Archive for the 'Business' Category

From Military Service to Corporate Jobs – The Indian Experience


Today , I read about a commitment by Starbucks to hire military veterans  and their family members publicly stated as a branding exercise !. What a noble way of recognizing the contributions made by the Armed Forces of USA ! . I am also aware that the US Government and the Industry gives utmost priority to employ Military Veterans in Civilian jobs after their engagement with the Forces. In the UK , there is a Govt sponsored Career Transition Partnership [CTP ] to connect military veterans with the Civil Industry.

Hiring veterans from the military is a good business , according to a research through in – depth interviews with individuals representing 69 companies across the US , by Margaret C Harrell and Nancy Berglass from the Center for a New American Security . Advantages as per this report for hiring military veterans are –

Leadership and Teamwork skills , Character , Structure and Discipline , Expertise , Decision skills in a dynamic high risk environment , Proven success and Loyalty .

Back home in India , in spite of  a full fledged Resettlement Directorate functioning with the Ministry of Defense , and various appeals made from time to time , only a very small percentage of the Armed Forces  veterans who retire at a comparatively younger age get a second career in the civil .  Of late , there are many isolated initiatives by many agencies to conduct training programs and orientation programs but these are yet to create an impact because of the lack of willingness of the Corporate World to come out with a process to enable this. There is also no stated policy or commitment from the Government to facilitate this transition.

The general public and the Corporate World know only about the primary role of the Armed Forces – defending the nation against any external aggression. Therefore , the only skills that they generally attribute to the military officers and soldiers is in the domain of security jobs and at times general administration.  In today’s  hi -tech and most complex military environment , the men [ and now women ] in arms , possess  very high degree of expertise in many fields of technology and engineering which can be gainfully utilized by the corporate organizations. In addition, the excellent managerial and people skills of the officers  who have been tested in high pressure situations with an ability to taking responsibility for their actions and getting things done first time , can be exploited by the society at large . They are quick to learn , picking up new skills and can adapt to new circumstances with ease.

I had read a paper on this titled ‘ Share our Brain Ware ‘ in the first Army – Industry partnership seminar organized by the CII [ Confederation of Indian Industry ] at New Delhi in 1995 while I was serving as a Dean of the Management Training Wing at the Military College of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering at Secunderabad . It was well received by the participants and some follow up action was initiated to get the details of skills and expertise from the Army sources for dissemination to CII member organizations. We also had successful Army / Navy / Air Force Officers who made a mark at Chairman / MD of public sector undertakings and other large organizations addressing the gathering.

I claim to have succeeded in my transition to the civil on my retirement from the Army after 30 years of service. What helped me was the following credentials –

A degree in engineering , my exposure to the discipline of management through various courses in premier Army institutions , a MBA from the Indore University obtained while in Army Service , my 3 year tenure as an Assistant Military Secretary at  the Personnel Branch at the Army HQ dealing with career planning and placement of senior officers in command appointments and my tenures as Managing Director  of an Army Base Repair facility manned mainly civilians who are governed by the factories act , followed by my tenure as Dean at the MCEME .

I had a successful civil career spanning 10 years with the IT Industry , working with a global IT Company  as Head of Operations and later as Corporate Head for Knowledge and Learning for their Indian Arm. I also worked for another 10 years as the Executive Director of HYSEA – Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association [www.hysea.in] , the only state level association in India for IT Companies .

I am not an exception – there are many more such profiles in the Armed Forces – with Army , Navy and the Air Force looking for a suitable break with the Industry . A few years back , the Indian Institutes of Management came out with a 6 months training program especially packaged for the officers of the Armed Forces . This was a welcome step but I remember many of those who qualified in those program , reaching out to me at Hyderabad for referring them to someone known to me. Therefore , there is a dire need to institutionalize this transition and I am sure the corporate world will benefit immensely from the well honed skills of the Military Veterans and at the same time fulfill a societal obligation they have to the nation. I sincerely hope the noble example I quoted in the beginning from the US will motivate the Indian Industry to take note and come forward to address this issue .

Re – Imagining Infosys – Come back of Nandan Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani is back with Infosys after a gap of 10 years , this time on a SOS call from the co-founders and the board  to release the bellwether IT Company from the recent controversies it got mired into , initially with the strong criticism on the board’s functioning by Narayana Murthy [NRN] , the co-founder of Infosys in 1981 with a shoe string budget , followed by the resignation of Vishal Sikka , the first CEO  from outside ,  selected by the board unanimously in 2014 to re-position the company to meet the market challenges posed by the competition and technology necessitating a new business model . Sikka delivered in 3 years and took the company to a better standing among its competitors but  his style of functioning and the tacit support he received from the board  [ now without any founders as its members ] was  not received kindly by NRN . The ” fight ” went out to the market and the Organization suffered in its standing in the public eye.  The stake holders including the clients in 45 countries with a market cap of more than $ 34 billion and the co-founders  who own 12.8 % of the shares could ill afford this situation and immediately did a rescue act by recalling Nandan to take charge  and steer the ship to safety , balance and future prosperity.

