Nivruti Rai was born in Lucknow – the third daughter to her parents. After her birth, her extended family had a field day expressing regret, even sending letters of condolences to her parents – a girl child was bad news.
But Nivruti grew up to be the pride of not just her family but of an entire nation.
One of the few women leaders to head multinational companies, she has spent about 25 years at tech titan Intel. In 2016, she took charge as the Country Head, Intel India, and is also the Vice President of Data Centres Intel.
Nivruti, now 50, is recognised for pioneering the use of a technique called 'error correcting codes' to reduce operating voltages and memories. Her other notable work includes championing the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to enhance road safety in the country. She is also renowned for building Intel’s collaboration with the Consulate General of Israel to drive innovation and connect startups from both nations.
Lucknow to Oregon
With a bachelor’s in Statistics from the University of Lucknow, Nivruti migrated to the US in 1990 after her wedding to Sunit Tyagi. She did a BSc in Mathematics and Operations Research, and later an MS in Electrical and Industrial Engineering from Oregon State University.
Nivruti visited the Intel office in Oregon for the first time while her husband was working there. She recollects how much she revered Intel’s team, and how she wanted to be a part of Intel one day even without an Ivy League background like them.
And in 1994, she did join Intel as a design engineer. She tells MAKERSIndia, “Intel has made me who I am. I have learnt everything about leadership, building consensus, body language, and team work here. I have leveraged every opportunity that Intel has offered me. Everyone in my team has contributed to who I am, as much as my family’s support did.”
While at Intel, she also completed several short-term management courses from Stanford Business School, Harvard Business School, and the Darden School of Business (University of Virginia). Then, a little over a decade ago, she shifted base to India and has been working in Bengaluru ever since.
On her rise to the top, she thanks everyone who has ever worked with her. Nivruti believes that her biggest achievement at Intel is her team’s confidence and appetite for taking risks.
“I am the fearless mama bear. So, my team knows that somebody is watching out for them. If they fail, they know they still learnt something,” she smiles.
Tech is not to be feared
At a time when technology has penetrated every aspect of human life, many fear the loss of jobs due to technology beating (and replacing) manual abilities. But Nivruti assures that every technology has created more jobs than before; albeit different kinds of jobs.
“Every technology has good and bad sides; we must use our natural intelligence to leverage the good and squish the bad, and not worry that if you take away your job. Look at the possible jobs of tomorrow and build your skills accordingly,” she advises.
As a flagbearer of technology for change, Nivruti reminds us that tech helps enable education in more geographies too. “Leveraging connectivity, we can provide online classes to more students via village kiosks. Medical surgeries are already being done by robots. Likewise, tech should be able to resolve uncomplicated legal cases. Justice should not be delayed because judges are short of time. Thus, tech can change how we function,” she notes.
Under Nivruti’s leadership, Intel is also working towards getting 5G internet connectivity in India. While accepting that 5G availability is mostly going to be in the urban areas, Nivruti spoke about her plans for connectivity rural areas too. “We are experimenting with a programme to create a scalable solution without using the licence spectrum. If a village has electricity, the solution that we are working on will get them internet connectivity. Their products can thus be sold to the world. From a revenue perspective, it is peanuts (for Intel); but I know that will drive tremendous growth in India.”
Woman in power
For Nivruti, feminism is about women helping each other. “I want to contribute by explaining challenges and seek solutions for men and women. I would have loved to learn from the journey of other people if I had a chance – how to manage my time better and build more value, and be motivated in a different level.”
And now that she is in a position of power, Nivruti believes this is the time for her to give back. “Being Intel India Country Head has given me a lot of ability to drive changes. At Intel, we create AI awareness, AI skilling, AI startups, AI policies, and AI open-source data. Also, we are training children between class 8 and 12 on AI to bust the myths around the complexity of AI. We are also looking at how to maintain the greenery of Bangalore, how to enable better healthcare, etc.”
Realising that many women look at her as a role model, Nivruti seeks out those who have the capability, but haven't had the opportunity, to make it big in career. In fact, her brainchild at Intel India – the ‘Home to Office’ programme – focusses on women who were educated in any sciences, but has been away from work for years due to domestic duties.
Nivruti elaborates, “We bring those women back into the workforce, train them for nine months, and give them an opportunity to either work for Intel or go to a place where they would like to work for. There are many talented women; we are looking at how to leverage them to contribute.”
A woman who walks her talk, Nivruti has seen and dealt with many struggles, and wants the next generation of women to not go through the same.
“There was a time when I walked into a room knowing there is a bias against me because of my gender. But I am different now. I forget gender when I go into meetings.”
Like every man or woman who has made a name in history, Nivruti’s mantra is not to give up. “I am a spinning wheel, an energiser bunny that doesn’t stop. Glass ceilings had to give in because I was not going to stop,” she smiles.
Video Producer: Urmi Chatterjee
Cinematographer: Rukmanda Raja
Text Editor: Saheli Sen Gupta