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Archive for the ‘High-Tech’ Category

Shantanu Prakash

Shantanu Prakash, Chairman and Managing Director, Educomp Solutions Limited

Shantanu Prakash has an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad 1988 and is a 2012 Advanced Leadership fellow of Harvard University. He founded Educomp Solutions Limited in 1994, a few years after acquiring an MBA degree. His vision has been to transform the teaching-learning process through the use of technology and best practices. The company employs over 14,000 people across 27 offices worldwide. Educomp is the leader in education content, professional development, online learning and the first company to set up high quality schools across the country Under Shantanu’s leadership, many awards and accolades have come Educomp’s way. Educomp was ranked number one in Education & Training in the study, “India’s Best Companies to Work for-2009”. Educomp is a publicly traded company on National Stock Exchange (NSE) in India.
Mr. Prakash is also the founder and Managing Trustee of the Learning Leadership Foundation (LLF), an organization dedicated to bringing best practices in education to under-resourced schools. He is also on the board trustees of over 30 educational institutions including, Modern School Delhi, Sri Sri University and the Great Lakes Institute of Management. He is on the international advisory board of Fundacao Dom Cabral, Brazil. As an investor, Mr. Prakash has made several investments in innovative early stage and mid-stage companies focusing on the internet, education, media, gaming, finance and infrastructure. He is a charter member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) an organization that connects entrepreneurs. He is a frequent speaker in education and business conferences worldwide.

Reflecting on your decision on plunging into entrepreneurship right after business school, what exactly was your thought process?

Well, actually the decision was pretty easy. I had already made up my mind even before I got into IIMA that I wanted to be an entrepreneur! When I graduated in 1994, India was at this very unique standpoint in its history of economic liberalization. The environment all around me was undergoing major changes. There were large opportunities to be tapped. And that’s when I thought of taking advantage of the opportunity at hand.

I grew up in a middle class family and did not have deep pockets backing me. I was therefore interested in starting something that involved a lot of intellectual capital rather than financial capital. Looking back, I did not compare entrepreneurship with job options in MNCs, banks and consulting firms since I never saw myself in those roles. There was therefore no comparison from that quarter. And that’s when I took the plunge! So far it has been a very interesting and satisfying journey. And given the dynamics in the education space in India, I feel like the more you go into it, the more problems you solve around! Education is always an unfinished agenda in India!

What made you choose the education space?

For me it was a blank slate – I did not have any family business or any professional to define my industry! I could have chosen to do virtually anything under the sun! However, education was an industry in which I had the first hand experience of the challenges involved as well as some ideas on how to address them. I started, like most entrepreneurs do, with a vision but not a large expectation of the financial returns. So there was a little bit of both the opportunities that arose as well as some level of intelligence that led to my decision of entering the education space.
We started our journey – the very first business by setting up computer labs in business schools. That’s when we realized that the opportunity was somewhere else. We observed that the parents had very high expectations of their kids schooling while the schools just did not have the ability to fulfill these expectations and the existence of private tutors was a testimony of that observation. We then took to creating content for school education. Initially, while the content was under development we faced several challenges but after 3-4 years when it was fully ready, it caught the eye of everyone in the industry and that’s when we became an industry wide success. We then diversified into teacher and vocational training and today we are present in pretty much every aspect of the education value chain!

What are the key trends or themes you observe, particularly when it comes to the use of technology in education?

India is a grossly underserved market when it comes to education. Our gross enrollment figures are the lowest in the ASEAN region. The numbers have to move to a more respectable state for it to sustain the growing economy and general economic development. There has to be a lot more primary education along with the training of teachers and the first step has to be to create high quality delivery mechanisms to achieve these. I see technology as the game changer that can allow India to accomplish these objectives. However, in addition to technology, the key is for all the players to come together- the government, the private sector as well as the non-profit sector to work together towards these goals.

What are the new opportunities that the Indian education industry provides today?

There are several opportunities today for entrepreneurs to tap into – including teacher training for the over half a million teachers as well as the whole area of vocational training in which 400,000 skilled people need to be trained to work. Then there are areas such as career counseling, teacher and student interaction as well as tuition (E.g. WizIQ) etc.