I have been closely following Infosys , at least from the late 90’s when they established their  facility at Hyderabad . I believe  , the then Andhra Pradesh Govt had to have several meetings with NRN to persuade him to open a branch at Hyderabad . I had an informal meeting with Chandrasekhar Kakal ,the first center head nominated for Hyderabad in my office with Metamor at the Cyber Towers when he came over to check with me on the availability of a temporary office for Infosys. He finally managed to get a few seats with the STPI [ Software Technology Parks of India ] facility in Cyber Towers on rent . Today , Infosys has two major world class facilities in Hyderabad employing more than 30,000 professionals and is a dominant player in the Telangana IT Eco System.  As the Executive Director of HYSEA [www.hysea.in ] I had close interaction with Infosys , Hyderabad and all the Center heads from Kakal , Narry , Ravi Kumar , and Manisha has been members of the Managing Committee of HYSEA [ www.hysea.in] I met Nandan Nilekani during 2005 over a break fast meeting with HYSEA’s Managing Committee and was greatly impressed by his professionalism and a ” no nonsense ” approach to anything in  business and life.

Nandan has been largely responsible in taking NRN ‘s legacy forward when he stepped into his shoes as CEO of Infosys . The culture , value system  , corporate governance , and impeccable credentials of Infosys is well known in the Industry. He later on became the public face of the Company and took it to greater heights and profits making it a truly global entity. It is therefore proper for all concerned to bring him back in this moment of crisis to do the balancing act and chart its future with a new board . I heard his press briefing today thanks to an on line coverage by Economic Times , and was very happy to listen to his deliberate and measured  words to the media at the same time stating his immediate priorities candidly. He started by saying he is back because there is no one else , partly joking but otherwise meaning every word of it !. He assured that he represented 100 % of all the stake holders and has a  ” clean slate ” to work on ,assisted by a newly constituted board and the second rung of leaders in the company. His tasks are to build consensus , bring in stability , find a new CEO from among the insiders/ outside / Infosys alumni who moved out in the past to other organizations with the help of a search committee under Kiran Majumdar Shaw , CEO of Biocon , and work with clients , institutional investors co-founders and all others in this endeavor  . He specifically mentioned the need to ” patch up ” with NRN , the industry icon whose concerns needed  to be addressed on priority.

Nandan Nilekani  joined Infosys first at the age of 26 in 1981 , was its CEO during 2002 -07 , continued as its Co- Chairman till he left to take up his job with the Govt of India , heading the UIDAI project , another path breaking  performance which earned him great accolades from all. He is back  with Infosys at the age of 62 to  stabilize the company using his consultative skills as its HCF or LCD as he jokingly stated to the media today. Having read all his books , starting from the seminal work  ” Imagining India ”  and observed him and his style of Leadership from a distance , I am very confident that this new task is really cut out for him and he along with his team will bring this very resilient global company to greater heights and glory very soon.  As he himself stated today , this is also one form of serving the nation , while answering a question from the media. Time to Re-Imagine Infosys , Nandan .

Vishal Sikka’s message to Infoscions – A great lesson in Leadership for all

Dr Vishal Sikka resigned today from the post of MD & CEO Infosys attributing unrelenting , baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks on him . The board of Infosys supported his reason and also named the founder of Infosys  as the person Sikka was attributing in a statement to the shareholders , released to the Press. Not a happy ending to the stellar performance in all dimensions for a struggling bellwether IT Giant when Sikka took over command in 2014 . This blog is not to do a critique on the incident or its fall out but only to quote Mr Sikka from his farewell letter to ‘Infoscions ” which caught my attention from a Leadership perspective .

An extract from his letter –

Three years ago, I started this journey with a calling , to help reshape the company around innovation and entrepreneurship , to deliver breakthrough value for clients , and to help elevate our work  , our standing , ourselves , on the basis of a dual strategy , bringing together duality of renew and new , automation and innovation , people and software, to show a new path forward in a time of unprecedented disruption within the industry and beyond . That time , around and before June 2014 , was a difficult time . Our growth rates were low and attrition was high. There was a sense of apprehension all around and I came here to help enable a great transformation as our core business faced intense pricing pressure , and clients looked increasingly to innovative partners to help shape their digital futures. Now,a bit more than three years later , I am happy to see the company doing better in every dimension I can think of .————

And I am proud of how we have upheld our values , our culture , our integrity ,whilst we have gone about this massive transformation .

