Evolution of Automation is many a times considered to be a threat to IT jobs in India. Is it a myth or substance? Who better to ask about ‘Future of Automation’ than the man who is running an IT Consulting Company having ‘Autonomics’ as central theme of services – Rajiv Sodhi.
Let’s understand from Rajiv, how Autonomics is a saviour and not a threat.
Q1. Enlighten our audience with your professional journey from TCS, HCL to founding Nable IT Consultancy Services Private Limited.
Rajiv: I consider having worked in 3 startups in my entire career. When I joined TCS in 1981, our revenues were about 4 crores and profit 50 lacs. It was just an experimental startup of Tata Sons along with few others like Tata Financial Consultancy Services, and Tata Economic Consultancy Services. In those days there was no leased line or internet and I had to travel to companies in Holland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Bahrain, Malaysia, UK and USA to do the technical work onsite in customer premises. It was quite challenging as people would not believe that a person from India could be a computer expert, as impression of India was of a rural country of cows and snake charmers. We had to educate the people about India and then Tata as a group, which was not well known overseas at that time, though it was the largest Industrial group in India. I enjoyed my work as it provided opportunities to visit many countries and lived there to experience their cultures and natural beauty. After about 6 years, I got an opportunity to be a regional manager in UK in 1987-89, based out of Bristol and then in London looking after the UK operations. We also expanded significantly in UK and in Europe from that base. After returning from UK, I was given charge of IBM relationship which TCS established and we were the only company that IBM allowed to do internal system software work for 20 labs of IBM worldwide, which later culminated in Tata IBM Software Ltd (TISL) and return of IBM to India after they had vacated in 1978. Being in USA as regional manager of East Coast operations, I again expanded the footprint of TCS and established engagement with most of the large customers in the region and setup offices from Canada to Florida. The momentum continued in TCS and now it has just clocked a $100B Market Cap.
When HCL wanted to start their software services business in 1997, I was approached by a friend to again join this journey as a startup. HCL was only $60m in revenue and was in staff augmentation business. I was given charge of setting up a projects business and grow offshore. Initially as sales head, I was travelling around the globe getting business for multiple delivery arms of HCL which setup were – HCL Deluxe, HCL Perot, HCL Infosystems, NIIT, HCL James Martin etc. Later the businesses were consolidated into one brand of HCL. I took transformational roles every few years; setup advanced technology centre to start mixed signal design, chip design, SEMI Conductor Robotics, Optical Signal design work; setup the retail Vertical when the company was verticalized, was head of operations to streamline and integrate all delivery centres into one company systems which were seamless in operations; and setup large deals operations with total IT outsourcing that became the growth engine of the company. I managed delivery for all verticals except BSFI, Set up Automation and Robotics Practice, Workforce Operations Optimization and Location optimizations. It has been an exciting journey to be part of the growth to $7.5B company. The momentum of growth has continued and HCL has now become the third largest company and the youngest company in the top 5 group.
On Superannuation from HCL in 2017, I wanted to do something to keep myself occupied and leverage my knowledge, experience, goodwill and relationships. I started Nable IT Consultancy Services. We advise mid-size and large IT companies on market expansion, products and services roadmap, acquisitions, automation and machine learning, operational efficiency and transformation. It has been an exciting journey, within a short span of time we have landed significant work and will be adding more staff as we expand.
Q2. You wore different hats such as Chief Productivity and Competitiveness Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Global Head of Delivery for Consumer, Head of Advanced Technology Centre etc. Which role has been most challenging, and why?
Rajiv: Each role has been unique and gave a very different challenge and experience, and served the need of the hour for the company that I worked with. Each role gave an opportunity to innovate in ways that were not practiced before and made those companies the leaders that they are today.
Q3. To what extent/degree Indian market is ready for services of Nable IT Consultancy? How much deeper will ‘automation’ penetrate the Indian IT industry?
Rajiv: Nable IT is a global consultancy firm and we have a few overseas customers. However, I am also supporting a few startups in India and besides having invested in them I am also advising them on the products (mostly SAAS) roadmap and taking them overseas to clients. This will enable the innovative Indian ventures to create world class products, whereas today they have been lacking in sophistication and ease of use when compared to overseas company products.
Q4. Automation is seen as a threat to pyramid model of Indian IT industry. Share your thoughts on the same.