What would be your advice for students and alumni here at Kellogg who are thinking of returning back to India?

You have gone and had the best education in the world, now you should come back to utilize it in one of the best markets in the world today – India!

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Kunal Bahl is the co-founder and CEO of Snapdeal.com, India’s largest group-buying platform. Snapdeal was started in June 2008 by Kunal and his close friend, Rohit Bansal. Kunal manages the strategic vision, key business relationships, fundraising and growth plans for Snapdeal. He has a degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and a business degree from the Wharton School of Business, and attended the Executive Marketing program at the Kellogg School of Management.

Kunal visited the Kellogg campus in mid-November and candidly spoke to us about his experiences, ranging from his desire to start his own business at a young age to future plans for the portal. It has been an exciting year for Snapdeal – in January this year they closed a $12 million investment round, led by Nexus Venture Partners and IndoUS Venture Partners and in July they raised $40 million from Bessemer Venture Partners. While couponing businesses have continued to spring up and be the subject of intense media scrutiny, Snapdeal has been successful in scaling up its business. The team is currently actively recruiting world-class candidates to join their Indian business.

Following his interview with India@Kellogg, Kunal went on to give an engaging and interactive lecture to students at the Kellogg School of Management – speaking openly again about his experience at Snapdeal, future plans for the business and the emerging dynamic and young culture of the company

You started your entrepreneurship journey by starting a detergent company while still being a student. Please tell us a little more about that experience and your learnings.

With respect to developing my professional career, I have long had the belief that I have nothing to lose and a lot to gain – this motivated me to take risks and start a business at a young age. During my final year of college in the US, I started a detergent business. The highly concentrated laundry detergent capsules produced from this business were eventually sold in 4,000 stores in the US, and went on to be featured in QVC (the US’s leading home shopping television platform), New York Times and The Oprah Book club. While considering different marketing strategies for this business, we issued a lot of coupons and allowed people to sample our products and this was my entry into the couponing business.

Despite globally powerful US brand names on your resume you decided to go back to India. Could you tell us a little bit about what led to that decision and your experience to date?

The answer to that question is pretty simple –while working for Microsoft, my H1B visa ran out and I had no other option but to relocate to India. While I was in the US, the Indian retail landscape had changed and we saw an opportunity to introduce couponing to the market. When we started Snapdeal, it was an offline couponing business, not an online one. In February 2010, we had the offline business running and we decided to test out an online portal. We had a website running in 8 days flat.

Building a strong sales force appears to be a challenging, but yet critical aspect of local deal business. Can you share with us your experience in this regard?

We have invested heavily in building the sales force side of the business, and now have more than 200 people, who are working on the ground and speaking with local merchants. Our sales staff typically consists of young sales talent with a lot of energy and perseverance whom we have been able to train very well.

Can you throw some light on what you mean by ‘Mass customization’?

The Indian consumer market is different from that of the typical Western market. Unlike western cities, Indian cities consist of hyper-local markets such that there are several different markets even within a certain city. Within large cities, customers will be unwilling to travel long distances. Hence, it becomes critical to customize the deals with respect to the specific location and preferences of the customer.

Can you talk more about your plans for the business going forward?

We already operate in 50 cities in India and internationally (Snapdeal has started in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and Singapore) and as we scale we are expecting to move the company towards a broader retail-buying platform, without being restricted to couponing alone. We will continue to develop this general ecommerce platform for the Indian market and act as a marketing powerhouse for merchants and retailers.

Any advice for students who are considering returning to India?

I think this is a great time to go back to India, given the vast amount of opportunities that exist. In many ways, the Indian consumer market today is similar to that of the market in the US a decade ago and offers immense opportunity to those who are willing to go back and start a venture.

