The Silicon Review
BlackPepper was incorporated in 2010, but the business operation commenced in 2013. The company was founded by Hari Krishnan Puravankara with the clear vision of creating a company that is deeply rooted in hardware and recognized as the gold standard in product realization. It is a full-fledged silicon and system player providing differentiated product engineering capabilities for global semiconductor and system companies. BlackPepper offers comprehensive turnkey solutions across Consumer Electronics, Automotive, Medical, Industrial Automation, Defence, Wireless and the Internet of Things.
The company’s distinct functional units include Logic Design & Verification, Design for Test, Physical Design, Board Design, Analog & Mixed Signal Design, Post Silicon Validation, Yield Optimisation, Supply Chain Management, Industrial Design and Embedded Software. BlackPepper’s AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning) and DL (Deep Learning) driven solutions cater to applications like ADAS, Predictive Machine Monitoring, Autonomous Platforms, etc. BlackPepper is actively transforming itself into a company that is squarely at the heart of the product end user experience.
In conversation with the leading light, CEO Harikrishnan Puravankara
Please explain the cultural values at BlackPepper?
At BlackPepper, we are moving with a mission of creating an organization that is fundamentally rooted in hardware and recognized as the gold standard in product realization. BlackPepper runs the workshops called “Yes, I am BlackPepper!” for our employees which supports our Mission, shapes our culture, and reflect what our company values mean. We link our values & culture to behavioral competency framework - Every Pepperite(we prefer to be called) has Customer Centricity, Effective communication, Learnability and Leadership (CELL) deeply embedded in them.
What does it take for someone to be successful here?
BlackPepper has been successful in delivering high-end semiconductor solutions by building, nurturing and developing high-performance teams. Our world-class engineering talent is handpicked from top semiconductor companies across the world. We constantly groom our engineering teams under the concept of Lean Tall Engineering™ (LTE) - more engineering capability per engineer.
To be successful in BlackPepper, one must have strong engineering capabilities, passion for excellence and BP Values and above all, a fine human being.
What kinds of employee achievements are recognized by the company?
Our Reward & Reorganization programs are linked to Talent philosophy which helps employees to know their potential and tread the path of success. PREP, our recognition program, enables leaders and employees to recognize each other - across Business units, Band levels, Customer projects, and reward them for great work and efforts. We recognize Pepperites’ achievements for success, for excellence including knowledge and skills, and for innovation.
How would you characterize the company’s overall management style?
At BlackPepper, we truly believe in a flat organisation. We believe in the philosophy of collective entrepreneurship and encourage an environment, where every single Pepperite is encouraged to think freely, innovate tirelessly, question fearlessly and is deeply involved in every facet of the BlackPepper story.
We strongly believe in the idea of bringing ‘Beautiful minds’ into BlackPepper and giving them a wonderful atmosphere to explore the impossible, expand the mind and innovate the future. We can create most innovative, cost effective, and commercially viable products to create huge impact in the society.
How does your company respond to and overcome failures?
At BlackPepper, FAIL- stands for “First Attempt In Learning”. Whether it is engineering problem to be solved, a financial situation to be tackled or business strategy to be made, we allow each Pepperite to experiment, make mistakes and learn from that. The culture is to make sure we constantly experiment and innovate but to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
How are employees recognized for their efforts?
For organizations, it has been really challenging to gauge what keeps individuals motivated. For a few its money; for some, it is about providing recognition; for others, it is about providing the enablers that help them to achieve more; and yet there are a few for who, only a ‘hug’ suffices! In BlackPepper(BP), Through our Total Rewards program we recognize Pepperites in customized approach.
BlackPepper has been nurturing the recognition culture, where Pepperites feel valued and recognized. Across projects, we have realized that ‘employee recognition’ goes a long way towards improving employee productivity. To provide more impetus to the culture of recognition, we have initiated a number of rewards and recognition practices that are designed to incentivize best performers and the best teams of the company.
Our Rewards and Recognition program reflects the company’s culture and integrates well with the nature of the company’s business, strategies and goals. The program is decentralized to make it more effective. It also encourages managers and employees, at all levels, to provide peer recognition, thus making the whole appreciation practice more effective. The program encompasses various incentivizing initiatives, the employees are awarded in a town hall meeting.
Recently, we also launched the ‘Thank You Card’ initiative to create a culture of spontaneous and informal recognition by exchanging unique thumbs-up cards. The essence behind this program is that spontaneous recognition though small gestures is very powerful, and a culture to appreciate the little thoughtful things people do each day goes a long way in keeping the employees morale boosted.
Also, we are celebrating the week of December 7th to 11th as an ‘Appreciation Week’. This is an opportunity for every Pepperite to thank a colleague who has helped him/her in their professional life.
Let’s meet the thought leaders behind BlackPepper’s success
Harikrishnan Puravankara, Founder & CEO
Hari comes with about 16yrs of career spanning Silicon design, Supply Chain Management, Foundry relations and technical support. Hari started his career at Wipro Technologies as a cell library and physical design specialist and then moved on to Magma Design Automation. He led the Applications Support team across Asia Pacific. He quit Magma to start building the vision for BlackPepper in 2010 and raised angel funding to commence the operations in 2012.
Hari has won a national award under the best engineering project category as well as a “Best Designer” award at an All-India IEEE design contest during his engineering days. Hari did his Bachelor of Engineering from Cochin University of Science and Technology in Electronics Engineering in 2000.
Jei Narayanan, COO
Jei has a vast professional experience of over 25 years in semiconductor and electronics industry. Prior to joining BlackPepper as COO, he was the Practice Head of the IC Design team at TATA Consultancy Services since 2011.
Manoj Sundareswaran, Exec. VP: Delivery
Manoj is an industry veteran in the area of Chip Design and has been a SoC Product Specialist with more than 16 years of experience. He has been instrumental in implementing & delivering multiple first pass SoCs across Automotive, Wireless, Wireline, Health Care domains for companies like Infineon, Lantiq, and Wipro.
Basavaraj Nagaraju – EVP: Strategy & Marketing
Basavaraj has diversified experience; he has been an entrepreneur, Investment adviser, technocrat, teacher and a mentor. He comes with about 21 yrs of corporate experience, worked Subex, VeriSign & Syniverse at different levels and held the post of General Manager (GM) in his last organization.
Salesh Kumar N V–VP: Strategic Initiatives - R&D
Salesh brings in 17+ years of industry experience in the ASIC, Microprocessor and EDA fields in both technical and management roles.
Prior to BlackPepper, he was working in the capacity of Advisory R&D in IBM where he was responsible for mainframe microprocessor timing architecture for multiple generations of the P and Z series of processors.