Future 50
A New Generation of Leaders Arrives

For scaling a next-gen tech startup

Rajesh Kumar Nalla was only 16 when he dove into the world of freelancing, picking up software development gigs in the hopes of one day starting his own company. Two years later, in 2014, he was ready to launch Techimax, armed with hard-won lessons to prioritize his time and stay focused on his goals.

Turns out, he would need all that and more. His team’s first project: Build an IT platform for one of India’s biggest trade shows in roughly 50 days, automating registration and crowd management for more than 100,000 visitors. Now Nalla is bootstrapping next-gen tech like AI and the internet of things on large-scale, public-facing systems for startups and big brands alike. Techimax keeps growing, largely because Nalla refuses to slow down. Last year he built a tech e-learning platform entirely on his own. 

But tactical achievement doesn’t mean much, he says, without also building meaningful connections. “Trust enables people to willingly go the extra distance—not just to make the organization successful but also to help the organization stay ahead of the competition,” he says. “Every project needs a leader who is inspiring and helping others become the best versions of themselves. Make your team’s life better each day. Be the person that moves mountains for them.”

Nalla knows young employees are no longer happy to stay in one role for decades, so he tries to mix things up and keep it interesting. “Job-hopping is more popular among younger generations, with Gen Z changing roles frequently to give their career a boost. It also gives employees fresh impetus and new challenges,” he says. “Businesses can tap into this trend, without losing valued members of staff, by ensuring that work never becomes stale.”

“Make your team’s life better each day.”

Q&A: Rajesh Kumar Nalla on surprises, an adaptive mindset and Alexander the Great

What project in the world most influenced you personally?

A personal computer with Windows operating system. As a child, I used to believe that Bill Gates invented the computer but later, I realized that it was a collective effort of thousands of programmers at Microsoft. 

What’s your mantra for leading projects?

Zero surprises. If you plan effectively, build the right relationships and communicate effectively at all levels, then there will be no surprises. If you build trust with the team and the sponsors, and encourage transparency at all levels, there should not be any surprises.

What’s the one must-have skill to succeed in The Project Economy?

In every sector, an adaptive mindset based on the core techniques and skills of project management is now essential. The days where project management was mainly a technical skill set deep in the IT function have long gone. It’s time to reconsider our approach. Fast-paced technological innovations mean that most of us will soon share our workplaces with AI and bots. The only way to stay ahead of the curve is by adopting a commitment to lifelong learning.

What’s one way managing projects will have changed by 2030?

Forward-looking entrepreneurs who have invested in the development of agile, flexible and creative employees will find themselves on teams able to combine the advantages of the human mind with the most efficient functionalities of technology. We will see two major changes: virtual teams with decentralized workplace models, and automation with humans still providing an irreplaceable combination of leadership, integration of specialists and ethical behavior.

What historic person would you want on your project team?

Alexander the Great. He was a visionary team builder and mentor, and he showed us timeless leadership lessons. And he did it all in his 20s.