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Phanindra Sama, “Phani” is the Co-Founder & CEO of redBus.in, India’s largest bus ticketing company. Founded in Aug. 2006, redBus today has operations across 22 states and offers services for ~19,000+ routes and has built relationships with about 700+ bus operators and 40,000+ travel agents.

redBus is among Forbes India top 5 startups to watch in 2010. redBus is ranked no#1 among the fastest growing companies in India in a survey done by All World Network. Phani was ranked no# 3 among India’s Most Promising Entrepreneurs by Business World. He has been chosen as a Global Shaper 2011 of the World Economic Forum.

Phani graduated with distinction from BITS-Pilani and worked with Texas Instruments, Bangalore before he co-founded redBus.

Could you tell us a bit about your background and your motivation for starting redBus.in?

After graduating from BITS Pilani in 2002, I joined Texas Instruments in Bangalore to work in chip design. I was an incidental entrepreneur. About five years into my job, I was trying to go from Bangalore to Hyderabad for Diwali. While every travel agent claimed that there were available seats on some bus, none of them could book it and kept asking me to try another agent. I ended up not going to Hyderabad. I was intrigued by this experience. I told myself that these available but un-booked seats were a lost opportunity for the customer and the travel agent. As an engineer, building a better system was an obvious solution.

In the early days, my plan was to build an open source solution. I liked my job at TI and did not want to leave it. I thought I could do it on a part time basis. I got my housemates also interested in the idea. Since none of us knew software engineering we bought books to read up on databases and .NET. We thought it was a hobby and we could work on it over the weekends.

Once we got into it, we could not leave it. After 5 months, we had a basic inventory management system ready. We went to the bus operators and pitched it. We had received some interest from them while building the product, but now they were not at all interested. Fortunately, we got some really valuable advice from our mentors and VC investors at this juncture. They pointed out that neither our software nor we had any credibility in this market and we had to establish that first to generate any demand. So we changed track and focused on building redBus.in, the consumer portal to create interest in our service. We started by getting just two seats from an operator and tried selling it on the site. When that worked, we slowly increased the number of seats and that was how we got our initial traction. Now with customers buying tickets off our site, we went back to the bus operators to sell our inventory system. Deciding to focus on the consumer rather than the bus operator was a critical insight and crucial to our success.

What is redBus’ revenue model?

Today redBus has three lines of business. BOSS or the Bus Operators Software System is an ERP platform that gives bus operators access to their inventory. redBus.in is the consumer facing travel booking site. And Seat Seller is a workflow system for travel agents. With BOSS, we charge a subscription fee per month while for Seat Seller we levy a transaction fee. For redBus.in, we earn a commission for each ticket booked. There’s a nice network effect between these three, with say for example, more operators using BOSS leading to a larger inventory available for the redBus.in consumer.

Interesting, could you tell us how you marketed and grew this service in its early days?

Our initial marketing was completely offline. We stood and distributed pamphlets outside technology parks in Bangalore. Interestingly, since we were doing this ourselves, we could therefore answer people’s numerous questions about this service. More crucially, there was also an emotional connection with these people. They connected with us, a group of engineers trying to launch a business and were willing to give us a try. They would go back to their cubicles and talk about redBus to their colleagues.

Regarding the bus routes, we initially focused on just a few routes and tried getting 1-2 operators per route. That helped us do some very basic targeting. An interesting observation was the concentration of communities in Bangalore. For example, you will find a lot of Tamilians in HSR and BTM layout and we targeted these areas since we were selling tickets for the Bangalore-Chennai route.

India has seen a splurge in the number of startups catering to the online booking of hotels, airlines and buses. In your opinion, why have some of these failed and what has been redBus’s competitive edge?

I think the Indian railways booking site (irctc.co.in) established ecommerce in India. Today it is the largest e-commerce site in Asia. Indians became comfortable booking things online and this was a big boon to the Indian e-commerce industry. When I look at other markets in Asia, there is still a fair amount of resistance in booking tickets online.

Specifically at redBus, we have always been very cost conscious. We always felt we were more of a travel agent than an e-commerce site. To keep costs down, we compromised on quality in certain areas. We didn’t set up the best call center or use air-conditioning. I think that every business is unique. We’re in the business of selling bus tickets and our costs need to reflect that. Several people doubted our ability to make money in this sector with small transaction amounts but we’ve managed to do that. Today, we’ve also benefited from efficiencies of scale with in our back end systems and call centers.

