a no from someone, it motivates me to push harder and finish it.
You are the best investment of your life: The best investment you can make is in yourself. I regularly learn new skills. Of course, everyone has their 9 to 5 job, but then you need time to work on yourself and keep evolving.
What is the current vision and mission at your current role?
My current role is to democratize robotics and AI technology, so millions around the
world can use it for the betterment of humanity.
How do you draw a balance between target orientation and empathetic and
compassionate leadership? What has been your greatest strength and weakness in the context of leadership?
My main strength is getting others excited and motivated in the face of
innovation and how their work can impact the organization and, eventually,
the world. It is vital to keep people informed on the big picture and remind
them how their hard work matters. All of us are a work in progress. My weakness is sometimes being firmly set on pursuing a desired direction. And this does hinder others from giving their perspective. I also need to keep working on hearing out and accepting input from others.
What has been your driving force or philosophy in life?
Pursue vigorously towards a better modern humanity but be kind to others and
yourself during this journey.
How do you plan to drive your business at a global level at your current role?
Your top leadership goals during tough times?
During hard times, a leader must make tough decisions, like letting some part of the
company go, etc. I experienced this firsthand in silicon valley, California, in 2023.
During these times, it is vital to ensure empathy, sympathy, and respect are
present where needed. Of course, there are quarter goals. But these goals are
reached by hardworking people with livelihoods. Make sure the decisions will not
affect the lives of those who helped build the company.
Your greatest success mantras?
Keep calm and persevere: When working towards something special, there will be many obstacles. Not all challenges can be superbly dealt with. So give the best you can, and keep pushing gradually.
What’s your vision for the industry and the Indian economy?
We are living in fascinating times. I am very excited to see robots participate in
different facets of human lives. And I am privileged to be part of this journey. I envision a future where robots will take over mind-numbing repetitive jobs. Then humans can focus on better jobs where it requires more intelligence, and society will evolve into a better place because of this.
How does your work benefit society?
“A robot goes where no human has gone”:
When I worked on the DRC (DARPA Robotics Challenge), the goal was to demonstrate
how we can use robots to neutralize nuclear disasters instead of sending in humans,
which can be very hazardous and even fatal. This kind of explorative robotics
technology can be used for verticals like deep sea exploration, fire fighting, planetary
exploration (like the mars rover), military, volcanology, archaeology, etc.
Eliminating mind-numbing repetitive work:
“Robots will take our jobs” is a ubiquitous quote. But, in reality, robots will help
humans to have better jobs and work-life balance. Most of the labor force working in
factories and delivery stations is being made to do repetitive jobs. Being up on your
feet for 10-12 hours at a time and doing repetitive motions like sorting, lifting heavy
boxes, etc., takes a toll on a person’s body over time. The robotics systems I have
developed in the logistics and supply chain space can help take over these
mind-numbing and repetitive jobs. Imagine ten people working in an assembly line, packing 100s of boxes daily. Eventually, this can transform into nine robots working in an assembly line and one person managing it. Also, for this person to supervise these robots, it would require education to operate computers and robots (if necessary). Hence as you can see, this will help enhance the labor force to gain more skills than just being employed for physical work.
About Karthikeyan Yuvaraj
A roboticist by profession with over nine years of experience. A researcher,
engineer and developer of advanced robotics and AI systems for industrial
applications, disaster recovery situations.
Karthikeyan Yuvaraj owns multiple patents and publications in robotics and AI Moreover, his inventions have been featured in major media like the LA
times, Daily Mail, etc.