Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Women in Leadership roles in Corporate India

I had the opportunity to interact with a group of 150+ women leaders in various roles and at different stages of their careers at the WILL conference in Mumbai last week.

I now understand how it feels to be one of 3 women surrounded by suited, stuffy, macho, aggressive, loud men in a typical corporate meeting!! Here I was in a reverse situation... I was one of 3 men… you get the picture!

Very lively debate on mentorship…It was a much talked about and much researched topic. A common view was that every company should have a program that has some sort of broad mentorship objective.

But in my view, as you go to more senior levels, it’s not so much about mentorship as it is about sponsorship. The key is - do you have sponsors? Is there someone who will bet on you to do the critical and visible role? This is needed irrespective of gender for sure. But does it happen as easily in the case of women?

My experience and data suggests that it happens less for women. There will be lots of people who will mentor and coach but much fewer who will take that big swing and stake their reputation on that person’s performance.

We need more "sponsors" for women, just as every successful male leader will tell you that they have always had one or two leaders who have visibly bet on them

The question to answer and worth debating is why don’t women have enough sponsors? Maybe it is biases, maybe it is an assumption that the person is not ready for the next big job, maybe some people view it as higher risk. Whatever it is, it has to be fixed. There are no silver bullets… but I think visible sponsorship at leadership levels may be one!!

What do you think?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ambitious and Hungry to Learn

The day I decide to quit, I’ll teach. Why? Because any opportunity I get to express my views and shape opinion gets me going.

One of the things I’d like to do is to find a way to contribute to higher education in India. If the Indian government allows it, higher education should become more private owned like it has in the US. Higher education needs a lot of private intervention which is not just money but needs blood, sweat and tears in running and shaping it. It requires funding and resources, which are limited in India.

In countries like the US and UK, where Indians have migrated to in large numbers, teaching is one of the biggest professions in the Indian community. Mainly because it doesn’t require capital to be successful – it only needs the ability to learn and to teach. And knowing the English language as well as Indians do is a huge benefit.

The Dean of Harvard Business School, University of Chicago, UC Berkley and some other prominent institutes are all Indians. These are people from my generation. There is a clear demand and need. We have the capability but it’s abroad. We will need to create the ecosystem to match supply and demand. Most universities globally will need to find a way to participate in the Indian economy (through academia) but don't know how. Universities don't tend to have a Business Development or an M&A team whose job it is to grow hunt and mine. The philosophy and growth of the school largely depends on the faculty and the direction it takes.

So I’m thinking about how and where to start. I’ve already started talking to people who have similar thoughts and we may actually come together and do something.

The power of that effort has to be to get global thinking around teaching and learning into the country. The assumption is that we're a billion people - bright and talented, ambitious and hungry to learn. Even a small proportion of this population is a huge number. The problem is that there is a lack of expert quality academic professionals who know how to teach and impart knowledge and go down the journey of learning.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ushering in a new era

Check out Phil Fersht's powerful blog, Horses For Sources where he writes about Genpact's first analyst and advisor conference held in Cambridge, MA last month. The event was well attended by key analysts and many consulting firms.

Here's what Phil writes of the event, "Genpact is addressing critical challenges to standardize processes across its clients, but recognizes the hard work is only just beginning..." Read the rest of the post by clicking here!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Let's Do It Delhi " what an Energizing 3 hours

I just returned after participating in what i thought was one of the most awesome 3 hours .... as part of a group of 800 of us from Genpact who gathered outside Qutub Minar in Delhi and cleaned up the whole area !!

It showed the true "power of many " all concentrated and focused on a single goal ...clean the place up

We had the Delhi Municipal Officials , the Archeological Society of India (that oversees the Qutub Minar area ) and the Delhi Waste Management Team all be there to help. Who says these things don't happen in India and that there is apathy ?

The group showed what doing instead of being indifferent can mean.... imagine now if this is replicated every weekend , in 100s of places , in scores of cities and localities ....what a transformation it will create

and most importantly every one who participates will change ...will become more responsible in their own lives ....we wont need these at some point in the future

But for now we will do many more of these for sure

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Innovation Dichotomy

Last month I visited a bunch of customers (existing and potential) on the US West Coast from various industries; technology, infrastructure, software and internet-related companies.

So here you have a set of companies who are considered to be the most innovative in the world. They thrive on innovation – make money off it, add value to the world around them, innovate on products, services, business models – you name it. Innovation is the name of the game - it’s what makes the Valley thrive. It would be reasonable to conclude that the ability of these innovative organizations to drive change and be comfortable with change is huge.

And yet, interestingly, their ability, appetite and willingness to drive change within some of their own processes is astonishingly low – like that of any regular company or even worse! While the business side of their organizations is constantly innovating and changing, it’s some of the “back-office” work (finance or HR for instance) that does not want to change. They seem to have a "this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset – which bothered me and got me thinking…how could these two worlds coexist?

So here’s my hypothesis:

In these companies its clear where the excitement lies – in the front, on new products, new ways to serve customers, new tool for customers etc. So if I’m an existing or potential employee, I desperately want to move to this innovative part of the company – the part that has the buzz.

However, if I don’t bring the skill set to the table that makes me a part of the buzz, it will soon be clear that I (obviously) won’t be part of the excitement – this leads to one of two things – either I leave for a place where my skills are valued more, or I make peace with the fact that I’m a part of an organization that is not focused on my work. This is the beginning of a vicious circle that starts with mismatched expectations and leads to a growing apathy toward innovation or change. Effectively, these back-office parts of such innovative companies become the "left behind pieces” of the organization that are not innovative or change-embracing enough and therefore radically different from the rest of the organization.

