Many people ask me why I prefer to work with firms that are perhaps not performing at the peak of their potential. Or which are in a very early stage of their development. Not that they are not profitable or successful - they are - but that they have scope to grow many times more and create even greater value for their stakeholders. I look at it this way - it is of course fun to live in a beautiful cottage in a peaceful neck of the woods. But it’s much more engaging to build a house from scratch in tiger country. And that’s the thrill of a turnaround or transformation.
I didn’t exactly start my career knowing this or looking for such opportunities. Initially, in the case of Nortel India or Bangalore Labs they seemed to find me. But when I managed ‘IdeaSpace’ Vysya Bank’s captive IT department that was spun off as an independent unit, I realized I enjoyed this.
Later, along with friends we co-founded a Business Processing startup Quintant which later got absorbed by iGATE (now iGATE Patni). There the challenge was to integrate a much larger IT firm (iGATE) with a fledgling BPO firm (Quintant). The cultures of the two organizations were quite different, with one being a mature, profitable firm and the other being a high-potential startup. Though the customer organizations could potentially benefit from the offerings of both the firms, the decision-maker in both cases were different - CIO in one case and the Business Head in the other. We realized that we had to find a captive ground as we could not continue with two disparate business messages and value propositions.
So we held a brainstorming workshop that brought together the best and brightest from both the arms of the firm. The result of that workshop back in 2004 was the term ‘iTOPS’ or Integrated Technology and Operations, which still is concurrent in the now $1 billion iGATE Patni. What the phrase iTOPS did for us was to make our value proposition easy to understand, that is, use a combination of technology and process excellence to ensure that our clients’ businesses were optimized. We used our technology skills to create platforms that allowed clients to pay-per-output instead of time.
The joint brainstorming exercise enabled the executives to get to know each other, to appreciate the value that the other brought to the table. It also brought a dramatic change in the go-to-market of the firm and was the precursor to the unified salesforce and centralized delivery function, that led to iGATE’s ability in 2011 to acquire a much larger competitor, Patni.