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ICE: The New Future

by By V.S Parthasarathy - Group CFO, Group CIO, President (Group Finance & M&A), Mahindra, Mahindra August-2015

Mahindra operates in key industries that drive economic growth, enjoying a leadership position in tractors, utility vehicles, information technology and vacation ownership.

It’s time for IT to re-think the way it’s supporting business and take the lead to drive business rather than just enable it. With this thought in mind we decided to have ‘ICE-The New Future’ as the theme for our annual IT Conference which we call “IT-Connect”. ICE stands for Innovation, Climate Change and E-commerce.

The world is undergoing a big change in terms of environment, business and technology. With something like the Internet of Things, which is a purely technology driven initiative but impacting everything, i.e. environment, businesses and people, IT will play a critical role in making the business ‘Future Ready’.

The first message that evolved was around the mind-set of the IT Team which needs to change. ‘A bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make a turn.’ Every piece of IT contributes to those big turns in the business and the IT team has to prepare the business to take those turns. But this cannot happen unless the team has the courage to leave sight of the shore. Innovation was the mantra that I passed on to the team. I remembered the quote by Thomas Friedman “In today’s world, whatever can be done will be done. The only question is, will it be done BY you or TO you?” If IT has to drive the business the only way to go for it is to innovate and win.

Coming to climate change, it’s happening in the environment, in the business and also in technology; but the pace of change in technology is far higher than the other two. Even though global warming, depreciating resources and natural calamities are threats, IT can still create business opportunities from these. Just the alerts using IT for any of these threats would be an excellent business model. This is where the IOT will evolve plenty of business moments and will give rise to new ways of doing business.

PPM and PBT are the two terms that come to my mind. PPM in manufacturing will now be People-Process-Machines with M2M & MES offering flexibility in manufacturing. Today,the Mahindra Group’s state-of-the-art plant at Chakan near Pune can manufacture 40 different varieties of SUVs and still have the volumes which the multinationals are producing. The other change we have seen in business is the transformation from Analog (people driven) to Web-Ebiz-Digital Marketing (People-Business) and now moving to Digital Business (People-Business-Things). That’s the PBT I am referring to. PPM & PBT will drive the businesses going forward with IT as the backbone.

The first step towards this business model change is ‘e-commerce’. Many of the businesses have already initiated this first step towards the digital world of tomorrow and that includes us. We have started work on creating an e-commerce platform that the group can leverage. Tomorrow’s world would interact with customers only ‘the e-way’ Dinner parties and functions like marriage/birthdays will need physical presence, the restcan be managed virtually. Then all the intermediaries will totally disappear and only logistics along with supply chain will be two major functions that will evolve. That’s where IT will play a major role using IOT, to offer a WOW customer experience. Business transactions will happen through the web OR in fact through mobile only. That’s why I say ‘e-commerce’ is just the beginning of that new era.

On the technology front, the change is taking place at a much more rapid pace than anything else. IOEE as I call it or the Internet of Each n Everything is bringing the world closer; but creating multi-fold conflicts in the form of security. “Which technology to adopt and when?” is the most important question CIOs need to ask themselves. Business functions are more aware of IT today than before. Today, the marketing function is the most extensive consumer of digitalisation and I fear that if the CIO does not take the lead, his/her role will be taken up by the CMTO [Chief Marketing Technology Officer] and the CIO will become the CDPO [Chief Data Processing Officer]. So, I insist that my IT Team know more of business, their needs and effectively leverage IT expertise. If you don’t change the mindset, IT will merge into business functions and CIOs will rest in peace. Jokingly I say, if that happens, I have a CFO role to pursue!

Our ‘IT Connect’ witnessed the presence of around 200 participants and more than 15 of our business partners showcased their readiness for the future. The two day conference with inspirational sessions by business leaders from within the Group, speakers from the Industry as well as from Gartner enlightened the team on tomorrow’s IT.
The message that emerged was “There’s lot to come. Are we ready?”