“QATAR SHOULD BECOME ANOTHER SILICON VALLEY”
In the wake of one of the biggest financial scams that involved an IT major in India – Satyam Computer Services – Mahindra Group brought a 42.7% stake in the fallen company. Tech Mahindra CEO and Managing Director C P Gurnani tells Qatar Today about the g
In the wake of one of the biggest IT financial scams that involved a leading IT company in India – Satyam Computer Services – the Mahindra Group brought a 42.7% stake in the fallen company in 2009.
The company has since operated under the name Mahindra Satyam and has emerged from the crisis profitable, posting a net profit of 9.01 billion rupees (QR555 million) for the financial year ended March 2013. The same year, Mahindra Satyam and Tech Mahindra merged into Tech Mahindra; to be among the top five IT services companies.
Five years is considered too short for any business house to rehabilitate a sick company but the task was fruitful and much of the credit goes to C P Gurnani, Chief Executive officer and Managing Director of Tech Mahindra.
An accomplished globe-trotting businessman, whose career spans more than three decades, Gurnani is said to be instrumental in the transformation of Mahindra Satyam before it merged with Tech Mahindra. Of course, this was not the first time he had played such a role, as he was involved in several start-ups and was the brains behind many mergers and acquisitions in the past with a known rate of success.
A graduate in chemical engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, he believes in enthusiasm coupled with dynamism and commitment as he applies the dictum “work hard play hard” in all aspects of life.
When Gurnani joined Mahindra group in 2004, the company had 5000 employees on the payroll and today it is a QR12.74 billion ($3.5 billion) company with over 90,000 associates across the globe. Tech Mahindra is a people's organisation and follows the tenets of Mahindra Rise.
What made Gurnani succeed in creating a name for Tech Mahindra as an IT services and telecom solutions business around the world was his remarkable acumen for business: being a resourceful leader coupled with a sharp focus on customer experience.
This was one of the qualities which earned him the Ernst & Young Award for the Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007. He was also named as CNBC Asia's “India Business Leader of the Year” and Dataquest “IT person of the Year” in 2013.
But even with all his accolades, Gur- nani is a modest man, as he attributes the success to team work and the support extended by his associates and colleagues. “I am a people's man and learned my work from them. I have achieved all this with my team standing behind me like a rock. Positivity and mind relation is what we try to understand,” Gurnani says.
He also dismisses the “command and control” theory and is of the view that responsibility should be shared by all. “I believe in setting stretching goals for myself, sharing the vision and ambition with the team and then working towards achieving the goal, together. I also believe that we are a formidable team, and should keep faith in ourselves,” he says. In an exclusive interview with Qatar To
day during his visit to Doha few days ago, he spoke about the prospects of the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) industry in Qatar and in the region, his company's association with various local organisations, and the heady days of rehabilitating Mahindra Satyam among others.
“Since Qatar is developing human resources, I think it should become another Silicon “The good thing is that the importance of ICT is being felt by customers in the region. The bad part of it is that while the world around has become doctors of cloud technology, the region has not embraced the technology as fast as the rest of the world. We have to grow the market and catch up.” Valley of the Middle East,” Gurnani says whilst predicting the country's future in the growing ICT sector.
He says Qatar has been investing in education, and the upcoming Education City is a bold initiative of the government. While Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is stoking innovation, world class universities like Carnegie Mellon University, Stenden and North Atlantic have opened their campuses and are doing research in various disciplines to benefit mankind.
He also feels that GCC countries need not enter into the business of software exports like India, since they have a different set of challenge compared to West Asia. India's population is 1.2 billion whereas the GCC, with its limited population, is a net buyer of technology.
On Qatar's ICT sector, he says the government has prepared an ICT plan that it is part of the economic transformation taking place in the country.
However, the country has challenges as it is moving away from its dependence on hydrocarbons and marching towards urban development to create infrastructure, meant for those planning to visit the country to take part in the 2022 FIFA World Cup but also to meet the goals and objectives enshrined in the Qatar National Vision 2030.
