Mr K Harishankar, the Chief Information Officer of Hindustan Lever Limited, gave a talk on how IT has been used to radically improve HLL’s supply chain. He explained how both in-house and third-party ERP systems have been used to centralize planning, improve forecasting and achieve execution excellence in HLL’s supply chain, with even field sales being IT-enabled. HLL considers the growth of modern retail an opportunity rather than a challenge, he emphasized, since collaboration through IT-based systems is easier with more tech-savvy channel partners. He praised the natural beauty of the IIM K campus, calling it the best he had yet seen among technology or business schools, and looked forward to a continued association with the institute.
“Technology is just an enabler,” said Mr. Ramamoorthy, Director of Corporate Marketing, Cognizant Technology Solutions. Talking about the paradigm shift in the business models adopted by Indian IT companies in the recent years, he said that strategic alliances and acquisitions have emerged as the new business models. He stressed on the importance of organizations providing quality customer experience to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Mr. Mahadevan Narayanmony, Senior Manager, Corporate Advisory Services, Grant Thornton, spoke about Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A;) within the IT industry. He pointed out the recent trend of Indian IT companies acquiring foreign companies. He then talked about the motives behind M&A; and stressed the importance of evaluation in avoiding failure. In conclusion, he said that M&As; help IT companies to move up the value chain towards strategic partnership, either by delivering strategic advantages to them, or by helping them grow faster.
The fourth speaker of the day – Mr. Venki Sundaresan, Director, IT Group, Cypress Semiconductors – started the session with a declaration that, in India, IT is heading for a disaster. He gave two reasons for this – the rising salaries in this field (which erases India’s cost advantage) and the ubiquity of IT. He briefly introduced the concept of Neo-IT, a new IT paradigm that encourages people to be ‘imagineers’ – those who can imagine and engineer innovations – and elucidated how it could solve this problem. Being a message simplifier and efficiency expert were as important as technical soundness for an IT manager, he asserted.
Mr Somick Goswami, Head PwC TAS, South India gave an insightful discourse on the evolving nature of the IT consulting industry and the challenges faced in managing these dynamics. Starting with the oft-quoted joke, “A consultant is a person who will borrow your watch, tell you the time, bill you for it, and keep the watch,” he nevertheless emphasized that a consultant is an agent of change, who must develop flexible, easy to implement ideas and solutions that add value to a business. According to him, consultants have to become trusted advisers who are able to bridge the gap between business-needs and technological solutions. He finished by stressing on accountability as a major issue with new accounting regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and SEBI’s Clause 49.
This concluded a highly informative and acclaimed series of talks by some of the most experienced IT practitioners in the corporate community. The event was very well received by both industry and academia participants. As Ms Simeen Mirza, a first year student of IIM K remarked, “Such events give us a vivid understanding of how what we learn in books here is actually applied in the industry, and thus make for a more complete learning experience.” The event also featured two case study competitions, Cognizant Sys-o-Mania and the HCL Challenge, which had 23 of the top B-Schools in India, including the IIMs, vying for the top honors. A team from IIM Kozhikode won the HCL Challenge, with IIM Calcutta coming second, while the same team won Sys-o-Mania from IIM Calcutta, with second and third place going to IIM Kozhikode and FMS Delhi, respectively.