Speaking to Ranee Sahaney, prestigious award-winner, Switzerland-based Rakesh Rathi, IT and Business Transformation Executive, elaborates on the impact of the paradigm shift of “C-suite” leaders and Industry 4.0.
Globally recognized for his inspirational practices in the business and digital field in the corporate world, Rakesh Rathi has been the recipient of a prestigious award for ‘driving customer-centric innovative business and digital transformation with leading global “C-suite” executives’, from none other than the 13th President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
Having done MBA (IMD, Switzerland) and Engineering (India) from a #1 top ranked business school, does academics play an important role in interacting (content) with high-profile companies and their C-suite leadership?
I believe both academics and work experience are pivotal in such business engagements. International diversity at IMD gave me a broader perspective on engaging across verticals in addition to sharpening my skills in key business drivers. Similarly, when you study for Engineering, you acquire logical thinking and critical analysis exposure to solve problems, you imbibe the effectiveness of working in a team, communicating with others and meeting deadlines. One can then align business KPIs with corporate strategy and this results in productive discussions with customers and leaders (look, listen, learn, lead).
Is IT mandatory for any transformation?
Absolutely! Information Technology is the backbone of all business functions and we are looking at a seismic shift in the scaling of digitization, at a pace never seen before. Technology spend is expected to increase to over $2.4 trillion by 2020, so clearly IT will be key for any business to drive competitive edge since every company now is a technology company driven by customer-centricity (CX) and this resonates across B2B and B2C. Overall, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Digital Officer (CDO) report that the majority of their technology budgets ($ billions) are allocated to support business– i.e. RUN the organization (65%) compared to business innovation – i.e. CHANGE the organization (35%). Thereby CIOs are embracing a fundamental shift, reimagining their portfolio, involved in board-room discussions and reporting milestones/metrics across business functions.
According to the leading global tech firm, Cisco, there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world in the near future. As such, high speed network and internet mobility (Wifi6, 4G, 5G et al) and an automated ecosystem around IaaS/PaaS/SaaS (i.e. IoT, data-centers, cloud, robotics, mobility, analytics, computational power…) to accelerate transactions in every business, will be the centre stage of digital revolution where innovation is the game-changer. Customer-centricity is the clincher on how new technologies are deployed and hence it is imperative we listen to our customers and ensure we align ourselves to their objectives.
And if we look at industry specific disruption?
There are many, such as Banking (e-banking, contactless payments), Telco (Wi-Fi), FMCG/Retail (e-commerce), Pharma (reduced time and cost for drug development), Manufacturing (Robotics), Insurance (Telematics), Education (MOOCs), Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter…). Nowadays, 24/7/365 is expected from customers i.e quick turnaround of products and services - where and when they want. This rapidly changing customer behavior is the catalyst and technology is the driver in ALL of them.
What was instrumental in this innovative disruption?
Telco’s move to ‘3G’ (third generation Wi-Fi) was the digital game-changer since it led to faster, global remote mobile connectivity. This impacted everyone and paved the way to next-gen (Wifi6, 4G, 5G et al). We are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to disruption!
Where do you see trade synergies between Switzerland and India?
India is Switzerland’s fourth-largest trading partner in Asia and the largest in South Asia. Switzerland and India have signed numerous bilateral agreements covering a range of areas. Swiss exports annually to India amounted to greater than CHF 17 billion and comprised mainly precious metals, machinery, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Swiss direct investments in India totaled CHF 4+ billion with over 150+ Swiss companies having a presence in India (which includes large companies like Nestle, Novartis, Roche, ABB, UBS, Credit-Suisse, Swiss-Re et al). India’s successful FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) strategy is testimonial that in CY2020, a single company Jio Platforms has amassed $20 billion in 4 months from global investors; similarly, Google announced a $10 billion investment in India et al.
I have found it quite interesting to engage with customers in continuous evolution of the partnership between both the countries. There are multiple positive synergies which can be matured further.
Tell us about the impact leadership has had for corporates from your experience in engaging with C-suite executives?
Most leaders are those companies that have balanced transformation and technology with automated business models to increase their market share, globally distributed supply chains and operational efficiency resulting in better managing OPEX and CAPEX, maturing customer experience (CX). Leaders also look at a holistic ecosystem across corporate ethics, fairness to their employees, D and I, empowering talent, creating a purpose driven workplace and empathy as compared to controlling by “old-style” power… similar, to Vas Narasimhan (CEO, Novartis) ‘unbossed’ strategy.
How do companies/leaders need to adapt their strategy in order to work in the “new normal” post Covid-19?
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a forced opportunity requiring businesses to reimagine new collaboration and service delivery models. Investing in differentiated business models, e-commerce, supply chain and remote workplace is challenging since it requires re-imagining your business strategy and also a culture shift. This has been achieved due to innovative collaborative tools such as web/video conferencing platforms (for ex Webex), hybrid cloud, secured IT infrastructure/data centers, WFH (work from home), Virtual Private Network (VPN) et al. The future is where both virtual and face-to-face connect will co-exist in a hybrid environment. Even my school-going kids have become more tech savvy due to virtual K-12 schools and online education!
Social distancing = Digital closeness!
And IT security and regulations?
Yes, data protection and privacy compliance is paramount, particularly given “data is the new oil”, as can be seen from the tremendous growth of FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google).
What about Industry 4.0?
Up skilling, reskilling, and training the workforce would be required to successfully execute large-scale M2M (machine-to-machine), IoT (Internet of Things) and Smart Cities automation with minimal need of human intervention.
How is living in Switzerland given you’re staying there for over two decades?
It is a delight living in Switzerland with pristine backdrops and mountains for hiking in summer and skiing in winter (…with friends!)
And your role model?
I have been inspired and influenced by different people at different times, but if I were to choose one, it would definitely be my dad…. always calm, composed, focused and an epitome of simple living, high thinking!