An IT Visionary

A veteran in the Indian IT
industry and listed in the International Who’s Who of Professionals, Barun Roy has been
associated with computers. Starting with Telco in 1969, he later joined the company’s
sister concern Tisco in 1987. The past 10 years for this graduate from IIT and MBA from
XLRI also include a three-year stint with the UTI Bank. Currently the Vice President of IT
for Nagarjuna Group, Roy spoke to N Sailaja on the group’s IT endeavors.

Fp-1.jpg (8253 bytes)What are the IT
initiatives of your organization?
IT is on the highest pedestal for the Nagarjuna Group, which is a diversified
conglomerate. The group in the past lacked a concerted effort on the IT front and till as
late as 1997 there was no standardization of IT functions within the group. The scenario
is different today as we have devised an integrated IT strategy. The very fact that the
systems department was under the purview of the finance division and is now an independent
sector reporting directly to the group chairman indicates the changes brought about within
the organization. My vision is to create an image for the organization’s IT activities
which will serve as a role model for other users in the region to emulate.

What is the IT platform of your
group?
Manageability in today’s context is a very important issue. Hence the requirement
for a highly integrated and parameterized software and hardware. The IT platform for the
group will be based on an open systems architecture and the chosen route is Unix operating
system with standardized RDBMS. On the networking front, the intention is to avoid
overdependence on any one system. The network comprises a virtual LAN, Gigabit Ethernet
and a hybrid VSAT network. For the office automation server, we are using Lotus Notes.
Windows NT is being designed for administrative purposes in the future. A special Domino
server with firewalls is being created for Internet access to users. The whole idea is to
choose an operating system that is able to support the different hardware platforms.
Vendor support is an important issue and should offer such options as fault tolerance,
upgradability and expandability. Furthermore, all the employees are being provided with
the latest computer systems with Internet facility.

How is the IT strategy being
implemented across all the divisions of the group?

We have chosen to undertake ERP route through built-in BPR scope at NFCL. The first phase
of ERP implementation will initially focus on NFCL’s activities which is the mainstay of
the group. There are also other agricultural companies in the group including Nagarjuna
Palma, Nagarjuna Haifa, Vietnam Sugars and the recently acquired Gayatri Sugars. Once
through with ERP implementation in these divisions, the attention will be shifted to
integrating the other operations through IT. Determining the BPR route and selection of an
ERP package and the best of business practices will be done based on the reorientations of
a leading international management consulting group. At a later stage, we will also
seamlessly integrate other services such as finance, corporate planning etc.

What are the major problems that
you face as a user company?
Firstly any change involves some resistance as it entails curbing freedom.
Further, lack of knowledge on the part of vendors creates problems. Price could be another
major deterrent. The Dollar-to-Rupee conversion factor creates problems. The vendors
should check their reference point and analyze if the price equation holds well in India
too. The large vendors can come down on prices and penetrate the market, they should also
check that the earnings via spending in all the markets are the same.

What is the biggest challenge to
the domestic IT industry today?
Manpower is currently the biggest problem for the domestic IT industry today. We
only have masons while architects are the need of the hour. The companies face an enormous
task of retaining their employees. Technology is changing continuously and there is an
insatiable desire in the young professionals to use the state-of-the-art technology.
Furthermore, all the hype about the best of brains is not really true. We have to cross
our heart and ask ourselves whether we are truly geared-up for the global challenges.

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