A Veteran IT Leader

AK Mitra, 49, Corporate IT Manager, ICI Ltd, has spent more than
a decade with the company in various IT functions. Currently, Mitra is heading ICI Group’s
global as well as Asia-Pacific IT forums. He is also a Global Steering Group member of
ICI’s current major standardization initiative, titled ‘Project Quantum’. In conversation
with Sharmila Chand, Mitra outlined some of the key features of IT functioning at ICI.
Excerpts:

How active is ICI as an IT user?
All managers and most white-collared staff are active IT users in ICI India. Every manager
is globally linked with his or her counterpart in other countries on an instantaneous
basis for messaging, information dissemination, and access to knowledge/discussion
databases. Lotus Notes, is the lifeline of the entire ICI organization. The ERP package,
BPCS, is used in most of manufacturing sites, while an in-house developed package is used
at over 100 sales offices/godowns for front-end sales operations. VSAT communication is
used to provide reliable communication, at the moment, to 20 major manufacturing sites and
offices. Videoconferencing using ISDN has recently made a beginning in ICI India.

How critical is IT to your
organization?

ICI India’s strategic vision is to grow 10 times over its 1995 base, latest by the year
2005. The top management recognizes IT as the key enabler.

What is your main platform?
ICI India uses AS/400 in most of the businesses as the platform for running the ERP
package, BPCS, covering the manufacturing, financial, and purchase functions in an
interactive manner. There are larger sized LANs at each of these sites to which AS/400s
are also attached. At the sales offices and distribution godowns across the country, which
number more than 100, a tailor-made package runs on small LANs for carrying out order
processing, invoicing, local stock accounting, and debtors accounting. The data from
godowns flow into appropriate regional offices via floppy transfer or dial-ups, and after
the first level of consolidation, they are sent to the BPCS site over VSAT for uploading
into BPCS databases. In the offices, Lotus Notes is widely used and Lotus SmartSuite is
the standard desktop package.

Are you thinking of implementing
ERP package?

ICI India implemented BPCS at its first site in 1992 at a time when on a global basis, ICI
had SAP R/2 and BPCS as the alternate standard for ERP. Since SAP R/2 ran only on
mainframes, BPCS was the choice. ICI India had to develop several add-on modules to take
care of statutory requirements as well as specific needs of the businesses, not provided
by the Vanilla BPCS. We will continue to use BPCS as a tactical solution till the year
2000. However, we are open to review our options for selecting the ERP solution that best
meets our emerging business needs.

Is there any particular area in IT
you are focusing these days?

Some of our focus areas are improved supply chain management, increased exploitation of
Lotus Notes infrastructure through new workflow applications particularly in the area of
customer support, innovation, and knowledge management, and Millennium proofing of all IT
systems.

How much do you spend on IT every
year?

ICI currently spends approximately 1.2 percent to 1.3 percent of its turnover on IT.
However, this figure is likely to go up in the coming years.

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