The other factor has been our transparency. In this business, its common once you start making money to go back and ask the operator for higher margins. Everyone does that. We have been different. We wanted to be a platform for bus ticketing. Our pitch to the operator has always been that give us an x% commission and unless the industry moves drastically, we will not charge higher commissions. This has built tremendous comfort and today while some operators even do as much as 80% of their business with us, they are not worried about the concentration risk. They look at us as less of a business and more as an organization that sticks by a set of fair rules and regulation. If we didn’t have that kind of credibility, we wouldn’t have survived.

redBus has rapidly scaled up in last couple of years. How have you achieved this and what were some of the operational issues you faced?

We are constantly trying to fix customers’ pain points. Customers often find that they’ve not been allotted the same seat they had been promised. And you’ll find that each bus operator has a different seat numbering system. So we added features such as seat layout and seat numbers. The other feature we added was return tickets booking. Whenever I went to Hyderabad, I had to ask my parents to book my return ticket. Return seats are somehow not available or very expensive when booked from Bangalore.

We expanded offices wherever there was logical connect in terms of routes and where we were sure we could generate demand. Today, for example, we’re selling tickets for buses plying between Kolkata and Dhaka too. Several operators run buses on the return route and want us to support that as well. So Dhaka, might be our first international office!

I would like to mention a final point that every budding e-commerce entrepreneur should leverage. Do a lot of what is called AB testing. There is no scientific way to explain consumer behavior over the internet. Sometimes just changing the color of a button improves that page’s conversion by 10%. The only way to find this is by live empirical testing. The good thing is that the cost of this experimentation over the Internet is very low.

You and your co-founders moved from comfortable corporate jobs to starting your own business? How has the transition been?

The challenges have been very different. They say as an entrepreneur you have high highs and very low lows. Its very clichéd, but very true. When you face the lows, you often begin to wonder what you are doing here. There are huge tensions every single day. People resign, competitors become aggressive, bus operators need to be managed and you then have the half percent of customers who have unreasonable expectations. It’s a crazy demand on your time as you deal with all these issues. Also as we’ve begun to scale up, the complexity and decision making has become tougher.

We have also been a very unusual set of co-founders with very little complementary skills. We couldn’t have been more alike. We went to the same university; we are engineers that lived together. However, I now realize that the level of trust that we enjoy has been way more important than any complementary skills. There have been huge stresses as we’ve built this business. Having this level of comfort and trust has been wonderful.

Where does redBus go from here and where do you see it in the next 3-5 years? What are some of the initiatives that you are currently working on?

We currently do about Rs. 350 – 400 crore (US$ 70-80 million) in gross bookings. Our target is to do Rs. 1000 crore (US$ 200 million) next year. Currently, we only have 2.5% market share and I know we can achieve a 25% market share in the future. In the next 3-5 years, we are going to be working on making this 10X growth happen. If we can achieve that, we’ll be a billion dollar company and that’ll be absolutely fantastic.

Finally, could you share any advice for students at Kellogg that are considering paths in entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship in India is at its best. As a community, we have become more open to entrepreneurs and there’s an incredible ecosystem that is emerging with supportive VC investors, media and events. No company can be built in isolation. You need policies, board members, investors and employees and all these resources are getting easier to find in India. Let me end by sharing another fact. The Indian domestic market is huge, just Mumbai is almost as big as the entire Malaysian market. This market offers any consumer- focused company access to a tremendous customer base that is hard to find elsewhere.

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Ranganath has about 19 years of experience in banking and IT services industries. In his current role as Chief Risk Officer of Infosys, a leading global IT services and consulting company, he is responsible for Enterprise Risk Management program. Prior to his current role, Ranganath has executed several senior leadership responsibilities in Infosys. Prior to Infosys, Ranganath was Senior Vice President at ICICI, a leading financial services player in India, where he held senior leadership roles in corporate finance and treasury area.

