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January 10, 2000
She Helps Computers Heal Themselves
J M Shenoy
Radha Ramaswami Basu likes to describe herself as a computer physician who offers self-healing solutions.
For, Basu, who was chosen by WoW, a San Francisco organization as one of the 25 top women working on the Web, is the CEO of www.support.com. One of the several e-support companies that have emerged in recent years, www.support.com offers tiny programs that can diagnose problems on a computer and even repair them without human intervention. The new e-support software promises to reduce the hassle of fixing bugs and even replacing parts. It also claims to reduce the dependence on tech staff.
Computer experts point out that fixing a problem often takes a few minutes but figuring out the problem takes a longer time. Basu says that e-support keeps an eye on the computer's settings and restores the proper ones if anything goes wrong.
What if there is a need for human intervention? What if the hard drive needs to be replaced? Even in this case, Basu and her peers say support software saves time by spotting the flaw and even telling the technicians what parts needs to be brought.
Basu says www.support.com is the only e-support technology that can be deployed "out-of'-the-box" without depending on costly and time-consuming scripts.
Support.com's Internet support infrastructure enables businesses and support providers -- such as Enterprise IT, PC vendors, ISPs, and ASPs -- to support any computer user automatically and via the Web.
www.support.com pioneered DNA Probe technology, which uniquely reduces the inefficiencies of a traditional technical support. Leading edge companies like Excite@Home, Bear Stearns, Hambrecht & Quist, Sykes Enterprises, Micron Electronics, Albertsons, and CompuCom now use support.com.
"The goal is to get help-desk visits down to zero by having the computer fix itself or by enabling users to figure out the problem on their own," Basu said.
Basu's managerial services are in big demand.
Last August, Basu became the chairman of the board of directors of SEEC, succeeding Dr Raj Reddy, who stepped down to take up a presidential appointment as a high-tech advisor in Washington. Pittsburgh-based SEEC specializes in software products and business solutions regarding client servers to Internet migration.
"Radha Basu has extensive experience in planning and executing successful e-business solutions strategies," said Ravi Koka, SEEC president and CEO.
Early this month Computer Sciences Corporation selected www.support.com's Internet Support Infrastructure for its Desktop Management Service. This builds, configures, deploys and supports PCs according to every customer's unique application and system requirements.
"Adoption of our technology by a company with the global reach and breadth of CSC is an outstanding endorsement," said Basu. "CSC joins the growing ranks of e-businesses, systems integrators, ISP's, and support providers that have selected Support.com's Internet support infrastructure."
Basu, who worked for HP for more than two decades, was general manager of the electronic business software organization in Hewlett Packard's computer business wing for three years, having started in 1996. She was responsible for its Internet software products and frameworks that provide e-business solutions to customers and channel partners worldwide.
She holds a bachelor of engineering degree from the University of Madras and a master's degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Southern California. She attended the Stanford Business School Executive Management Program in 1992.
Last March she joined ConnectInc.com's board of directors. ConnectInc.com provides integration solutions to enable Internet-based electronic commerce and to build the "Connected Corporation" from any link in the emerging network supply chain.
Awards and peer recognition is not new to Basu. Five years ago, she received the 1995 Woman of Achievement Award for leadership and vision in the corporate field from the San Jose Mercury News and the Women's Fund. In 1997 she received the Excelsior Leadership Award from Net-IP.
With her passion for classical dancing and mountaineering, Basu says her hobbies have helped her sort out her goals and focus on them.
A story she is fond of telling involves a decision she took at the top of Himalayas.
She was 17.000 foot up, on Mount Everest, when she decided to leave Hewlett Packard.
"Somebody said it must have been the lack of oxygen!" she said to a reporter recently talking about her decision to leave her high command at Hewlett Packard to become CEO of Tioga Systems, a high-tech start-up.
But she has been making courageous choices for many years. Daughter of a mechanical engineer, who wished his daughter went into another profession, she applied to the engineering school without his knowledge.
She was 15 then.
When she graduated at 19, she had another shock for her parents. She wanted to go to the United States.
Like in the previous decision-making episode, this time too the parents came around and appreciated her choice a year after she went to America.
Used to breaking traditions, she nevertheless had to answer questions about how she broke through the glass ceiling many female executives face in America.
"People may think I'm not sensitive to the glass ceiling issue, but it has worked for me not to focus on it," she said in an interview. "I fundamentally believe that if a glass ceiling is there, it's there to be broken. If it's there and you don't break it, that's your issue."
If she suffered a setback at Hewlett-Packard, she said, she didn't worry if politics might have been involved, but rather on what skills she might have lacked for that particular position. And then she would begin working on acquiring those skills.
"If you look at it that way, [then] every time you have a hiccup in your career, it ends up being a learning experience," she said.
One of the most dynamic women in the high tech arena, Basu is also known for her community connections. For instance, she co-founded along with the novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni an organization to help battered and abused women. Called Maitri, the Oakland-based organization, also helps women become self-sufficient.
"She has set high goals for herself, and her work as a businessperson and as a community leader is inspiring," said Divakaruni.
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