Our IT strategy is to run ‘healthier-leaner-faster-smarter’ operations: V S Parthasarathy, Group CIO, M&M

“Technology is an integral part of our life. The customer is becoming tech-savvy, there is a demand for IT inclusion, and all this is forcing businesses to adopt the latest technologies,” says V S Parthasarathy, Group CFO, Group CIO, M&M. In conversation with Ankush Kumar.

Edited excerpts:

When I joined M&M in 2000, I was given the responsibility of organisational transformation,” says V S Parthasarathy. “I was asked by the then president of the Farm Equipment Sector (FES): ‘How will you make this transformation happen?’ I was able to give the right response. Without batting an eyelid, I replied, ‘By using IT.” Parthasarathy informs that in the journey that he has undertaken at M&M, he has been able to contribute his mite in ensuring that the organisation is amply supported by technology in all its business endeavours. He says that he has always been an advocate for using technology to develop efficient business models.

A man of varied experience, Parthasarathy has worked his way through several key positions at M&M before becoming the company’s Group CFO, Group CIO, President – Group Finance and M&A. He played a key role in the execution of the large, big bang project called Harmony, which was aimed at establishing a common IT platform across the entire M&M Group. The Harmony project presents a consolidated group-wide view to the top management and has resulted in better decision making for the users in the group.

“Technology is an integral part of our life. At M&M, we represent 18 businesses, each one of which requires IT for efficiently delivering products or services,” says Parthasarathy. “The customer is becoming tech-savvy, there is a demand for IT inclusion, and all this is forcing businesses to adopt the latest technologies.”

From Xerox to M&M

People generally try to avoid challenges, but Parthasarathy has a different outlook, “I enjoy being thrust into challenging situations, because every new challenge offers me another opportunity to test my own capabilities. This is why I have donned different hats during the course of my career,” he says. After he cleared his CA examination, Parthasarathy joined Modi Xerox, the Indian subsidiary of Xerox. During those days, the company wanted to set-up a branch in Ahmedabad and was looking to hire a branch CA Head. Initially, inducted as a Management Trainee in April 1986, Parthasarathy achieved a target of more than 100 percent and was awarded the best credit performer in 1987.

He was later given the opportunity to expand the operations in Uttar Pradesh. His mandate was to set up offices in Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Dehradun. “This was a very enriching experience. I got a holistic view of the business and I learned how to manage operations on the ground level. In all these places we grew our business and brought in controls,” says Parthasarathy. In 1990, Parthasarathy moved to Kolkata, as the Regional Controller and Operations Head at Xerox. In 1994, he moved to the Xerox head office in Delhi as Controller-Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A). From 1994 to 2000, he continued to be the FP&A head, and was also the CFO for two units of the company.

In 2000, while he was still at Modi Xerox, he met KJ Devasia, who was then the President and Executive Director of Farm Equipment Sector (FES) at M&M. “Then I had no plans of moving out of Xerox. But Devasia was persistent in trying to convince me that I should move to M&M,” says Parthasarathy. When Devasia told him that in M&M, Parthasarathy would have the opportunity of ensuring that India’s largest tractor company went on to become the world’s largest manufacturer of tractors, Parthasarathy’s interest was aroused. He made a big move of his career, when he assumed the new role in M&M, where he was now managing performance and IT. In this role his main responsibility was to develop a performance culture that could enable the organisation to achieve its strategic objectives.

“This was the kind of leadership role that I had always been seeking,” says Parthasarathy. In 2001, he became instrumental in selecting a Supply Chain solution from SAP that helped the company reduce its inventory in the supply of finished goods, improve order fulfilment rates, and reduce demand fulfilment time. This was SAP’s first supply-chain implementation in the Asia-Pacific region; also M&M was the first company to implement a Business Warehousing Solution.

Enable, Enhance and Engender

The year 2004 saw Parthasarathy becoming the head of international operations at M&M. In this new position he was responsible for FES operations worldwide, excluding India. His tenure saw the revenues of the department grow to over $1 billion. “Although many of these roles were very rewarding and enjoyable, as the business grew, we needed to develop our finance function, so I was thrilled to return to finance, initially heading M&A, Treasury and Accounting and now as Group CFO and CIO,” says Parthasarathy.

“At M&M, we recognise the important role that IT can play in improving business efficiency and driving profitability—that is why we are always on the look out for the methodologies by which we can ensure that our IT systems and solutions are up-to-date?” He informs that at the Mahindra Group, they have a mantra for IT – “Healthier-Leaner-Faster-Smarter”. He is of the view that IT should create a ‘strategic competitive advantage’ for the company. “The ‘3E’s – ‘Enable, Enhance and Engender’ will drive the efficiencies and the supporting IT strategy is to ‘run healthier-leaner-faster-smarter’ operations,” he says.

He has a strong view on how new innovations in IT can be used for improving business prospects. “Cloud and analytics are already being used in our organisation,” he says. “When it comes to IoT and Big Data, we have taken few small steps, but in these areas too we are now gearing up for the long jump. Once we are able to optimally deploy IoT and Big Data, the social networks will also be used,” he says. Currently M&M has moved to using Office 365 and Azure and a few other cloud service providers. He says that he and his team are currently focusing on IT systems like Cloud, Mobility, Analytics and Connected Enterprise.

“In our journey to IoT and Big Data or for that matter any other new technology, I prefer to bank upon my technology council to provide the organisation with some good business cases,” says Parthasarathy. “With regard to the automotive sector and the IT driven business-technology, introduction in the car becomes an important prerogative to connect to the customer. More importantly, with IoT coming up, everything that goes into the car would broadcast information and hence the focus is much more on the automotive sector.”

Innovation & Adaptability

Parthasarathy is of the view that in today’s VUCA environment (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), sailing the boat of business is by itself a very complex task. His mantra of taking the organisation forward in the world of VUCA is something that he likes to call “ICE—the new future”. “ICE,” he informs, “stands for—Innovation & Adaptability, Climate Change, and Experiential Commerce.

“The world is in a state of flux. There is big change happening in terms of environment, business and technology. With trends like IoT, which is a purely technology driven initiative, but it is capable of impacting everything ,i.e., environment, businesses and people, IT will be playing a critical role in making the business – future ready.”

To explain his success mantra for IT, he quotes 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?” He emphasises that IT has today emerged as a major force for driving the business, but only those organisations, which have a culture of innovation, will be able to benefit from IT in today’s competitive environment.

analyticsAutomobilebig dataCIOCloudIOTMahindra & MahindraV S Parthasarathy
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