—————- I was ,and remain, passionate about the massive transformation opportunity for this company and industry , but we all need to allow the company to move beyond the noise and distractions .———–

Together we have achieved a lot . —- We have laid the foundation for the next 30 years of Infosys , and I feel deeply proud to have worked alongside all of you in sowing the seeds that will return this company to the bellwether it once was. As you’ve all often reminded ,Infosys is no bigger and no smaller than any of us ,the people,the Infoscions.  You are the ones that will take Infosys to the next 30 years and beyond. As I think about the time ahead, for all of us , I can only see us powered by a freedom from the known, of renewing ourselves to thrive in the time ahead. Each one of you has vindicated my deeply held belief that people are capable of doing more ,  achieving more, being more, than they ever imagined possible . So , keep pushing yourself to do better at whatever you are good at , but also learning to do things you have never done before ,indeed,nobody has ever done before —.

Advice and wise counsel to emulate for all leaders who would like to embrace change to grow their organization !

 

Internet’s Next Users – A New Paradigm

The Wall Street Journal [WSJ] of 8th August 2017 features Megh Singh , a smart phone user from Delhi , India. Megh Singh, 36, is a coolie porter in New Delhi Railway station. He does not read English and is not comfortable to use a keyboard. That does not stop him from checking train schedules, messaging family and downloading movies on his smart phone. He sits either in the Railway station’s stairwell or at times on the door steps of a stationary train ,whispers into his phone using speech recognition on the station’s free Wi Fi using a Sony Smartphone with 4 GB storage .On his phone are some of the popular apps -Google Search ,Facebook,WhatsApp and in addition the Chinese UC Browser and MX Player.

India has one of the largest population of mobile phones- more than 900 million and counting [ much more than toilets, some statistics state] and more than 30 percent are Smart phones like the one with Megh Singh , mostly with Android operating system. One need not be Internet Savvy in the conventional sense to use such phones.   This new paradigm is transcending the traditional package needed to attract the “second billion ” users of the Internet as per a spokesperson from Google. The beauty of this new trend is that it is independent of any language and relies heavily on the visual and auditory sensation in human beings .  Tim Cook ,Please Note !

[ See the feature ‘ Internet’s Next Users:More Video,Less Typing contributed by Karan Deep Singh in WSJ dated 8th Aug 2017]

 

A WINDOW side view of Microsoft Leadership over the four decades

It was early 2000 and the venue – The Shilpa Kala Vedika at Hitec City , Hyderabad [ christened Cyberabad later on ] . A large crowd of Software professionals and leaders from that Industry were anxiously waiting for Bill Gates to appear on the stage to demonstrate the much touted device – The Tablet PC . I vividly remember the high dramatics attached to this event when Bill finally appeared on stage and presented the device to the delight of all assembled in the hall. It was global leadership in action from a position of dominance!.

Microsoft was in existence almost three decades before that and Bill’s body language reflected the fabulous success saga of his enterprise shaping the virtual world through his WINDOWS rooted in technology prowess.

Come late 2000’s , and we have a true dramatist and high flyer sales guy in Steve Ballmer , Bills’s successor with a larger-than-life image hugging people and shouting on stage proclaiming the dominance of Microsoft products against a tough and competitive business landscape in the form the likes of Google and others , not to talk about the issues connected with Anti Trust and piracy.

Tune to early 2014 and after 39 years , we have the third CEO of Microsoft – Satya Nadella again from Hyderabad India taking over the mantle from Steve Ballmer . His interview telecast recently with a business correspondent in the US was in stark contrast to the styles of Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer . Nadella’s affable ,gentle collegiate style appeared to all the reflection of a new chapter in the business history of Microsoft giving hopes of a collaborative style . It looks like he knows where the Industry is heading and his belief in breaking traditions and embracing Innovation to go forward displays a cultural shift for the mature company to transition into new business breaking from past glories and missed opportunities.

Monetising ” Likes ” – The Facebook Decade

Facebook turned TEN today . With more than 1.2 billion users worldwide , the organization has been a great mover and shaker in the social media scene with a significant brand loyalty . The migration to the mobile space has been smooth , smoother than its going public and the new forays into mass media and enterprise space is yet to show results.

The greatest asset of Facebook is its users – a captive target group in different demographics – the dream target for any marketing venture . Even though the young profile itself is shifting upwards age wise over time , it is still a major resource to monetise with an innovative business model superimposed on it . I am certain the future of Facebook will see more actions in this space as otherwise,as predicted by Princeton University report , the “likes ” by themselves may peter off over time.