It’s almost inexplicable but true that many of the most innovative companies in the world are least innovative when it comes to the way they think about the way they run their processes.

Lessons I learnt while teaching a class…

About two weeks back I taught a class to second year students at Wharton on ‘Driving Organizational Change’. Using Genpact’s example, we discussed how organizations drive change - what works and what doesn’t.

However, more than the subject of the class, what struck me about this session was how energizing it is to teach people who are eager to learn. Every time I talk to students, I’m amazed at how much it pushes me to think deeper and differently – and how it makes me more alert and agile. I fundamentally believe that when you enter into a dialogue with people who are keen to know more about what you’re saying, you think more about the answer and it gets better with experience. It’s a mutually beneficial exercise.

What was also interesting was the high level of interest that the students expressed in Genpact’s story. The class was a versatile group with some from Latin America, some from the US, a couple of them from Europe and some from North Asia. There was intense discussion on the “Corporation of the Future” – where more and more companies will only focus on doing things that differentiate them and prefer to buy services in other areas from external experts, rather than doing everything themselves. In that context, it was interesting to note that despite the diverse nature of the group, they all unanimously believed that the Corporation of the Future is the way the world is going to be. These are the future decision makers of the world and I was thrilled to learn that they thought the same way as I did!

The other interesting conversation was around process vs. technology. These are 25-30 year olds – not to be patronizing – but they have at most 4-5 years of work experience, and yet, they got it. The resonance was that it's always been about technology in the past but we know that technology alone doesn't always work. They were all very impressed with what process itself can do for organizations to do work better and felt that process in general is not accorded the importance it deserves.

This is the third time I taught in this program and each time the experience is terrific. I strongly feel one should grab every opportunity one gets to sound off ideas and provoke your audience to think differently because it has better outcomes each time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Power of Human Connect

Even as I write my own blog, check my facebook profile for messages and review the enterprise collaboration strategy for the company I work for, not for a moment do I stop believing in the power of human connect and the power of building personal relationships -- which was evident from the energy I felt at a recently-concluded annual customer - leadership meet that Genpact organizes every year.

We invite some of our customers and top leadership to get away for a couple of days of hardcore networking, strategizing and..partying! While the days consist mainly of business presentations and sharing of best practices, the evenings are filled with good old fashioned drinking, dancing...you name it!

I often meet these people (both customers and employees) at work..at conferences..at meetings but nothing beats the energy and connect one feels when you put people together in an informal setting...agreeing..fighting..debating...and partying. So sorry Cisco and HP..if you think your virtually-connected world is going to take over, it won't. No matter how evolved we get technologically, it will always be about getting people together..building relationships..working and playing together. And if you were an airline company, you'd say thank god for that!

NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2010

Last month I was in Mumbai for the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum. Billed as Asia's Most Awaited Leadership Conference, it was a powerful platform that brought together over 150 organizations - both big and small from around the world. But from all the key messages that one took away, the one that was the most powerful was the one that wasn't even stated -- the industry has expanded far beyond India.

The game has grown exponentially and the international flavor of the conference was evident and refreshing - over twenty different countries had delegations present. It wasn't just the usual suspects from Europe, Americas etc who made their presence felt -- the conference was as much about a Poland or an Egypt as it was about an India. The undercurrent clearly had moved away from "the recession is over and its business as usual" to the changing way services will be sold in the future and that the newer players are entering and transforming the industry.

On a separate note, another thing I found pretty impressive was the slickness of the conference and quality of presentations etc. The fact that they had significant social media presence with their own blog and twitter page only helped!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Leading with Cricket

I was in a heated debate with a bunch of old friends catching up over a drink and we debated some questions on leadership and sports. I caught a 16 hour flight soon after that and thought it was so good a debate that I should capture the questions and my views!

The thoughts resulted in an article for People Matters magazine which (hopefully) captures the difference between winning teams and others. Check it out!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wild Boars and Wilder Dreams

Being bang in the midst of what can only be described as the middle of nowhere (I’m on vacation in the wild animal-infested Nilgiri forests of southern India) – sort of clears up your mind. Down a shot of locally brewed alcohol and it even allows for a spot of introspection!!

The wildest of wild dreamers couldn't have dreamt about where our industry would end up going. There are several visionaries around who dreamt big and achieved big - but even they wouldn't have imagined as to where this has come to.

Even today, it's difficult for most people to understand why this has worked – was it just a matter of the right timing or is there something more to it…

While that maybe too lyrical a question, one thing is probably true -- when people have a vision today, they are probably "under dreaming" as to where their dream can go - in the way companies run, who does what etc. The boundaries between companies in terms of doing work, the boundaries where competencies get created and the amount of value that can be and gets created in that process and the expertise that is globally distributed...all that one can dream of and envision...are probably 'under dreamt' and 'under-visioned.' Dream of a company that designs, prices, markets and sells a product or a service and does nothing else itself....everything else it buys through an eco system of partners!

It's become so much more mainstream now. There was a point when only some companies thought about it and it was possible only for large companies who were global. Today, it’s all pervasive in terms of culture, industry, size etc. and one of the interesting things is that it has spread its wings into countries that earlier were only delivery centers but are now buying services as well. That’s another indication of where this is going.

Therefore, any of us associated with any aspect of running companies who are in decision-making positions should really force ourselves to dream harder, else it’s likely that we will miss something. A lot of people who read this might ask which planet I’m on! They might argue that this has gone as far as it could…but that’s just my view.