Ranganath is a regular speaker and a panelist in international fora on risk management. He is a member of World Economic Council’s global agenda council on risk.

Ranganath is an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and holds Master’s degree in Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai..

An increasing number of global companies appear to be engaging in risk management. Could you start by giving a brief description of what the term risk management means for Infosys?

The immediate objective of risk management is to essentially minimize negative surprises to the achievement of business objectives of a corporation, both from short term and long-term standpoint. The surprises could emanate from business environment, regulatory environment, strategic choices the corporation makes or from internal factors.

There are a couple of characteristics of good risk management.

First of all, risk management will not be effective if the corporation does not have sound corporate governance mechanisms and a truly independent board. Infosys is one of the very few non-financial global companies to have a board level risk committee in addition to having an audit committee. The risk committee was formed more than 5 years ago and comprises of entirely independent, non-executive directors.. This committee reviews top risks and effectiveness of mitigation actions on a quarterly basis.

Additionally, accountability is crucial – risk management should be integrated into decision-making and not simply become an esoteric or policing function. The role of the risk management team is to not only increase awareness of potential risk factors, but also to bring a sense of urgency in taking actions to mitigate the impact of those risks.

How can risk management improve company performance?

Financial markets have consistently rewarded corporations that demonstrate good corporate governance and transparency. Essentially, they reward companies in which there is minimum variance between “outsider view” and “insider view” of corporation’s performance and outlook. Risk management related disclosures bring in another degree of transparency by disclosing the potential risks and their impact. So one can argue that it increases the quality premium with respect to interpretation of the performance of the company.

Further, 95% of the job of the risk management can arguably be said to be around acting speedily to mitigate risks and leverage opportunities. In other words, to bring in a sense of urgency in mitigation actions and in leveraging opportunities, ahead of competition.

An increased focus on risk management, globally, is consistent with not just recent regulatory changes, but also with increasing shareholder activism to increase transparency.

Ultimately, I strongly believe that the “real test of risk management is in good times”, as in bad times, everyone focuses on risk management. Smart organizations do active risk management both in good and bad times.

Infosys has grown rapidly throughout this decade. Which are the key risk areas facing the company and how are you working to address them?

Among our key potential risk areas are the following:

  • Foreign currency fluctuations: Infosys generates more than 98% of its revenue from outside India, of which 65% is from the US, while bulk of the costs are in India. This exposes the company to foreign currency risk.
  • Talent: This is our greatest asset and we need to compete in order to maintain a rich talent pool for business growth
  • Volatility in global economic environment: As a global company, we are exposed to risks posed by volatility in global economy from time to time.
  • Information security: Data protection is integral element of our business and therefore another potential risk area that we need to monitor.

The nature of risk management will vary according to the type of risk – for instance, project risks are managed in a de-centralized manner, whereas foreign currency risks are managed centrally.

Which market developments do you foresee in Indian businesses’ approach to managing risk in the future?

Typically, Indian corporations with global aspirations consistently have posted higher return on equity (ROE), as compared to their peers in other countries. This is in part due to the fact that they are risk takers, for instance by launching into large acquisitions, at times far bigger than the size of the native company – e.g. Tata’s acquisition of Corus.

By undertaking these acquisitions, Indian companies are increasing their global footprint and hence in the process are exposed to risks such as foreign currency, commodity risks and regulatory risks. As a result of these developments, we are seeing an increased investment in nimble risk management – this is a development that I expect will accelerate.

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Rebuilding a Global Brand

Mahindra Satyam BPO’s CEO Mr. Vijay Rangineni, leverages more than 20 years of global operations and leadership experience in the service industry, to rally the entire organization towards the objective of undertaking wing-to-wing ownership of key customer relationships.  With an equally strong belief in employees as key drivers of customer value, Vijay devotes substantial time on the operation floors, engaging with and motivating associates to stay focused on deliverables. A firm believer in the language of metrics, Vijay guides teams in the creation of frameworks to evaluate their performance and undertake consistent process improvement initiatives.

