Lead Business Conversation than Tech Pitch : Arvind Thakur, NIIT Technologies

We have the right arsenal to scale our IMS and establish firmly in digital services, says Arvind Thakur, CEO & Joint Managing Director, NIIT Technologies.

Yogesh Gupta Mar 30th 2015 A-A+

What is the next big thing for NIIT Technologies in the enterprise technology space?

The business for us is largely pivoted across three horizons. Most revenues still continue from ADM (Application Development and Maintenance) solutions. Three to four years ago we invested in Infrastructure Management Services (IMS) which is output based or transaction based. We have a good customer base including large clients and MNCs across the globe in US, Europe Asia. IMS established as a separate BU last year is now a significant part of business accounting for 18 per cent of our topline.

The third horizon and the big focus is digital services across mobile platforms, analytics and cloud services. We are now deeply engaged around the future of business – digital services- that includes SMAC and Security.

How would NIIT technologies gain an edge across SMAC stack?

We sharply concentrate on few industry sets -Travel, insurance and BFS. This avoids spreading our business model too thin and vertical specializations enable our teams to engage better with the clients across our offerings – ADN,IMS and now digital services.

All focused verticals are fairly information intensive. In the travel space, the customers’ customers are all mobile hence the mobile platform becomes crucial. We are supporting the mobile platform of each client of ours. Every client wants their website to be refreshed and be more responsive and we are working closely with them.

We have launched a predictive analytics service in US called digital foresight. We use external data as well as internal data and through tools and framework we have put in place along with digital science to predict outcomes.

We continue with IMS and other solutions which are still ‘in premise’ mode for large enterprises and government. But SMBs in domestic market are catered through our branded ‘Process Easy’ cloud solutions. This suite include core banking ‘Banking Easy’ solution which deployed by many co-op banks, Procure Easy which is procurement solution on cloud and Business Easy (an integrated, end-to-end, web based online ERP solution. Software as a Service (Public Cloud) is the key route to address SMBs.

Within a year, digital services contributes around 10% of overall portfolio revenues.

What about Government segment? Every tech vendor is clamoring for the opportunity pie around Digital India and Smart cities in India.

Smart cities and digital India are undoubtedly colossal initiatives. You will have Cisco, IBM to name a few vendors and all big SIs going for this big opportunity. We too are introspecting the parts of the program to engage in more meaningful manner based on our technical strengths.

Our main area of specialization is GIS (Geographic Information Services). The starting point for developing smart cities is to plan them. We have put together Geodesign framework with set of associated tools to begin with. These tools can integrate sensors and other things as you can track and can monitor activities in cities. The opportunity to support 100 smart cities is great and we are banking on our niche capabilities in GIS.

Also Read : Esri India Launches Smart Planning Tools for Smart Cities

For example for large program APDR in power sector, all big vendor and systems integrators are present. But many partner with us for GIS.

How have SLAs changed over the years at the customer end. What are key demands by CIOs from infrastructure providers?

There is more emphasis on the output for Infra services. Earlier, CIOs or IT team were more concerned with the input like -- what kind of data, skillset manpower, number of people etcetera. Now they are more concerned about the delivery of SLAs.

Even in the contract, they are not much bothered about number of people in the project but if the provider has the bandwidth or capability to adhere to SLAs. Many of our contracts are now transaction based because that’s a win-win for both sides. If the organization is doing well, there will be more transactions. That is the big shift of moving to output based or business outcome based.

More than 50 percent of all technology sales people are actively selling to BU directly, and not through IT departments, says Gartner. Is your team too interacting with C-Suite (CFO, CMO, CEO) beyond CIOs at the customer end?

In digital services, CIO is part of the discussion but the real conversation happens with the business stakeholders. For digital foresight (predictive analytics) all conversations happen with the business units. Business then directs CIOs to execute the project. For an ongoing mobile platform project for a chauffeur provider service company in India, the conversation is happening predominantly with CEO.

That shift is quite clear. Therefore the people engaged in organizations should have the right capability of leading a business conversation and not technology conversation with the customer.

For example, while implementing ground handling solution for an airline at HK terminal, our conversation was not around building faster, cheaper and better technology solution. It was how we could ensure faster turnaround time for the aircrafts at the airport. It was a clear business conversation or business outcome based project.

Most Indian Tier 1 SIs seem to concentrate more on domestic market than international business. Is there a slowdown in the western part of the globe?

There is absolutely no slowdown in the West. The agenda by Government of India in past few years to drive technology adoption and the huge program of Digital India creates a big opportunity for all tech providers including Tier 1 Systems Integrators. Infact we need to increase the proportion of our revenues (currently at 42%) from US as that figure is much more for rest of the industry.

More than 11% of our revenues emerge from India including private and government. That is quite significant domestic revenues amongst our peers.

Besides NIIT’s strong brand presence in India, our specialization in GIS enables us to uniquely engage with Government. We are executing very large projects in Government segment in India.

A very large and significant engagement with the airport authorities of India with Airport operations control center that manages ten airports, handles 96000 flights and millions of passengers. The displays at airports like Chennai, Kolkatta, Guwahati run on our solutions. For Andhra Pradesh Govt, we are engaged in the largest SAP implementation for comprehensive financial management systems, the sales tax project for Maharashtra govt. We are executing CCTNS (crime and criminal tracking network systems) project for ministry of home affairs to automate all the police stations across five states. We are also doing projects for defence and BSF what includes infra, applications, networking right up to the border and also data entry and other activities. 

The skillsets are far and few in Cloud, Big Data -- primarily for systems integrators -- to ride the big opportunity in India. 

Reskilling and talent are definitely a concern because things are moving much faster in technology world than the availability of talent. The writing on the wall is quite clear. The world is moving from - in premise to the cloud, customized work to platforms to cite few changed scenarios. That’s the way the modern businesses will happen and obviously the solution providers need to change and build those capabilities in terms of manpower skillsets.