Finn Worm Petersen, founder of Nor­we­gian global tech­nol­ogy com­pany TIQRI, re­flects on achieve­ments of his 200 em­ployee strong com­pany in Sri Lanka .

TIQRI’s founder and for­mer CEO rem­i­nisces about the suc­cesses so far, while out­lin­ing fu­ture chal­lenges as the com­pany con­tin­ues to evolve into an in­ter­na­tional player.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - HENRI VIIRALT

This year marks the tenth year an­niver­sary for the global soft­ware de­vel­op­ment firm and Mi­cro­soft gold part­ner TIQRI Cor­po­ra­tion, which has of­fices in sev­eral ge­ogra­phies. This Oc­to­ber marked an­other sig­nif­i­cant event for the com­pany, when founder Finn Worm-Petersen stepped down from his po­si­tion as CEO. Tak­ing the reigns over is Shamira Dias, an in­dus­trysavvy pro­fes­sional, who has taken on the chal­lenge ahead in mould­ing TIQRI from a SME to a truly global en­ter­prise.

I am very happy about tran­si­tion­ing to Chair­man be­cause Shamira has been with me for a long time – he was with me at Ex­ile­soft for seven years (the soft­ware com­pany Mr. Worm-Petersen founded and helmed prior to TIQRI), right up un­til I left with the com­pany. He spent sev­eral years at Nas­daq-listed com­pany VirtUSA, lead­ing busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion pro­grams and a team of 300 soft­ware de­vel­op­ers and IT spe­cial­ists,“Mr Worm-Petersen says.

After step­ping down from over­see­ing day-to-day op­er­a­tions, Mr. Worm-Petersen says he is still fully en­gaged, spend­ing “a lot more time in the mar­ket”, which sub­se­quently al­lows him to take a more strate­gic over­view of TIQRI, and how their cus­tomers ex­pe­ri­ence the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Now that we’re up to 200 peo­ple, we’re def­i­nitely un­der­go­ing a par­a­digm shift – up to this point we’ve been a clas­si­cal SME where every­body knows every­body, and all of the sud­den you’re bump­ing into peo­ple in the stair­case, won­der­ing who that was.”

Head­ing for­ward, Mr Wor­mPetersen says one of the pri­mary ar­eas of fo­cus is mak­ing sure all TIQRI em­ploy­ees are pulling in the same di­rec­tion as the com­pany is trans­form­ing into a larger en­tity.

It’s a tough thing at times to bring to the board, but you have to main­tain a long-time per­spec­tive on what you’re do­ing and swal­low­ing those costs pays a div­i­dend in the end - we now have peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing their 10th year work an­niver­saries with us at TIQRI. In­vest­ing in peo­ple has been ab­so­lutely piv­otal to our suc­cess”.

As the com­pany keeps grow­ing, an­other side of the equa­tion is how to suc­cess­fully man­age the in­creas­ing num­ber of teams and en­sur­ing they are able to meet the high ex­pec­ta­tions of clients in ma­ture mar­kets.

“We’re do­ing a lot of work on how teams and project man­age­ment has to adapt to these new chal­lenges. Ba­si­cally, the goal is to have a se­ries of small com­pa­nies run­ning un­der one um­brella com­pany. I’ve al­ways been im­pressed of how well IBM has man­aged to run a half a mil­lion-strong work­force, act­ing as a small com­pany. In prac­tice, it means there is a very short dis­tance to travel from when some­thing needs to be done to de­ci­sion-mak­ing, with­out all the lay­ers of bu­reau­cracy in be­tween.”

TIQRI has ma­jor clients in the credit card, trans­porta­tion, health­care,

au­to­ma­tion and sen­sor sys­tems on their ros­ter, which means deal­ing with ex­tremely tech-savvy clients on a daily ba­sis.

“The hard­est part has been bring­ing to­gether peo­ple from dif­fer­ent parts of the world and or­gan­ise them to work as a team. This means over­com­ing any ob­sta­cles, as well as es­tab­lish­ing a mu­tual un­der­stand­ing based on the same ba­sic goals and prin­ci­ples. This can be a tough job with peo­ple sit­ting in the same room, let alone dif­fer­ent coun­tries!

It was ex­tremely tough 20 years ago when I started in Sri Lanka and we didn’t have video con­fer­enc­ing tech­nol­ogy, but even with all the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, at the end of the day, it’s vi­tal to have peo­ple meet face to face - it’s the only way to move past the ‘us and them’ or ‘you and me’ sort of thing. We in­vite our clients to come down to spend 1-2 weeks with us, do­ing work­shops and have a laugh and a beer – let peo­ple be peo­ple.”

One of the key ini­tia­tives to bridge the cul­tural gap and bring the world closer to Sri Lanka‘s boom­ing tech scene has been DEV DAY, an an­nual in­ter­na­tional tech con­fer­ence held by TIQRI, is now in its sixth year run­ning.

“The ini­tial idea be­hind DEV DAY was that since it’s im­pos­si­ble for us to send all of our em­ploy­ees to all these con­fer­ences around the world, we started think­ing why don’t we get a world­class, in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence go­ing in Colombo in­stead. It helps to ex­pose our em­ploy­ees to cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies and what the cus­tomer, liv­ing in a hi-tech en­vi­ron­ment, ex­pects as a base­line.

