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We'll do better if we ride the right changes, says Tech Mahindra CTO

B Dasararth Reddy/Hyderabad 12 Aug 17 | 10:19 PM

Atul Kunwar, CTO and President, Tech Mahindra

Atul Kunwar, president and chief technology officer of Tech Mahindra, believes that the emerging changes in technology services sphere would benefit IT companies immensely if they are able to ride on the right changes. He explains to B Dasararth Reddy how Tech Mahindra has been gearing up to tap the new opportunities while handling the underlying challenges. Excerpts of the interview:

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Our ability to entrust more complex functions to machines has brought a paradigm change in enterprise management and business solutions. How Tech Mahindra positioned itself to handle these new technology scenarios?

As newer, more complex tasks need to be done you need to have the skills to programme those devices and machines because on their own they are of no consequences. This becomes especially important when new sources coming in like AI, IoT as they add new dimensions. It's almost like a non-living becoming a living. There are skills that are evolving around that and so obviously we are investing very extensively in terms of getting to be a leader in that space.

The second part is that traditionally you may be doing those things and processes very differently and that could have been more manpower intensive and it may have also used some older tools, which are going to become less useful in the context of this change. As a consequence, you need to provide an opportunity to people that they can migrate into new reality and new realms.

As a firm we are giving opportunities for people across the board to become the expert on the one end or to migrate on the other end and to actually look at the third line option of going to a different vertical that is not moving very fast. Cross move, cross skill or become an expert in a new skill.

Could you give a specific example on how this transition is being handled by both the company as well the tech associates working for the company?

We work with SAP very closely on one of their skill sets called Fiori. There is no such thing as a ten-year old Fiori expert because the whole technology is fairly new, where it gives a different way in which old data can be presented and how customers can interact with traditional data. Traditional data is there but at the front end, it's all changing to Fiori.

Whoever picks up Fiori can now become part of building customer experience and whoever does not pick up Fiori will no longer be part of customer experience. They can still continue in the back-end and or they can say, 'ok, I will build experience in a non-Fiori environment'.

So, opportunities exist. Just saying that I will only continue to do the same thing.. that may not be possible. That's the change that has come.

Has Tech Mahindra identified such new business opportunities or the emerging needs of global enterprises that can be quickly tapped into for its growth?

Absolutely. One of such opportunities was Fiori. That is an emerging area. IoT, AI etc add a new dimension to an entire data set. And there is the entire digitisation that is happening. It's not about automating or digitising existing processes but even looking at new ways to do it. That is the evolution that is happening on the software side. So we are participating in that big time.

On one hand, we are looking at traditional services and automation, AI etc. The second area very clearly is digital transformation. And the third angle is that a lot of customers are saying that they want to do managed services both at the highest and the lowest end of the spectrum. At the highest end, there are things like cyber security. People have realized that in cyber security it is simpler to do managed services and be really up to date or do it in-house and not be up to date. Technology is changing a lot of paradigms and it's work in progress.

How the front-end and back-end operations of a business enterprise are changing? How relevant are these changes for an IT company?

Earlier it was totally centred on working with the IT organisation or the CIOs in the front end. Now we have to work with all the other people, including marketing people and chief operating officer, because a lot of things or operations are coming into IT. Now you need people who can actually articulate solutions or even look for solutions. It is a fundamental change.

On back-end, it is increasingly becoming what one would call a utility. Every service has to be a utility grade, there has to be a minimum level of commitment and it has to be always on, it should have the resilience like any utility you would expect, that everything has to be within the prescribed parameters. Every service has become a utility. So effectively the people who are working on them are working to more stringent customer outcomes.

Indian IT industry is facing challenges in terms of business growth. Is it because some of the services being offered by the IT companies lost their relevance?

It is not that it's the services that have lost relevance. Customers' needs are similar. They want to go from one thing to another thing, from one outcome to another outcome. In the old days it used to be flat files and then data bases and now it is real-time. As things evolve you have to use newer and newer technologies. That's the change that's happening.

Conceptually that's what we are seeing. Originally lot more things may have required a lot more effort and now they have become part of a solution. On top of that, you can build simple rules and use AI. In the old days you may be needing 5 mechanics to repair a vehicle and today you may need only one mechanic for one vehicle. We are going through a similar paradigm change in technology space, it is going very rapid, but it will create a new realm of productivity gain for customers as well as for the people who support it.

What is changing here is, how did you deliver that IT. It needs new ways to do it. To sell some solutions you could be able to take some of the risk and tell a client 'if I succeed then you pay a share' or go for payment-by-transaction which is a managed service. The paradigm of the solutions is changing, and the technologies that go into that solution are changing.

What is the business outlook going forward?

Q1 profits rose (in sequential terms) because we have responded to some of the challenges that we came across in the fourth quarter. We are responding better to market needs. We will do better if we ride the right changes. That is the nature of the technology.

Will more acquisitions follow as part of your growth strategy?

We have always been acquisitive in nature to support business solutions. It's about newer skills, newer capability and newer markets.

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