Prior to Mahindra Satyam BPO, Vijay led a successful career with Fortune 100 organizations such as American Express, Morgan Stanley and GE, focusing on critical assignments and turnaround stories ranging from Delivery to Technology and Business Process Reengineering.

Vijay is an alumnus of Kellogg School of Management and also holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from University of Texas. He has addressed many international industry forums and seminars on Operational Excellence.

India@Kellogg discussed Mr. Rangineni’s role in rebuilding an Indian Brand, Mahindra Satyam BPO.

Tell us more about your role at Mahindra Satyam. What do you think are the major challenges that you face at the helm of a new organization?

As the CEO of Mahindra Satyam BPO, I am responsible for positioning the company as a leading BPO among several stakeholders including investors, customers, associates and society.  In addition, I have to hire the right talent to service these communities appropriately.  It has been 2.5 years since I took on this role as CEO and we are going through the most exciting period in the organization.  There has been rapid and visible growth both, from an organic and inorganic perspective.  There has been a strong focus on governance, quality, and ensuring that the entire management and company are aligned with our key areas of focus:

  • Consistent quality
  • Engage leaders of the parent company about proactively meeting customer needs
  • Mahindra & Mahindra, Tech Mahindra, and Mahindra Satyam BPO are properly linked in decision making in shaping the future of the business
  • Communication with key communities including analysts, media, advisors, and customers with frequent interactions about the vision and offerings

In 2010, we renewed contracts which increased business by 120% with the same customers.  Mahindra Satyam also acquired 44 new customers and continues to expand its global footprint in multiple geographies such as South America and South Africa. 

This year the company was awarded as ‘India’s Most Customer Responsive BPO’ at the ‘Customer Responsiveness Awards 2010”, organized by AGC Networks, The Economic Times, Ernst & Young, and Nielsen.

Do you think that there were specific lessons that you learned at Kellogg that were useful when you faced this ‘brand challenge’?

My ‘Entrepreneurship’ and ‘General Management’ courses have been very valuable throughout my career.  I recall discussions with professors on branding and the effort required to ensure premium on brand.  My ‘Accounting’ and ‘Finance’ courses have provided the ability to identify opportunities to turn profits – which levers one needs to move up or down for increasing profits and ensuring superior service.  My communications courses have been useful in communicating with associates and other stakeholders.  People are the biggest assets for a BPO. Ensure you have a good team to rely upon and form one that shares the same values as you and is ready to fight wars for you.  Often, teams are brought from outside but making sure internal teams are also leveraged to the fullest is important.  Overall, application of courses has led to long term sustainable growth.  Even during the crisis that the company encountered in 2009, my learnings and experiences from Kellogg, GE, Amex have been extremely useful.

Despite being in the same industries, Mahindra BPO and Satyam were still two organizational behemoths. What do you think were the main commonalities and differences in the cultures of the two entities. What steps were taken for a smooth integration of the two?

During a merger, it is important to know the synergies and differences between the two parties.  Mahindra Satyam is known for IT and Tech Mahindra for telecom.  .  Additionally, IT has longer deadlines while BPOs have to provide rapid service.  As a result, we needed to ensure several aspects in the merger.  We needed to get to know all the people involved.  We took the better aspects of both companies and infused them in the newly formed company.  Collaboration is key.  We ensured that fiscal disciplines were similar across the board.  We also want to avoid silos by forming teams of senior leaders, sharing ideas and values.  We had an excellent meeting in May 2009 to form the appropriate mission and worked together in deciding the positioning, offerings, servicing customers, meeting customers’ needs.  Tech Mahindra BPO and Mahindra Satyam BPO have synergies that will ultimately bring more offerings for all customers and can meet more needs than ever before. 

How did Satyam’s clients react to the incidents in Jan 2009 and what did the new organization do to contain the brand damage that happened due to it?