In the first few years, we had some speak­ers from Nor­way join­ing, now they’re com­ing from all over the world. This year, for ex­am­ple, we have dr. Anita Sen­gupta, a rocket sci­en­tist with Elon Musk at Hyper­loop One, and formerly with NASA’s jet propul­sion lab­o­ra­tory. Her key­note is ti­tled ‘The next fron­tier; Hu­mans on Mars’. When we have peo­ple of her cal­i­bre com­ing in, that adds a lot of value to the lo­cal com­mu­nity and in­spires our peo­ple.

There are three sep­a­rate tracks to choose from and we’re com­pletely sold out with over 400 reg­is­tered par­tic­i­pants this year. I guess it’s be­com­ing a bit of a thing, re­ally.”

In Oc­to­ber, Sri Lankan Prime Min­is­ter Ranil Wick­remesinghe com­menced on a three-day of­fi­cial visit to Nor­way, the agenda in­clud­ing a visit to XXL Ware­house, where the robotic ware­house tech­nol­ogy of TIQRI-part­ner El­e­ment Logic is de­ployed.

“We’ve been work­ing with ICT Nor­way and their Sri Lankan coun­ter­part SLASSCOM over many years, play­ing a role in es­tab­lish­ing their part­ner­ship and bring­ing more aware­ness of the Sri Lankan tech ca­pa­bil­i­ties to Nor­way. Ear­lier this year, I had met with one of the lo­cal min­is­ters in a pri­vate so­cial set­ting, dis­cussing how to fur­ther the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween our two coun­tries. Later, they or­gan­ised the visit with the Nor­we­gian For­eign Min­istry.

One of the com­pa­nies the PM vis­ited was our part­ner El­e­ment Logic, whom we’ve en­joyed a suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship with for the last ten years. They’re on the cut­ting edge of ware­house au­to­ma­tion and well on their way to be­com­ing a bil­lion NOK com­pany. Over­all, it was a very suc­cess­ful visit and I hope to see more Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with Sri Lanka, since it’s a much closer fit be­tween our small coun­tries than In­dia, which tends to be the go-to out­sourc­ing coun­try. Mind you, the av­er­age com­pany there has any­where be­tween 5,000 – 30,000 em­ploy­ees, which is not a great match with a Nor­we­gian com­pany with 50 – 200 em­ploy­ees.

In terms of fu­ture prospects, Mr Worm-Petersen says the in­dus­try is be­com­ing a lot tougher as a whole and in­ter­nally it means TIQRI has sev­eral chal­lenges to over­come. He at­tributes a large por­tion of the com­pany’s suc­cess to long-term part­ner­ships with their clients, play­ing an ex­tended tech­nol­ogy part­ner role, and be­ing able to scale up and down as the need may be of the client. Mov­ing for­ward, “busi­ness as usual” will be chal­lenged by in­creas­ingly com­plex soft­ware sce­nar­ios, and shorter soft­ware life­cy­cles. With Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) as the holy grail of the tech in­dus­try, it means that there is a lot of pres­sure on the engi­neers, who have to con­tin­u­ously adapt to an ever-shift­ing land­scape.

“We have to re­ally ask our­selves why we want to grow past 200 em­ploy­ees – and in or­der to scale up, we need more re­sources, more peo­ple on the job and of course, more money. As the tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges in­crease, it will be in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to re­main rel­e­vant and a suc­cess­ful SME in our busi­ness over the next ten years. That’s my big­gest con­cern– the minute we stop chal­leng­ing our­selves and stop grow­ing, we’re prob­a­bly head­ing for the dust bin.

It’s an all-in game to go in­ter­na­tional with soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, it’s not about find­ing a bunch of guys in Asia, set­ting up an of­fice and do­ing some Skype calls; you have to take it as se­ri­ously as you would in Nor­way or Brus­sels. The key learn­ing from over the last decade is that there are no short­cuts or half mea­sures – it’s boots on the ground, all in for the long-haul. It starts with en­gag­ing the com­mu­nity and ends with mak­ing sure your ev­ery in­di­vid­ual em­ployee is march­ing in the same di­rec­tion.

It takes grit and com­mit­ment in or­der to glob­alise a small com­pany the way we have done, but I must ad­mit that I’m thank­ful I didn’t fore­see all the chal­lenges we would en­counter along the way.

That be­ing said, it’s been a most ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing jour­ney, and I’ve en­joyed ev­ery step of the way. I can’t wait to see what TIQRI will man­age to achieve over the next decade.” F acts A.

TIQRI has of­fices in Nor­way, Swe­den, us­tralia, Sri Lanka, Sin­ga­pore and Viet­nam a.

Key ar­eas of ex­per­tise in­clude digi­ti­sa­tion nd soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing

Fuji Xerox, El­e­ment Logic, Cush­man T. & Wakefield, and Sen­sor Link are some of IQRI’s port­fo­lio clients

TIQRI or­gan­ises DEV Day, an an­nual m. global tech con­fer­ence and Kids Can Code, a onthly cod­ing club for kids

has over 200 ac­tive em­ploy­ees

PHOTO: TIQRI COR­PO­RA­TION

PHOTO: TIQRI COR­PO­RA­TION

Above Left: Out­go­ing TIQRI Cor­po­ra­tion CEO and now Chair­man Finn Worm Petersen and in­com­ing CEO Shamira Dias in front of the com­pany’s Colombo of­fice. Above: Pe­ter D'Almeida, CEO of n*able at DEV DAY in Novem­ber 2018.

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