The CIO has to lead the business transformation in the digital era: Sayed Peerzade, Group CIO, Reliance Big Entertainment

CIOs are no longer technocrats, they are business enablers and crucial part of organisation says, Sayed Peerzade, Group CIO, Reliance Big Entertainment & Reliance Entertainment – Digital. CIOs should be ready to take risks, and must have extensive planning and strategy for the business they are working for to be the part of the business. Peerzade is an Information technology veteran, with over 15 years of rich experience in Indian and global level technology leadership roles, across Infrastructure, Application, product development, strategy and project management.

In an interview with Ankush Kumar, he talks about his journey with Reliance Entertainment and how he consolidated the entire stack of the online business (Games, e-Commerce, VoD, GoD, Mobile, Publishing) from a traditional data center environment to a consolidated cloud platform.
In this era of disruption, how important is the role of CIO in your organisation?

The CIO role in my organisation is as important as any key business role. Being into a dynamic business, and in a time of disruption, the CIO has to lead the business transformation in the digital era — that’s the target we have set for the organisation. Our group consists of many entities which are online businesses, and most of them are global businesses. Transformation to the so called 3rd layer (SMAC stack) is very much required to get more users, increase the experience of end users and retain them. This will lead to revenue growth and SMAC plays an extremely important role in this. As a CIO, I have taken all steps to adapt new technologies to provide the required agility to business and have succeeded in this aspect. Be in Cloud, Mobility, Social or Analytics, we have adapted all technologies and got our business in the right direction for growth.

As a CIO/ IT head what have been some of your key achievements with respect to IT innovation in your organisation? Please share some examples

I joined the Entertainment group since its inception. When we started it was not a group. It was one entity known as Zapak. From the success of Zapak and inclusion of many verticals of the entertainment business, the group got formed. However in the initial days, I was confined to look after the Zapak business which was growing fast, and at the same time other entities get formed and managed by different teams as per LOB (Line of Business) requirements. Over a period of time, we realised that there were many entities in the group which were into a similar kind of B2C business as far as technology usage was concerned. To achieve greater synergies, I was given the mandate of the entire group to consolidate and get the required agility to the business with improved time to market the products and manageable cost to business.

Today, I have managed to consolidate the entire stack of the online business (Game, e-Commerce, VoD, GoD, Mobile, Publishing) from the traditional data center to one cloud platform and have also performed technology migration to a private cloud. Hence, we are able to provide the required flexibility and instant time to market the business. By successfully completing this project, we were able to reduce 80 percent server footprint, and eliminate 70 percent of operating costs, with permanent elimination of capex requirements. At later stages when Reliance Games gets formed, we have designed a perfect Hybrid cloud – integrating the current private cloud and the newly adapted public cloud. We have distributed the data between both the clouds keeping in mind sensitivity, volume, dynamics and end user experience.

The integration has been done in such a way that both cloud capabilities can be managed through one console. We get the benefit of autoscaling based on dynamic volume requirements along with flexibility of instances moving between any of these cloud structures without disturbing the user experience and business impact. This has been widely appreciated and recognised by various organisations as well as industry experts. I was also involved in designing and setting up the Big Data analytics setup/platform from scratch based on new technologies like Hadoop on an independent private cloud. I have also built the first and unique complete business analytics tool for the gaming industry. These initiatives have helped the organisation gain tremendous business benefits due to improved real time decision making, which in turn has contributed to improved revenue figures.

How has been the adoption of cloud technology and what has been its impact on your overall business?

Migrating the entire setup from a traditional data center setup to cloud has been the key turnaround for us. This has resulted in 80 percent server reduction and hence we have seen similar savings related to power, energy and cooling. This initiative has consolidated the group into one setup and platform. Various digital groups which were being operated separately in the traditional setup have been consolidated and brought to one cloud setup. Non-critical servers have been moved to the public cloud. This is a perfect blend and usage of cloud technology. Traditional physical servers interacting with each other was a complex system as we did not have a single platform or tool to manage our entire server farm. Today, all entities can be managed from one console, which has given us more flexibility.

Tell us about your gaming business and the relevance of Big Data analytics in this industry?

We have implemented a full life cycle Big Data project for our global entity, Reliance Games. Under the global brand ‘Reliance Games’, we produce, develop and publish world-class games. We have some of the world’s top 10 games in terms of gameplay and revenue. We have more than 600 developers working on these games from our Pune, Korea and UK studios. The way these games work is as follows. A user downloads the games either through Apple store, Google Play or Amazon store. He can play the game individually or he can play with anyone in the globe using multiple players and social network integration. We are the only Indian company to develop and publish these premium games and we are standing at par with global players like Zynga. With many world class games in production pipeline along with existing live games, we wanted a deep ‘real-time’ analytical system to analyse these premium products to understand the DAU, number of downloads, user behavior, game performance, drop-outs, reasoning for drop-outs and game progress. This analysis could be useful for our current as well as future products.

We tried to find a vendor in the market who could provide us an end-to-end solution for real time Big Data analytics. Although there are many vendors available on Big Data, we could not find a vendor who could understand the dynamics of our business and products to provide us ‘end-to-end’ real time Big Data analytics solutions — technically as well as analytically. There was a need to build a robust analytical system or business and we hence decided to build the system from scratch ourselves. Today, our end-to-end analytical setup has helped us make our product more competitive in addition to increasing our revenues.

What has been your contribution as a CIO/ IT head in the overall growth of the organisation?

Gone are the days where IT was considered to be the cost centre and an isolated entity. The role of the CIO has became more challenging with the emergence of new technologies and need for more growth. CIOs are no longer technocrats. They are business enablers and a crucial part of organisation. CIOs should be ready to take risks, and must do extensive planning and strategy for the business they are working for to be the part of the business. In this digital era, IT is a backbone and enables the entire business. This is true for my case also as I have initiated so many things for enabling my business and its growth, which has been supported by my reporting managers to the full core. This has helped us tremendously in growing the business, maximising the user experience and in bringing down the costs to an extent where the business is EBIDTA (interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation) positive.

CIOe commercegameGoDmobileReliance EntertainmentVoD
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