These are growing pains and people are trying to synchronise in delivering projects. One should not be concerned at these hiccups as they are part of growth pains that comes to any developing country. “I believe Qatar wants people to come and take part in its growth process, through leadership and taking responsibility for its multiple projects,” he says.
As far as GCC is concerned, he says there are good and bad initiatives for ICT growth. “The good thing is that the importance of ICT is being felt by customers in the region. The bad part of it is that while the world around has become familiar with cloud technology, the region has not embraced the technology as fast as the rest of the world. We have to go the market and do lot of catching up,” he says.
On the positive side, he says GCC has IT majors such as Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle as partners and business has taken off particularly in analytics, and
“In certain areas, GCC is strong and ahead of the market in some of the mobility solutions. Today, some parts of the GCC markets are even talking about smart cities, smart connected utilities such as stadiums, smart homes and e-governance. They are far ahead of countries such as South Korea. If you look at the GCC plan and architecture pertaining to ICT, there is a consciousness to lead,” he says.
Tech Mahindra will be 15 years old in November this year and is involved with several firms and government related entities. Tech Mahindra is in touch with the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, which is organising the FIFA World Cup.
“The preparations for the event are in a fine shape. I am confident that Qatar will deliver a flawless World Cup because of its early investment in technology,” he says.
“Retaining customer confidence was a formidable challenge for us when we took over Satyam computers in 2009 and we had to put an end to the looming uncertainty over the fate of hundreds of anxious employees,” Gurnani recalls the days when the company had to go through the repair and rehabilitation of a sick firm.
“While 30% of the customers decided to part from us, the remaining 70% stayed with us to take part in the rehabilitation and I am grateful to them for reposing confidence in our ability. This showed that our decisions were flawless and expectations met in totality in 5+ years. We could do it because of the hard work of our Board of Directors, partners and associates,” Gurnani says, with a wide grin on his face.
“I feel that it was one of the best journeys we ever had. We look back with a sense of pride and satisfaction.”
Recalling Tech Mahindra's success, Gurnani says that as an organisation, both within and outside India, it has taken up the responsibility of transforming companies around the world into digital enterprises. Tech Mahindra has a significant role to play in the digital age and transformation and its focus ia on Network, Mobility, Analytics, Cloud and Security (NMACS).
However, Tech Mahindra's venture in telecommunications is nothing new as it was associated with British Telecommunication and gained considerable experience in network services. “We have worked with all mobile operating systems and with mobile handset manufacturers to provide to provide edge in technologies. We have 125 business analytics platforms which we categorise under I-decisions,” he says.
Comparing Dubai and Doha and the two big events the respective countries are going to host, Gurani feels that both events require different skills. Expo 2020 will require the biggest event management team and will last for a whole year. I personally feel that digital growth rate should be increased ten times so that it will leave an everlasting impression about the event. I am sure the IT Ministry in the UAE has plans and Tech Mahindra hopes to play a positive role in hosting World Expo 2020.”
Two mega events
On Tech Mahindra's role in the two mega events that are coming up in the GCC, Gurnani says having these two events around same time is a huge challenge for both Dubai and Qatar. These countries should have the necessary infrastructure in place. New cities have to be built to cope with the number of visitors who will descend on the region to take part in the two events.
“The UAE and Qatar expect more than two million people to visit their countries during the FIFA World Cup and World Expo 2020. The support systems should be strengthened and both the governments are already working in this direction,” he says. He feels that Qatar is better off and well prepared to host the World Cup as it has the experience of organising the Asian Games in 2006.
With regard to future plans, Gurnani says Tech Mahindra has the ability to set up a “Centre of Excellence” to undertake research and development for which they need to actively collaborate with the government.
“The research can be taken up in any field, be it Information, Communication and Technology or the food sector. We also have the ability to do micro financing, develop smart cities and provide the technologies needed for urban development and also equip the campuses with technology. I think there are a plethora of opportunities in various fields,” he says.
For the younger generation, his advice is simple. “The next generation is clearly smarter than we are. My only request to them is before they do 100 things, they will have to prioritise and stay focused on at least some of them.”