Srinivas Kandula, CEO, Capgemini India, stresses on the role of innovation in a transforming business landscape, in an exclusive interaction with Dataquest.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing IT leaders today?
The biggest challenge today is the stagnant rate of innovation. While it might appear that information is available in abundance based on the enormous amount of information tools, growing sophistication of learning methodologies and the growing reach of academic training, has not actually contributed to the increase of original innovation and intellectual asset monetization. There is an accelerated inflation in academics and learning levels which shadows in spotting many not so useful technological advancements and products. Therefore, the ability to spot, encourage and institutionalize the process of original thinking is indeed the biggest challenge.
Who do you call as your mentor and why?
I would not say I have a specific mentor or role model but I do take inspiration from a lot of people that strive for perfection in their lives. Perfection is a function of conviction and natural abilities. Their “conviction’ inspires me, irrespective of whether their line of work is relevant to my area of work or not.
What is your leadership style?
I believe in leveraging people through their strengths rather than marginalizing them by insisting that they work on their limitations. I would want people to use the power of their intuition as much as the skills acquired through their formal education.
What are some of the defining moments in your career and how those moments have helped you grow learn and unlearn?
I strongly believe every failure happens because of a strong logic and fundamental inadequacy and many successes can be sheer accidents, sometimes devoid of any logic or natural consequence. So my learnings largely have come from the moments of failure and these were plenty to count! These failures range from simple operational decisions to key portfolio based business decisions. Therefore, I had quite a few defining moments at various stages of my career and these failures have helped me self-introspect from time to time. I have learnt to live with some of these and also bounce back to become a stronger person both personally and professionally.
Quarterly pressures to long-term vision: The market needs numbers but a long-term sustainable vision is vital. How difficult is it to manage both and how do you do it?
They are both quite related and never unrelated. They can be unrelated only if there is no clearly defined vision for the long term and this will contribute to a temporary quarter to quarter focus and a perceived nonsequential agenda. The moment you have a long term vision, it needs to be broken down to a quarterly basis. So they are highly inter-connected. The misconception is that all investors in the market only look at numbers, this is untrue. They are more interested in sequential progress that can culminate into a good growth story at some point of the organizational journey. For many investors, quarterly numbers are only indicative of the future. They are always keen to understand how the numbers will be in future quarters. Therefore, a good leader will not be bothered by quarterly pressures but will work towards a strong long term outcome.
On recession: Are we moving from a Cyclical to a Structural recession?
Is it possible to de-risk for the future? Yes, what we face today is more structural rather than cyclical. This is because; the overall socio-political and economic environment has reached a state that I call a“state of great fatigue”. Unless we change the course of functioning, it is extremely difficult to engage the society with an optimistic outlook and an optimistic outlook is the cornerstone for any growth. Therefore, the only way to de-risk is by creating an environment for original innovation.
Linear vs Non-linear growth-How can Indian IT industry add more value?
The time has come to drive non-linear growth. Whether we choose to follow this path or not, it is bound to happen. Non-linear growth will come in the form of replacing the current solutions, technologies, platforms and essentially the skillsets that are currently prevalent. Certainly, non-linear growth will add more value as people will be able to utilizetheir cerebral skills in a much more pronounced manner than they did in the past.
If you reflect on FY 16- what are the key performance takeaways?
Changing business models: The IT business model is changing more rapidly than is visible to the naked eye. It will sweep many off their feet by 2019. The pecking order of leadership will be quite different from what it is today.
Skills and their relevance are changing and this will cause very high level middle age unemployment because the IT services industry, though considered as knowledge industry, is really slow in learning and adopting. Focus on technology and innovation has become more important than operational excellence.
Grooming leaders for the future: How are you approaching this at your organization?
By building more and more social skills –the ability to work through people is a thousand times harder than achieving perfection through solo performance. Ironically, though human beings are fundamentally social in nature, the excessive stress on academics has meant that people are today coming into the corporate world almost devoid of inter-personal skills and that continues on well into the later stages of their careers. To address this, we have designed leadership development programmes with a judicious blend of soft and hard skills. It is not a single classroom leadership program or a lecture than can bring change in people. At Capgemini, we believe it is a continuous journey and hence people are given opportunities through mentoring programmes and other such initiatives.
What are your Top 3 priorities for FY 17?
- Talent Development Capgemini India is today the backbone of the Group’s global delivery and our important focus is continuous talent development
- Motivating people to forget the present. Put simply, one needs to move beyond the success and failure of the present and work towards building a future