The Power Shift across the 31st Parallel to the South

The world famous management guru Ram Charan in his book titled “Global Tilt” discusses the shift in economic power from the Northern Hemisphere [ US,Europe , Japan and Russia ] to countries like China , India, Brazil , Middle East and the African countries across the so called 31st Parallel. These countries have of late shown a new capacity for economic up swing upsetting the age old belief that the North held the key to economic prosperity. Many of them have in fact come out with innovative business models surpassing the wisdom of the erstwhile giants from the North.

Ramcharan himself represents this outlook in many ways. From humble beginnings in India , over the last 50 years of work life, he has become an undisputed global management Guru highly respected by all in the C suites . His clients included late Steve Jobs, Jack Welch ,Michael Dell and Howard Schultz. His ideas are always current and are sought after by all.

In his book Global Tilt, he has narrated many success stories from South of the 31st Parallel. One of them pertains to the Indian Telecom giant – Bharti Airtel. The growth of this enterprise from humble beginning through innovative business practices both in India and in Africa through acquisitions is well known in business circles. Airtel ,as per today’s news have more than doubled its quarterly earnings during this quarter.

Some of the other large scale enterprises [LSE’s] from the South which find a mention in Ram Charan’s book are Huawei and Haier of China , Samsung of Korea , GMR from India , SABIC from Saudi Arabia , Zain Group in Africa and AB InBev of Brazil .

According to Ram Charan , a global company in the tilt will have a headquarters in the South ,will have leaders who keep a keen eye on the macro landscape ,will have goals,performance targets and accountability linked to real time challenges ,will redeploy resources quickly as per market dynamics ,will have closely connected decision makers ,will move decisively ahead of others and above all will have the psychology to accept that some things are unknowable,and the confidence,flexibility and resilience to adopt.

Philanthropy for Results

It was indeed a pleasure to go through the 13 December 2013 edition of Forbes Magazine ,Indian edition where the year’s winners for Philanthropy awards are profiled. Godrej Foundation, The Bajaj Family ,Amit Chandra ,Archana Raghuram , Narayana Health of Dr Devishetty , Romesh Wadhwani ,Swati and Ramesh Ramanathan , Anu Aga, Rohini and Nandan Nilekani are all there in the list.

What struck me this time is the new emerging fields and the process accompanying the same in the selection, management and metrics of the various initiatives by the award winners . Also, the scaling up of the scope and reach of the endeavor . For example , look at Dr Devishetty’s attempt to open a hospital chain at Cayman Islands , a location generally known as a tax haven for the wealthy to park money . Amit Chandra bringing his business networks to his philanthropic work or Archana and her team bringing engineering and problem solving abilities to the table ,or Romesh Wadhwani’s efforts in job creation are all path breaking efforts in Result oriented Philanthropy. The idea of philanthropic capital by Nandan Nilekani and operationalized by Rohini or the efforts in building sustainability in philanthropic models by the Godrej Foundation are also worth mentioning.

Indian Philanthropy has come of age and is ready to scale new heights. The future definitely looks promising.

Innovative Business Models

The Forbes India magazine published on 30th March 2012  has an article titled ” Where’s the Party Tonight? ” by Abhishek Raghunath where he talks about the  Party Hard Drivers [ PHD ] an agency in Mumbai who employs expert drivers to help those people who are too drunk after a party to reach home . The Times Life page of  today’s Times of India profiles Shankar Narayan who has supplied the pug dogs for the popular Vodafone advertisement s , 500 rats for the Hindi film Josh in year 2000 , cockroaches for the HIT advertisement etc .

Two very innovative business models indeed . The Mumbai Dabbavalas have become famous internationally for their six sigma standards of performance in running an innovative business ,  meeting a social need in an urban setting in India. There are many such success stories in India , some of which like the two examples given above may not have caught the public attention.

Innovation by its very nature  should meet a gap in the human need either at individual level or at society level and should be marketable and scalable . A low cost airline introduced by Captain Gopinath a few years back – Air Deccan is one such example . The Jan Shatabdi Express train of the Indian railways is another case in point . The advent of Web 2.0 and Social networking coupled with mobile applications permit such innovative and low cost business models to evolve and succeed .

When I was an engineering student , I had an interesting experience at a local post office during 1960 . One old man requested me to fill in the details in a Money Order form which he wanted to use for sending money to his son . When I helped him out , he offered to pay me one rupee for the service rendered which i politely declined . Then he told me that this is the going rate for such a professional service at that post office .  A very old innovative business model meeting a social need !