Within 3 months of my joining the organization, Satyam was going through a crisis.  One can reflect upon it now more clearly.  This crisis was an unfamiliar territory and no one can plan for it.  My duty was clear.  First, keep customers with you.  Individually reached out each customer and brought them upto speed.  We assured them that there would be no impact to the service levels.  We continued to deliver services.  We spoke to our top 5 customers and all our associates to let them know that we are here to stay.  Our customers believed in us. 

I did not have all the answers.  However, I was on the floor twice a week with clear communications.  I engaged our people and was transparent about what was going on and where we are going from here.  The employees knew that we did not have all the answers, but more importantly knew that I was not hiding any information from them.  As a result, customers and associates believed in us. 

Today, each of the top 5 customers has extended their service agreements for 2 – 5 years resulting in an increase of 50 – 150% in our business.  I believe that all the employees and customers faced the crisis together and it all ended well. 

From a leadership standpoint, my core team of 15 leaders fought through the crisis and we are proud to have retained 13 of them.  The two that left were for personal reasons and professional opportunity, respectively. 

My team relies on me and it is important to be committed to values.

Do you think that the Indian outsourcing industry is here to stay despite the hue and cry about job losses in US and elsewhere? What do you think are some of the new niches, within the outsourcing industry that are yet to grow?

The outsourcing industry is here to stay.  Here are my arguments in favor of this statement. 

  • We are helping our customers to compete more aggressively in the marketplace.  Through our services, we are offering our customers a better expense structure.  Due to this they are able to innovate more and introduce better products in their markets sooner. 
  • In terms of service, any improvements that my company learns from customers in Australia, it can immediately apply to those in the US and UK allowing for cross functional learning and improved service to all customers.  We are enabling our customers to focus on their core business, to become lean, and leading to higher profits
  • From a growth perspective, Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) is growing.  We can do significantly more analytics, increase enterprise productivity more today than was conceivable even 2 years ago. For certain customers, we have been able to consolidate 120 different markets into 1 place and reduce 22 different iterations into 4.  Due to such services, enterprise capabilities to serve their customers across the world has grown leaps and bounds.

To address job losses, I remember in 1985 when I was in the semi conductor industry in the US, there was fear of Japan taking over in this space.  However, it did not happen.  US is still the leader in this industry even though a large part of it has moved to other parts of the world.  Innovation is still happening in the US.  Similarly, we can learn from these incidents.  My advice is that the US should focus on the Obama plan of continued focus on education and innovation which will keep the US ahead.

 

What are the short term growth plans for Mahindra Satyam?

Our growth plans are to focus on closer working between Mahindra Satyam, Mahindra Satyam BPO, and Tech Mahindra.  Focus on continued business with existing customers.  We are now in 7 different countries in Africa.  There are also key verticals for growth including, telecom, pharma, travel, manufacturing.  Multiple geographies, expanding sales and delivery capabilities. 

From a product level, we have identified offerings for growth such as, advantage of dominant telecom capabilities, enterprise services capabilities, and enterprise management capabilities.

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Nokia has played a pioneering role in the growth of cellular technology in India, starting with the first-ever cellular call a decade ago, made on a Nokia mobile phone over a Nokia-deployed network.  Presently the company operates out of offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur, Lucknow, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and Ahemdabad.  Over the years, the company has grown many folds with its manpower strength increasing from 450 people in the year 2004 to over 15,000 employees in March 2008.  Today, India holds the distinction of being the second largest market for the company globally.

We present here an interview with Mr. D. Shivakumar, Vice President and Managing Director of Nokia India.

 

India for Nokia is still the second largest market globally.  What are some of the future plans that will help strengthen this position even further?

India has always been a key market for Nokia globally, and emerged the second largest market for us in 2008.  Our strategy to offer a comprehensive product and solutions portfolio, extensive retail network, focus on customer centric innovation and extend market making initiatives across different segments of customers has helped us maintain our leadership in the Indian terrain.  Additionally, our services portfolio/ position is making consumer experiences with their handsets even richer.  We are working towards making Mobility to the next frontier, through our smart solutions with a host of seamlessly integrated devices and services.

