Archive for the ‘tête–à–tête with Sohini’ Category

Business Through The Lens Of Mythology

The world of business and the world of our mythological tales are not too different. Speaking at the recent Infocom Kolkata 2014 event, well-known mythologist, author and Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group Devdutt Pattanaik throws light on the various aspects of business through the lens of mythology.

 Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt Pattanaik

Pattanaik, who graduated in medical science and boasts of his highly acclaimed book ‘Business Sutra’ and various other books in mythology, believes that while the various characters in mythologies are different, situations that arise in today’s business world are often similar. According to him, institutions aren’t based only on rule of law and regulatory policy, but also on the social, historical and cultural context.

While trying to apply the meanings of terms from Indian mythology to modern corporate management, Pattanaik explains the context of Swarga or heaven and relates it to business. He says, “Swarga has the Kalpataru tree which gives you what you ask for. There is infinite return without investment.” This is something many managers look for. However, Swarga is nothing but a comfort zone, it is temporary, it is illusionary and it is under attack. “Those managers, like Indra or king of Swarga are always worried.”

In contrast, he explains Vaikuntha, where Vishnu prevails, is the place where business prosperity can be achieved through peace. Today’s CEOs and C-suites have to be driven towards “Vishnu-hood”, a more idealistic way of doing. “Vishnu engages with others – he is participative,” Pattanaik adds. So is today’s business that requires collaboration with shareholders, customers, employees, vendors, regulators or even the society.   He also throws light on talent management –  especially in an industry such as IT which is seeing a high attrition. Pattanaik believes the ashrama system of Vedic times was an attempt to ensure smooth transition to the next generation of kings while the old king was alive.

“Retirement was a critical step, a quarter of one’s lifetime, when one stepped away from actively running the business to enabling the future generation to take over the reins. The point was to render oneself useless over a period of time so that when it is time to renounce the world, the next generation is already running the show responsibly. Thus a vast proportion of time was invested on the next generation, so that a new world order can finally be established, he explains.

This is a big lesson in modern management when it comes to succession, people management and nurturing talent.

Pattanaik believes that the western model of doing business may not serve well in India because it operates in a different context, socially, economically, politically and psychologically. The Indian way of business is highly individualistic, emotional and relationship-driven.

Finally, one can see the relationship between the rishi and the rajas as one between a consultant and a CEO of an organization. The stories reveal how the relationship can benefit both rishi and raja. The rishi and the raja belong to two different worlds, just like the outsourcing partner or a consultant and a king and what matters is how they can work in coordination for organizational benefits.

Pattanaik concludes that management is not anything new to this land, which has a long history of culture, tradition, and ethos. Ancient India led in overseas trade and commerce. Considering that it has now become imperative in the current scenario to identify innovative and creative tools and technologies to beat the competition, it is worthwhile to delve deep into the Indian mythology for a fresh framework in management.

[The article has been published in CXOtoday.com]

“IT is our key service level differentiator”

In an exclusive interview with Sohini Bagchi, Dr. Amarnath Ananthanarayanan, MD & CEO, Bharti AXA General Insurance elucidates the role of CIOs in the sector and throws light on how internet based insurance selling will make technology all the more relevant for the growth of the insurance companies in India.

amarnath-bharatiaxa

Dr. Amarnath Ananthanarayanan, MD & CEO, Bharti AXA General Insurance

How has been your entrepreneurial journey and what have you enjoyed the most in your role as the CEO at Bharti AXA general insurance?
It all started when I moved to college from school and my father told me to do something of my own and establish my credentials rather than join his Chartered Accountancy practice which would have been the normal thing to do. I did my PhD in Economics and taught in Rutgers University before moving back to India to start working with GE Capital in Gurgaon. I took up multiple roles in GE including operations, business development, marketing and sales with an attempt to improve on my areas of weakness. In addition to making my weakness less pronounced, it also gave me a lot of confidence to do things that I had never done including taking calculated risks. The 11 years in GE which provided cross country and cross culture exposure culminated with my being the GE Capital Asia leader for insurance distribution. The challenge of setting up Bharti AXA general insurance attracted me and for the last three and half years we have been growing by leaps and bounds here. What I did and enjoyed doing here is creating an empowered and motivated team and the most enriching experience has been developing a common culture that imbibes innovation, professionalism, pragmatism, teamwork and integrity. We hope to continue building the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders and come across as the preferred general insurance company in India.

Please elucidate the role of the CIO in your organisation and how do you think the role has changed over the years?
The CIOs role in an organization is one of the most critical because to a great extent, it defines the way the organization operates. At Bharti AXA general insurance, the CIO’s role is to pave the way for the organization to maximize its resources at minimum costs apart from helping us create the vision for the future. I believe that the CIO’s role in vision creation is very important. Over the years, his role is becoming even more strategic. The technology and telecom innovation is happening at a very fast pace in our country – much quicker than in other areas. This would provide a perspective in the way enterprises will be structured and operate in the future.

