#Asia Engineer, who wowed Sergey Brin and Larry Page with the idea of Google Alerts, is now a farmer

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Naga Katru now wants to leverage technology to boost his almonds farming in the US, which generates US$2.5 million in annual revenues

Naga Katru (Image Credit: Facebook)

Naga Katru (Image Credit: Facebook)

Quitting a plumb job, especially one from a company like Google, is considered foolish — until and unless the ‘quitter’ has an awesome startup idea in mind, which could change the lives of common people. There are quite a number of success stores of ex-Googlers — who left behind huge perks and other dream facilities offered by their employer — to build multi-million dollar businesses.

However, quitting a company of Google’s stature to start farming is quite insane, isn’t it?

But this man from India did not feel so. He believes that to be a successful farmer nowadays, one has to be an entrepreneur and agronomist in equal measure. Here’s the story of Naga Katru — the brain behind Google Alerts — who is now a successful farmer generating millions in revenues.

Katru was born and brought up in a small farming village called Gampalagudem in Andhra Pradesh (south India). He was a brilliant student and did well in academics. So, his dad decided to give him the best education.

Image Credit: Katru's blog

Image Credit: Katru’s blog

After graduation, he joined the B Tech programme of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), one of the premier educational institute in India. After completing the graduation, he flew to the US to join Google as its 40th engineer. Google, with a total of 110 employees, was relatively an unknown company in many parts of the world, including India, then.

When the idea of Google Alerts flashed into his mind, he decided to go to his manager. But the manager outrightly rejected it, saying the new idea would keep people away from its products, rather than attracting them. His reasoning was that Google makes money when people come to them, and if Google sets alerts, it will be losing money because the product sends people away from the firm.

However, a confident and determined Katru decided to go directly to Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page with a prototype and UI. And that was the turning point in his life.

The idea was accepted, and Google Alerts is now a successful product used by billions of people worldwide to get alerts on various topics, content, products. etc. On his was to fame, Katru also bagged three patents for Google Alerts.

Google, however, was not the end of the road for Katru, a risk-taker and cherisher of gut instincts.
He left the company in 2008 to jump into completely unrelated segments — documentary short films and improv theatre (a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment). A hard worker, he had a successful career in both domains.

Also Read: Serial entrepreneur at the age of 22: Here’s how this young man built a profitable startup after being chucked out of his flat

However, as his thirst for knowledge grew, he plunged into farming — the most noble profession in the world. But it was not as easy as expected.

“Farming is not easy, not pretty, not wildly profitable. And I had no prior experience; then why did I even get into it? I believe I felt a connection. Plus the challenge excited me – To be a successful farmer nowadays, one has to be equal parts entrepreneur and agronomist. As I dug into it, I also found farming to be fulfilling. That’s how I branched into agriculture, as the Sanskrit aphorism “Vriksho Rakshati Rakshitaha” (Trees, when protected, protect you) took on a new meaning for me,” he writes in a blog post.

Image Credit: Katru's blog

Image Credit: Katru’s blog

 

In 2008, Katru bought a 320-acre farm in Modesto in California in the US. When he bought it, he had no plans to take up farming as a long career. But he fell in love with the profession and it reminded him of his life in India.

“I thought I would sell it after five years. I missed the way the fruits and flowers smelled differently in India,” he says. It was a money-losing business in the initial years. So, he decided to grow more crops. So he grew almond and apricot, and the farm now generates US$2.5 million revenue and employs eight people.

Katru is, however, not complacent. He now wants to apply his technology knowledge into farming. To acquire more knowledge, he is pursuing two degrees at Stanford University — an MBA and an MS in Environment & Resources.

“We like to think we are an early adapter to applications of technology on the farm. We have been using remote soil moisture tracking for more than eight years now, to make irrigation decisions. We combine it with data from our on-site weather station to calculate precise watering needs for each block of the orchard,” he adds in the blog.

“It’s ironic that even though there are farms just 90 miles outside of Silicon Valley, technology hasn’t been used much to improve processes and crop yields. As a technologist, I think I can do something about it,” he concludes.

The post Engineer, who wowed Sergey Brin and Larry Page with the idea of Google Alerts, is now a farmer appeared first on e27.

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