We believe our continued investments into understanding the Indian telecommunications market and consumer needs have helped us invest ahead of time with respect to building a robust national distribution network as well as understanding the consumer’s need for an effective after sales network.  With over 200,000 outlets selling our products over 8000+ care centers across the 400+ cities, our reach and scale is today amongst the best in the consumer durable industry, let alone in the handset industry.

Our investments in unique services like Nokia Life Tools for the rural consumers or Mobile Money services to drive financial inclusion as well as the upcoming Ovi Music Unlimited or Nokia Messaging further demonstrate our understanding of consumer needs at both ends of the spectrum and our ability to address them effectively and thoroughly through collaboration with the ecosystem.  Lastly and most importantly, our investments in people have been the other key factor of our success in India.

What is Nokia doing to stave off increasing competition from other emerging mobile devices from Apple & Google?  Is a Nokia tablet on its way?

While as a company policy, Nokia does not comment on competition, we feel that competition is always healthy and helps in growing the market as well as giving consumers the best possible range/price points.  Being the largest player in the industry, we have pioneered many firsts and we will continue to strengthen our position, going forward, by providing consumers best in class mobile solutions and experiences.

With respect to a Nokia tablet, Nokia has already launched the Nokia 3G booklet.  This device is an all-rounder and is equipped with all the features needed to harness dominant trends and further digitization of our lifestyle.  PC users deserve more and the 3G Booklet gives them just that, by broadening the otherwise predictable PC market.  Further, Nokia has an ongoing and innate focus on driving innovation, we believe we will continue to bring newer, better and futuristic technology/products, devices and solution for our consumers.

Could you tell us more about Nokia Ovi and its objectives?

Ovi is Nokia’s Internet services brand that offers a suite of Internet-based services to consumers thereby offering them a world-class serves experience and realizing the full potential of the Internet through offerings like email, navigation, gaming, etc.  The Ovi services can be used from a mobile device, computer or via the web.

On the mobile device, the Ovi Store provides a one-stop-shop for mobile content that can help consumers personalize their device.  It uses a combination of their social connections and physical location, in turn making it easier for users to discover relevant content based on their current location and the people that matter to them.  The store offers consumers with a range of content from application and widgets, to games, videos, personalization directly on their mobile phones.

Ove Store, which is supported by more than 100 separate Nokia devices, has active users from more than 180 countries.  India is in fact already among the top 5 countries in terms of number of downloads on Ovi Store.

Ovi Store leverages Nokia’s scale to provide content providers, developers and operator partners with a potentially lucrative and unrivaled opportunity to target consumers.  In fact, Nokia offers the best business opportunities through the Ovi Store business model and by simplifying mobile application development through cross platform technologies.

  • Publish.Ovi.com is self-service tool that provides content providers and developers with an easy way to distribute and sell their mobile applications and content to millions of consumers via Ovi Store
  • Ovi Store supports a range of content types including Symbian signed apps, Java verified apps, WRT widgets, Flash Lite apps, audio, video and images
  • Thousands of content providers and developers from over 65 countries around the worlds are distributing content through the Ovi Store
  • Ovi Store offers a very competitive industry standard 70/30 split (same as the competition) between content publisher and Nokia.  While these revenue shares are competitive, we believe our offering will be more attractive to developers because of a greater scale of devices, both legacy and future devices that our service will reach
  • Nokia has tied up with a diverse assortment of Indian developers and content providers to provide rich, relevant content to local consumers and the Ovi Store supports the widest range of content and file types including applications, games, videos, podcasts, productivity tools, web and location-based services and much more.  A few key widgets are:
  • India Today (India Today)
  • Rediff Money (Rediff)
  • CNBCN18 (Network 18)
  • Galatta Cinema (Galatta)
  • Games (Amar Chitra Katha and Lemon Quest)

Nokia also has a distinct advantage over other similar stores, as we already have a mature base of developers and applications as a benefit of alignment with Forum Nokia.  Forum Nokia is Nokia’s global developer support organization.  With more than 4 million registered developers around the world and over 1.8 million Indian developers creating localized application for Indian users, we feel that the Ovi Sotre will have much in store for our Indian consumers.

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