It takes strong foundations to build great buildings upon. Dr Jai Menon, an
erstwhile geek, is someone who understands technology from the ground up: from
the programming, the processors, all the way to the top, where he manages and
leads the entire organization in IT deployment. Dr Jai Menon has managed his
twin roles of CIO and joint president remarkably well. As he says in his own
words "I am able to look at IT both ways: as a CIO, IT that is inward
focused, and as a joint president, enterprise solutions where IT is outwardly
His stint at IBM showed him the need to market his ideas well to get the
required funding. It was in the course of this period that he discovered that he
enjoyed making presentations and simplifying complicated technical concepts to
people. "When the Internet boom came, and I was very near to forming my own
startup, what with having a venture capitalist as a neighbor: that brought out
the businessman in me. I have been alternating between technology and business
roles ever since and this is what always excites me".
Dr Menon says, "When I joined Bharti two years back, there were six or
seven different billing systems, too much fragmented IT. Everything was
literally falling apart." It's darkest before the dawn, they say and then
came Menon with his infallible plans to change the way the Indian telecom sector
would see IT. He put Bharti on a five-year strategic roadmap and built the
roadmap around three steps - foundation, transformation and conversion.
Foundation meant putting the fragmented IT infrastructure of the company
under one umbrella, a single IT department with specific focus on a department
called solutions engagement, which interfaced with the business on one side and
with technology on the other. Menon says, "Today we have one billing
system, one CRM for the entire country. Clearly there are more than a dozen
telcos across the globe who are looking at how we work."
As the foundation was being put into place, he was preparing the company for
the next stage, that of transformation. And then came the Big Bang. The IBM-Bharti
$750 mn deal literally knocked the socks off the entire IT industry, and set a
new milestone in India. Dr Menon says, "I was focused on building a telecom
differentiator for India through the power of alliances and what we have done
with Bharti and IBM is truly innovative."
Bharti needed a huge and complex IT infrastructure, which should work
seamlessly, and this required joining hands with a strategic partner, who would
do it for Bharti. Dr Menon zeroed in on IBM, given his good understanding with
the work culture of the company, and was able to pull together the right
executive sponsorship for crafting this outsourcing deal. "We pioneered a
revenue sharing model with IBM, who would get a percentage of revenues and
deliver to Bharti all its IT needs. They would unburden Bharti by taking care of
all changes, the mergers, acquisitions and regulatory adaptations all managed
very strategically with the economies of scale built into the model. Even for
IBM, the Bharti implementation is a marquee account, not only for India, but for
the entire telecom sector."
Conversion is the next logical step, which would see Bharti bringing IT,
networks and value-added services together. The foundation was established in
2003; transformation began in 2004 with the IBM deal, and groundwork on
convergence has already begun - this is the strategy till 2007.
Menon says, "The IT department had to go through a cultural change as it
was all about internal customer orientation and generating a high level of
customer satisfaction. The interfacing to all the departments was done through a
discipline of solutions engagements, which sit under the CIOs."
For a person who spent 18 years of his life in America, coming to India was
the decision of a lifetime. He came back despite the fact that he had already
made it big in America and in terms of IT deployment he had handled much bigger
accounts, and there was no dearth of opportunity for him to grow even bigger.
So, now that his time in India has only a year left to it, will he call it a day
at Bharti to go back to the US? He answers modestly " I have not made that
decision as yet. My perception over the past years has drastically changed, and
things are really very exciting now. My commitment to India and Bharti is very
deep." Here is a person who is giving back his due to the country. This,
you could say, is the "Call of the roots".
Jasmine Kaur in New
Dr Jai Menon, Corporate director, IT and technology Joint president,
enterprise business, Bharti Tele-Ventures
Claim to Fame: As the corporate director of IT and technology, Dr Jai Menon
provides direction to Bharti on technology applications in all businesses with a
clear focus on new product development. He also leads the group-wise integration
of IT systems in order to leverage them for delivering customer value and
business results. His portfolio also covers IT and technology aspects across
Bharti's fast growing mobile, fixed line, broadband and long distance
He also handles the additional responsibility of being joint president,
enterprise business, which is poised to help Bharti further leverage the group's
business capabilities. The objective of the unit is to provide end-to-end
communication solutions to large corporates and enterprises.
As part of the integration strategy, he forged a strategic partnership with
IBM for IT outsourcing with companion agreements for jointly going to the market
with services along with IBM, as well as establishing Bharti as the preferred
telecom provider for IBM India.
Blackberry has come to town and Dr Menon claims that it is going to take the
country by storm and revolutionize the way business is conducted.
The Road to Bharti: Started his career at IBM in the US, where he filed for
30 patents. With a few of these he created an entrepreneurial "Go to
market" arm inside IBM. He shifted base to BellSouth, where he joined as a
CTO. In 2002 Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti, convinced him to return to
India and give it a go.
Education: A topper at both his school, Springdale's Delhi (1982) and IIT
Delhi (BTech in mechanical engineering, 1986), he shifted base to the US in the
same year of his graduation, from where he did his MS (1989) and PhD (1992) from
Family: Menon's is a close-knit family, with wife and three children, aged
four, eight and nine (two daughters and a son). In September 2002 he came to
India, not only because he wanted his children to feel their roots, but also
because India came calling and he knew it was time to give his due back to
Bharti: Established in 1985, Bharti has been a pioneering force in the
telecom sector. It was the provider of the first mobile service in Delhi and
also the first private basic telephone service provider in the country. As on
October 31, 2004, Bharti has approximately 9.83 mn total customers-nearly 9.06
mn mobile and 776,000 fixed line customers.