Dr BVR Mohan Reddy
CMD, Infotech Enterprises, India
Q. What has been the corporate philosophy underling the success story for Infotech?
A. I guess the two key drivers that we have are ‘motivation for achievement’ and the ‘need for excellence’. My philosophy is that you have to excel in everything that you do. Doing things every time as a new challenge is what we try to ingrain as a culture in our company. You have to try to reach out to the people and motivate them; the point is you try to be the best. So the performance bar keeps moving up. But everybody cannot be the best; somebody has to make things better than others. That’s how our company moves and in the process there are several achievements that keep happening. For example, take quality. We put targets for our quality achievements. In 1997 we had to have ISO 2000 and by 2000 we had to have CMM Level 4 certification and then we went up to achieving CMMI Level 5. You constantly put targets and allow people to excel.
I take the example of KPN Telecom. We did a large project for them and completed the project efficiently. When we started the project, our digitizers were keeping pace in the range of 300 metres per hour (in terms of digitization). Our client felt that we should be doing more like 700 hundred metres per hour and was apprehensive of us finishing the project in time. But by the time the project concluded in March 2007, the digitization was being done at 1300 metres per hour. And the project was completed 30 days ahead of schedule.
The second part of the story is, you need to have a vision for yourself, a mission to accomplish it and suitable strategies to achieve them. You can’t simply say that I will become a hundred million dollar company and keep thinking about it. It is not going to happen. You need to strategize yourself in order to achieve that. You need to articulate your vision around people. That is what enables us again to achieve a milestone.
Q. How do you strike a balance between project conformity, time schedule, budget and quality?
A. Optimised budgeting comes through operational excellence. We improved our operational margins by 200 basis points. This has come about as a result of volume which contributed about hundred and twenty basis points and 80 basis points came from operational excellence. Going back to the KPN project where we improved from 300 metres per hour to 1300 hundred metres per hour is an example of operational excellence. It will not come from beating the guy and saying, ‘move faster’, ‘move faster’, why are we not doing things efficiently?’, because the guy is not kept in the complete process. You need to put a lot of effort in training. And then we look at another factor that we all believe in, that efficiency and productivity goes up because of full usage, not because of asking people to work harder and work extra hours. We develop certain tools to help our operators become more productive. Efficiency and productivity come from optimal usage.
Yes budget is one of the challenges. At some level we do think that we have overdone on quality and as a result the client has said that you guys haven’t produced efficiently and here you are going to lose money. In Infotech compromising on quality is ‘unpardonable’. It is the only word that I can use if you have a quality problem. You can have a delivery problem but a delayed delivery is a second thing. Without quality, the purpose of delivery doesn’t exist at all. The third one that we look at is the budget. We believe in achieving the first and the second followed by focusing on the budget. We delivered millions of hours of work to Pratt & Whitney. In the last 9-10 months we gave hundred thousand hours to them, every month. There was not a single instance of what in engineering terms is known as ‘turn back’ (when we are told by client that mistake have taken place). There was not a single instance of even an hour’s delay from the commitment which we have made to the client.
Simply put, our company’s success story is “PPT”, People, Processes, Technology, Tools and Training. Our ability to recruit people, retain people and reward people makes us a people oriented company. We have come up with ‘Measure to Manage’ systems in our organisation. We measure what is measurable, we analyse it, compare it, find the deviation, then zero down to the root cause by relentlessly asking this question, why.. why… why?.
Today, we believe that we should have tremendous amount of domain knowledge and, at this point of time, it is important to be focused while building it. We have to talk to the customer in his own language and domain knowledge helps us in doing the same.
Q. What has been the driving point for the Infotech’s belief in inorganic growth?
A. First and foremost, in the last twenty four months Infotech did not make any acquisitions. Over the last twenty four months we had all organic growth. As far as Geospace Integra is concerned, we have just put in the money. We have grown from 60 million dollars to 120 million dollars in the period from March 2005 to March 2007. We therefore grew twofold in two years.
Acquisitions are good but the question is why did we acquire a company and continue to acquire others? We acquired companies in the initial days because we wanted a geographical presence, enabling us with direct marketing. Local geographic footprint/interface has always been helpful. We also went through the process of developing partnerships. In a partnership mode there are positives and negatives. Your organization actually doesn’t have the ability at that time to move up the value chain, because you don’t interface with the customers in a direct mode. The partner is the customer and you are in the back of the partner.
A third thing we were doing was achieving traction in terms of volume growth and that is the example of Tele Atlas India which we acquired. We created a big volume of projects. So, in terms of acquisitions. I think acquisitions are important for Indian companies, especially at this point in time because all Indian companies are attempting to move up the value chain. You also need to have technology led change, you need to have domain led change, only then will you move up the value chain. How long can a salesman of 10 years experience go and talk to the VP of Engineering. He can’t. He needs to have a domain expert who can engage with the VP and head of GIS, telling them the things that the company can do.
You have to reach a level where you can add to the profit of your customer by suggesting better alternatives and delivering innovation. As the association becomes stronger the business scales up.
Q. What has been your experience with some of the infrastructure projects in India?
A. Very positive and at the same time I should say these are in the very initial stages. Geospatial tools are not being used extensively in infrastructure projects. If you look at what is happening at this point of time in our country, it is only in the last ten years that we have privatized power generation. Transmission and distribution remain primarily in hands of the Government, almost 90 percent. Previously the power sector could be termed as a huge monolithic organization, having generation, transmission and distribution all within one company.
Q. What is the relevance of domestic geospatial market?
A. The domestic market should improve. Due to the lack of a strong domestic market, Indian companies face lot of challenges in the international space. The point is, where will we get the expertise to provide value addition to global customers? If you look at the private sector which started using IT many years ago, as a result of that, you have a strong IT base for the country providing services globally based on experience gained in the domestic market. Coming back to the GIS industry, Survey of India is the only acknowledged mapping agency. There is nothing like a geospatial industry in existence over here. The domestic industry has to take off and there is enormous advantage to derive from it. Because my trainee engineers cannot immediately work on projects overseas, we have to first act locally, with local supervision, which is a cost effective way to train people to provide value added services overseas later on.