Kannan has about 20 years of association with NGOs and other groups engaged in rural development. He founded Vortex in 2001 to develop technologies appropriate to rural India. He is also founder of a matriculation school in Tamil Nadu. He is associated with the LRAMP programme of IIT Madras that mentors grassroots innovators. He holds various patents on the vortex ATM design. He completed his B.Tech (Mechanical Engg.) from IIT Madras.