Greyhound Radio with Vanitha Narayanan, IBM India – Part 1 of 4

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Catch Vanitha Narayanan, MD, IBM India in a conversation with Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst & Group CEO, Greyhound Research on Greyhound Research’s knowledge sharing series ONTrigger.

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SVG: Hello everybody! Welcome to the latest on the Greyhound Research ONTrigger knowledge sharing series.Today we have the good pleasure of having Ms. Vanitha Narayanan, Managing Director, IBM India. Vanitha, thank you for making time.

Vanitha: My Pleasure. Thank you for having me here.

SVG:  We are at the IBM analyst day. It’s a big day for all of you. I understand a lot of corporate messaging is going out. In India itself everyone talks about that Indian organizations are not at the bleeding edge of innovation and how they’re not using technology?  

Vanitha:  India is not one India. For any of us who have lived here or worked here at any period of time, India is so many India’s.  Twitter_logo_blue

When try to generalize India in one little capsule, you’ll always tend to get it wrong. You will have a part of India that is playing catch-up and will continue to play catch up for a long time. Just like any other country.  Then there is a part of India that is absolutely leapfrogging at the cutting edge which we have experienced. It’s not something that is in the future. We have seen this in the past. We saw India with the telecommunications age. We had no fixed lines to speak of. We have had 8 years waiting period for people to get a fixed line at home. The onset of mobile, India was maybe a decade behind the rest of the world when you look at the 2G era. When you look at the 3G era, India was maybe about 4-5 years behind the rest of the world.  Twitter_logo_blue

You look at 4G, India is right there among the top quadrant countries in terms of looking at 4G. Mobile has become the ubiquitous device. Consider mobile internet or mobile commerce. There’s more mobile commerce in India than there is in United States.  Twitter_logo_blue

SVG: Which is very pleasing to know. The entire investor community is going gung-ho about the entrepreneurial wave hitting the country. Having said that, what I do observe is a lot of deals that we’re a part of, that broken decision making is a big problem for a lot of Indian organizations. Typically, the CIO in the country would be reporting into the CFO and that’s where the understanding issue, the breakage point and the point of failure occurs. Do you observe the same issue when you speak to your customers and your set of influencers around you?

Vanitha: I wouldn’t call it broken decision-making. I think decision-making has got more complex and the structures can vary. Different companies have different structures. You might have a CIO reporting to a CFO. You might have a CTO. You might have all of the CXO’s reporting to the CEO. It is the function of the industry and the client.  Twitter_logo_blue

I think one common reality across any client today that is unique to India is that with technology becoming a core part of systems and decisions and processes whether you are a CFO, a CHRO, a CMO, a CSO, it doesn’t matter which CXO office you are dealing with. Today, technology is becoming integral to that it’s no longer delegated to the CIO and says that the CIO is going to make all the decisions for the company. The CIO can be a co-collaborator with the business organization. The business organization in some cases can say we are going to lead with this and we see that too or you can have you know both of them in some ways come to an understanding of how the enterprises run. I believe this is a function of the projects and programs and initiatives which might be the core transactional systems and we call them systems of engagement and systems of records. The system of record more or less people know how they are structured and it’s about driving efficiencies scale and reliability and very much you see CIOs and CTOs running those system of records.  Twitter_logo_blue

The systems of engagements by definition have to be run by the departments who are engaging whether it’s the suppliers, whether it’s the supply chain, whether it’s the customer, whether it’s the distributors or whether it is the regulatory or the other requirements that a CFO must look at or talent is both, a huge challenge and an opportunity in India. CHROs are becoming very vocal by use of social and other technologies for talent, recruitment and retention. This is really getting the balance right and when you look at the technology quotient of a lot of the different lines of businesses. They are again at different stages of maturity. Partly you now have CIOs in some places who are moving more into Chief Innovation Officers.  Twitter_logo_blue

There are all sorts of digital ambassadors at some places. You could be the data ambassador, or the holder of the data for the enterprise, or you might have these other roles emerging in the other parts of the business depending upon the nature of the business.

SVG: That was very well said and I must compliment you for that. Everyone in the market today is talking about the CIO and the CMO combination. In my humble opinion, it’s a lot more than a CMO because the CFO and the CHRO and even the head of sales for that matter has a very strategic job to do and seldom do we hear in the market organizations and vendors actually go beyond the CIO CMO conversation. Now let me just go back to what you said about talent in India, and I feel very strongly about it because I have been educated here, I have lived all of my life here. The Modi government is going after a lot of Make In India programs. While “Make In India” is great but we must be cognizant of the fact that China has done a fantastic job in targeting the Tier 1 manufacturing which is low grade manufacturing. In my humble opinion we will not make in India successful by adding hordes of people on the manufacturing line and the automation bit is super important. What do you think about the same?

Vanitha: It is. In any area you have to play to your strengths. When you start playing to the roofs of somebody else’s game and you are going to struggle. Yes, China has done this for more than a decade and has done it very effectively. When you look at India, I would say let’s not look at Make In India in isolation but look at Make in India in conjunction with Digital India and Skills India and you start putting those together you really can have an India formula that can be different.  Twitter_logo_blue

What do I mean by that?  Digital India is absolutely central to driving growth in India. We are going to many cases completely leapfrog analog infrastructures and move to digital. That can be an advantage. That’s a good way of looking at the mug half full view. I don’t have to play catch up and I don’t have legacy, so I am unconstrained and I can use the effectiveness of digital, both, in terms of price points as well as in terms of technology and get right there and that’s possible.  Twitter_logo_blue

This is where you come back with a little Skills India as oppose to historical ways skilling. I think the education system really requires revisiting. How can we use massive online platforms? Can we have some kind of a digital repository so that all of the educators can set some level of substandard that people like us and in different industries who are trying to recruit have a common view of what a standard certification is.  Twitter_logo_blue

The industry spends a lot of money today either checking on skills or reskilling or up skilling after we recruit. If we can have a formula and a system what happen overnight. But industry and government working together and educational bodies we know start moving the skilling again, start looking at leap frogging, skilling in a different way.  Twitter_logo_blue

That then says I am not just looking at building or making sense of industrial age manufacturing or China style manufacturing. How can you use automation? You hear about a lot of Indian companies who have been doing software and services who are focused on automation. You have a tremendous amount of technology based innovation in India. It’s I think the third or the fourth largest start-up community in the world.  Twitter_logo_blue

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