How has technology shaped the insurance sector, especially in India?
In the insurance sector especially on the retail side from application forms processing, to issuing policies, to receiving claims information, to settling claims, IT provides a key service level differentiator for the business. It is increasingly improving turnaround times, minimizing defects and lowering operational costs significantly. All of these add to the overall profitability of the business helping it to grow even faster. The advent of internet based insurance selling will make technology all the more relevant for the growth of the insurance companies. In fact the online insurance market is going to be the next big thing offering customers their preferred products only at a click of a button. In the insurance market, the online strategies would also bring about more control from an operational perspective. Moreover, as the internet penetration is growing rapidly in the rural parts of India, the right mix of telecom and technology solutions has the potential to create a completely new online distribution channel that will play a significant role in the future.

Tell us something about your company’s roadmap?
Bharti AXA general insurance has grown from an annual gross written premiums of Rs 32 Crore to Rs 1000 Crore of gross written premiums soon focused primarily on motor insurance. Going forward, we would like to diversify the portfolio and get significantly more contribution from commercial lines of business and health insurance. We hope to grow at a CAGR of 20 percent plus for the next few years in our quest to become the preferred general insurance organization in India.

(The interview has been published in cxotoday.com. For more information, log on to: http://www.cxotoday.com/)

Doing things the IT way

bikram-globsynIn an enlightening conversation with Sohini Bagchi of CXOtoday, Bikram Dasgupta, Chairman & CEO, Globsyn Group explains the integral role IT plays in Globsyn, and the CIO, like all other department heads in his organisation is expected to play a leadership role to steer business.

You played an important role in India’s IT revolution since its early days. Please tell us something about your journey so far.

I always wanted to do something different and worked towards that goal in my own ways. I passed out from IIT Kharagpur and then went to the Harvard Business School in the US. I started my career with HCL in the early 1980s. After being one of the main forces of the company, I quit HCL in 1984 and co-founded Pertech Computers Ltd (PCL) with five other people, looking after major operations including sales and marketing, international business development and new strategic project. PCL became one of the leading names in the Indian PC market and an attempt to bring PC to the masses. It was there that I bagged an export order of $50 million from Dell Computer that still remains a landmark deal in the Indian hardware industry.

When the industry was going through a transition, I felt this was the right time to start a business model built around the fundamental concept of infrastructure and institution. In 1995, I returned to my home town Kolkata and founded Globsyn that emerged as an innovative institution in the field of education, training and software. An important part of my career journey was creating Infinity that played the role of being the catalyst in bringing the IT revolution in West Bengal in terms of manpower and growth.

In a career spanning close to three decades, it had been a wonderful journey being at the forefront of founding organisations, mentoring people, particularly yourngsters and spearheading industry associations, thereby, putting India on the global IT map.

What role has IT played in transforming the organisation? What new technologies are you planning to explore?

IT is synonymous to the Globsyn culture and values. We believe in doing everything here the IT way. From the very beginning, we at Globsyn hired a team of experts who can manage everything from storage to security and various enterprise applications within the organisation. At Globsyn, IT focuses on building add ons that offer our customers a competitive advantage. Our IT systems, be it our servers or web applications always ensured operational efficiency and spurred innovation and are strongly aligned to our business goals. We have four major divisions including Globsyn Business School, Globsyn Crystal, Globsyn Infotech and Asian Institute of Family Business. To manage all the operations seamlessly, we have implemented a centralised server system. We have deployed an in house CRM to strengthen customer relations and a software system to track new business developments. We further invested is high definition IP cameras for surveillance that allows us to monitor what’s going on in the classrooms by sitting on the desk. We have also invested in a digital library that is the first of its kind in the state.

What are the new technologies you are toying with?

We are a highly technology driven company and believe in constantly exploring new technologies and innovate with IT. Currently, we are upbeat about cloud computing as it has a huge growth potential, especially being in the education domain. The need for large and expensive hard-drives and processors are reducing by the day. I believe that everything will move to the cloud in the days to come. And this is one area we are toying with especially with connection to photos and videos.

Social media is another area we are aggressively working on. Our student portal ‘Kommunity’ which is soon to be launched will be one of the leading platforms to connect and share with education as the primary theme. We are also exploring the various advanced modern tools and techniques of ICT that can be integrated into our learning system. With the help of new technologies, we are taking our information to the rural level and this I can tell you in going to be a landmark project.

What is the role of CIO in your organisation? What are the traits you believe a new age CIO should possess?

The CIO like all other department heads has a decisive role to play in Globsyn. There was a time companies hired technology heads to look after technology infrastructure and management. But change is inevitable you see for example, look at the media industry itself and the way technology has changed news reporting. Similarly, CIOs role started changing with the change in the business landscape and the evolution of new and emerging technology. Today a CIO is no different from any department head, especially in Globsyn, where he assumes a leadership role. And like any other leader, he should have the vision, the power to mobilise and inspire groups and have the integrity to win the trust of his team and the management.

Most importantly, the new age CIO should use technology as a mean to drive business growth and therefore he should be extremely business savvy. He should have a thorough understanding of business operations, work closely with business and navigate the management in IT related areas that can bring maximise business value within the enterprise.

(The interview has been published in cxotoday.com. For more information, log on to: http://www.cxotoday.com/