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.

Sil­i­con Val­ley

“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

busi­ness in­tel­li­gence.

“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.

Ac­tive role

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.

Fu­ture plans

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.”

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