As mid-career resets go, investment banker Srinivasa Rao Aluri’s was nothing out of the ordinary. After 16 years as an investor, Aluri was bowing to burnout, but also keeping an eagle eye on the next big thing. While still at US-based bank Morgan Stanley, when deal-making was getting to him, Aluri had enrolled in the first batch of Global Executive Leadership Programme at Yale University in the country. During this time, he also spent time at the Singularity University on the west coast near Stanford. Seeds were sown at Singularity but saplings grew when he later spent a month as a monk at a monastery in Nepal. 

That was 2016. 

Four years later, in the middle of a raging pandemic, Aluri doesn’t tire of talking about cyber security. QNu Labs, which he floated in 2017 after months of inner and outer search, has built deployable products for quantum security that only a handful of companies in the world can lay claim to. As geopolitical tensions escalate, hack-proof technologies, which seemed distant and tailor-made for the defence, suddenly look appealing for civilian use. 

When we started QNu, says Aluri, I had five years in mind. “Everyone told me it’s a while away. But everything changed with Google claiming quantum supremacy quantum supremacy Google AI Blog Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor Read more in September. Suddenly quantum computers looked real; that made our proposition strong.” 

If a quantum computer is real, all encryption that exists today, no matter where, can be broken in no time. 

Digital communications, from messaging services like WhatsApp and ShareChat to online banking, e-commerce to mobile transactions, all have some underlying encryption. It is built on the premise that the algorithms, which scramble data from the sender to the receiver, are based on hard mathematical problems that require humongous computing power to crack. 

With quantum computing—a new kind of computing based on the laws of quantum mechanics—all such algorithms can be easily cracked. Simply put, mathematical hardness, or factoring of large prime numbers, dissolves in the face of the brute number-crunching prowess of a quantum computer. 

When Aluri started, he had no clue about quantum. Or electronics. But he did it because he thought it was an idea whose time had come. He asked himself, if he can’t do it with his money and network, who will do it?

Sunil Gupta, CEO, QNu

Countries like Israel and China are ahead in developing quantum cryptography. Others need to catch up, or, as the Quantum Alliance Initiative (QAI) at the Hudson Institute Hudson Institute Hudson.org Quantum Alliance Initiative Read more  in Washington shows, band together.

AUTHOR

Seema Singh

Seema has over two decades of experience in journalism. Before starting The Ken, Seema wrote “Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech”, published by HarperCollins in May 2016. Prior to that, she was a senior editor and bureau chief for Bangalore with Forbes India, and before that she wrote for Mint. Seema has written for numerous international publications like IEEE-Spectrum, New Scientist, Cell and Newsweek. Seema is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Foundation Research Grantee.

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