With the increasing adoption of emerging technologies like data, cognitive, automation, and cloud computing, it is imperative for India to keep pace with the recent developments. Training future leaders and providing intellectual tools is the need of the hour to face the upcoming technological challenges, said Sudhir Singh, CEO, NIIT Technologies in an interview with Yahoo India. Singh is the Chief Executive Officer of NIIT Technologies based in Princeton, New Jersey.
He has worked across North America, Europe, and Asia and brings experience from across “Levers” (Hindustan Lever/Unilever), Infosys and Genpact to bear on his current role at NIIT Technologies.
He took over as the CEO of NIIT Technologies on January 19, 2018.
Following are excerpts of the interview with Sudhir Singh:
1. What is the NIIT Technologies’ vision & mission? How do you think it fits into the requirements of a nation like India?
NIIT Technologies’ vision is to ‘Engage with the Emerging’ technologies – driving transformation at the intersection of BFS, Insurance and Travel industries and emerging technologies like automation, API-fication and core digital. The intent is to enable our clients to achieve real-world business impact. Our mission is to ‘Enable Enterprises Manage Information Better’.
Our vision and mission are aimed at addressing the industry needs and the talent requirements of the country. This, in turn, will help strengthen the country’s position on the global IT roadmap.
2. What is driving NIIT Technologies’ growth in the various geographies that you have operations in?
Our growth has come on the back of changes done around three axes:
- Leadership/People – The reconstituted leadership team hired from Tier 1 companies including Accenture, Microsoft, TCS, Infosys, Capgemini, and Fujitsu is now based in markets closer to our customers. Changes have been done not just at senior levels but also across the Industry Consulting Head, Client Partner and Service Line leader levels in the organization. The aim has been to create a composite and empowered team with its center of gravity firmly in the markets where our clients are based.
- Culture/performance ethic – The culture of NIIT Technologies has always had a strong bedrock of people centricity and integrity. We have layered that with a sharpened performance ethic and a “hunger” for creating growth and impact. Large deals bonuses have been quadrupled and the range of performance-based increments have been doubled across the organization.
- Strategy – Our strategy focused around “transform at the intersect” revolves around using emerging technologies and applying it to the real world context of BFS, Insurance and Travel industries to drive growth. The narrow industry and tech focus has allowed us to invest incredibly deeply in building real-world capabilities in these sectors to drive differentiated, sustainable and profitable growth.
3. What are your focus areas and growth strategy for the coming years?
Over the past few quarters, NIIT Technologies has realigned its growth strategy to focus sharply on three key industry segments – Banking & Financial Services, Insurance and Travel & Transportation. Even within industries, we have focused on particular sub-segments. In the BFS space, our efforts are concentrated towards the Buy side of the Capital Markets, in the Travel space towards Airlines and Airports; and within Insurance in the Specialty Insurance and the Property & Casualty space. Within the emerging/emergent technologies, we are currently focused on Automation, Cloud, Data & Analytics and Digital. We have also charted our Innovation Centre to actively explore capability build in cognitive tech, Blockchain, and IoT.
Differentiation is a natural outcome of being focused on three industries alone. We are focused intensely on building capabilities, partner networks and SME pools in these three verticals so that we can lead conversations with “stories” around real impact created instead of making plain vanilla pitches.
In conclusion for our next phase of growth, we are focused on aggressive growth by leveraging our domain and industry knowledge, incubating digital at scale, industrializing through a full-spectrum of intelligent-automation solutions and harnessing our people strength.
Could you talk about your q-o-q and y-o-y growth and share insights around how do you plan to sustain the growth momentum?
In Q2 FY19 we have had extremely robust 10% sequential revenue growth and 217 bps sequential improvement in Operating Margin which is a reflection of the intent of the firm as we target predictable and fast scaling profitable growth. The highlights of the quarter were broad-based de-risked growth across all verticals and significant investments in building differentiated capability while simultaneously improving margin profile.
Q2 FY19 Highlights:
- Robust revenue growth — Revenues up 23.1% YoY and 10.0% QoQ
- Strong improvement in Operating Profits, by 37.2% YoY and 25.1% QoQ
- Operating Margins expand by 186 bps YoY and 217 bps QoQ
- Fresh Order Intake expands to USD 160 Mn
As stated above we will sustain our growth momentum by continuing our focus on the growth drivers outlined.
3. What is the current headcount of NIIT Technologies, and do you have any hiring plans in the coming quarters?
Our current headcount is 10,025. Yes, we will be hiring in the coming quarters depending on our project needs. You will note that in the last nine months we have already added ~1000 employees, 499 of whom were in the Digital space.
4. Could you share NIIT Technologies’ investment plans or any other information related to your expansion plan (if any)?
We are constantly investing in building our capabilities in the identified areas and up-skilling our people. Give our healthy cash position we also remain open to any inorganic acquisition provided it is a good fit with our strategy.
5. How much of a part does innovation play in equipping oneself with the latest skills? How does NIIT Technologies tackle this?
Innovation plays a vital role in equipping oneself with the latest skills as it is important to stay abreast and adopt the latest technologies through upskilling.
At NIIT Technologies we believe in nurturing an innovation-oriented culture with a future-ready talent building strategy. We have launched many programs to enable our people to reskill and upskill themselves through various modes of learning. We have had a Technology Innovation centre that focusses on Horizon 3 tech and is currently working actively on prototype creations in the AR/VR, Machine Vision, Blockchain and IoT space.
6. In today’s fast-changing world where newer skills are required to succeed, what is NIIT Technologies doing to help talent add to their skill-sets to become successful?
At NIIT Technologies, growth and development of employees form an integral part of our people strategy. We are re-skilling our people on new and emerging technologies like IoT, UI, UX to re-orient them with the changing market dynamics. We have recently introduced PERCIPIO and Intelligent Data Science MBA programs to build future-ready talent.
In association with Skillsoft, we have launched a new intelligent learning platform, PERCIPIO that delivers a personalized learning experience. The new enterprise learning platform provides over 26,000 learning assets across technology, domain, operations, sales, management, leadership areas allowing every NIITian to take charge and charter their own learning paths.
Intelligent Data Science MBA program – A first-of-its-kind, work-integrated two-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in Intelligent Data Science co-created with NIIT University, with a strong industry focused domain training. The program enables us to build intelligent data science capabilities to meet the demands of business globally.
7. What does India need to do, right from the school level, to ensure that the next generation is ready to face the new challenges that the changing technology world creates?
Technology by nature is subject to change at a rapid pace and it is imperative for us as to keep pace with the developments. With the increasing adoption of emerging technologies like Data, Cognitive, Automation and Cloud etc. in every aspect of our life, the future of technology is largely building towards digital. While we equip the future leaders through various trainings, it is increasingly necessary to train them in the technology of tomorrow.
We need to begin by demystifying technology and providing the students the intellectual tools to deal with the changing time. This cannot be achieved through the traditional textbook structure. Classrooms should be more interactive, and we need to promote experiential learning as a format to promote the exchange of ideas. Creating a connected environment for students in schools is another aspect that will help in skill development and also build interest in emerging technology. Amidst all this, we must reiterate that it is equally important to train the workforce of today because they are the ones building and influencing the leaders of tomorrow.