Rajiv: Automation and Machine learning is going to change the job content of people but not take away the jobs. It is an assistive technology to humans and using the same more complex jobs can be done much faster by less knowledgeable people. The technology demand will be for users of the products to make other things which were earlier not possible or a few very highly skilled people who will make the core tool sets. I expect computers and software to be embedded in our daily work and will become a commodity which may not be a separate industry by itself, barring the creators of the technology. Jobs which are creative or require physical dexterity will remain for a long time.
Q5. Is automation already replacing jobs in India? How this challenge can be addressed?
Rajiv: The mundane jobs are being replaced. This has been a continuous process throughout history and is not new. We no longer have data punch operators, job control assistants in the computer industry. Arrival of railway ticketing systems, or online booking systems have not taken away the jobs in railways or airlines just the nature of jobs has changed. Similarly, online transactions in banking have reduced the number of tellers but banks have been adding staff and opening more branches and growing bigger. I think humans are very innovative and computer technology is way behind and may take several decades to become even as intelligent as a new born baby.
Q6. Small/Medium Size companies shy away from investing in IT automation. Does this prove to be hindrance in your business expansion? Share your experience.
Rajiv: Today, no company can shy away from adopting technology and feel that they can survive the competition. Technology is an enabler. Even our regular fruit sellers in a cart, or the corner clothes ironing man uses smart phones or phones and give their numbers for service at your doorstep, thereby covering a larger customer base than they could cover before. The convenience will increase with technology and so will the market for the small and large businesses. In fact, the technology now bridges the gaps and provides a level playing field to small and large corporations and who can then compete on equal footing.
Q7. Please highlight three reasons that can cause Business Waste. How autonomics can prove to be a savior?
Rajiv: Business waste occurs, when we need to stock versus produce or manufacture just-in-time, over produce for defects or wastage, are not able to market goods and services to the point of consumption, have obsolescence of products or services. All these can be significantly reduced by live monitoring, ordering, manufacturing or producing, transporting, pricing and forecasting of goods and services in real time by using autonomics, algorithms and other technologies like the internet of things.
Q.8 What is Innovation according to you? Mention three things that can fail an Innovation in the disruptive marketplace.
Rajiv: : Innovation can exist in anything that you do. Further one can innovate in any aspect of the product or service, in design creation, manufacturing, pricing, marketing, selling, customer convenience, payment solutions, after sales service etc. In a disruptive market, one must not only see the industry competition but also the adjoining fields to see if any disruption is coming through product or service substitution or obsolescence. One can fail to notice such trends. Other failures can happen if the market is not yet ready to adapt the product or service, if it is too much ahead of its time, or the execution or implementation of the idea is not perfect.
Q9. Share your thoughts on ‘Future of Automation’ in India.
Rajiv: I think India is fast adapting to the technology change, whether it is digital technology, smart phones, renewable energy, BSVI environment standard for fuel, electric cars, smart cities etc. The advantage with India is that it can leapfrog the intermediate technology and go to the latest available. With this adoption, it is forecasted that the growth will be much higher and modernisation rate of change will be much quicker. I think India will soon bridge the gap with advance countries in areas of latest technologies including the use of Automation. Indians are very innovative and as mentioned earlier the automation and machine learning (artificial intelligence) will not replace jobs but will change the nature of jobs, so the risk of vast unemployment is not there.
Q10. What is your idea of ‘Change Management’? If you have to give 3 importance piece of advice to budding entrepreneur, what it would be?
Rajiv: My Idea of Change Management is to firstly create a natural pull for your products and services and hopefully one should not have to push them in the market. Secondly, create solutions around peoples’ problems so that the product or services is needed by people, find the needy by market segmentation and reaching out to them and lastly, make it affordable that is it should be value for money for the buyers. The budding entrepreneurs should look at all three aspects continually and keep on evolving.
Rajiv Sodhi is Founder and Managing Director of Nable IT Consultancy Services Pvt. Ltd. Prior to that he was a Senior Corporate Vice President, responsible for the Robotics and Automation initiative across all lines of business at HCL Technologies. With over 34 years of cumulative experience in IT, Rajiv has held major roles and led large engagements across the globe.
Over his 18-year tenure in HCL Technologies, he has been Chief Productivity and Competitiveness Officer, responsible for transforming and globalizing the workforce and workplace; Chief Customer Officer and Global Head of Delivery for Consumer, Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Public Services Industry Verticals and Enterprise Transformation Services; Global Head of Operations; Head of Advanced Technology Center; Head of Offshore Delivery for HCL James Martin and Company; Head of Sales and Marketing for offshore projects worldwide; and member of the Mergers and Acquisitions team. He was also in charge of providing Business and IT consulting for global MNCs.