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Issue of March 2004 

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Reaping technology benefits

As a CEO he needs to make sure that everyone understands how technology can benefit, and get cost-effective and appropriate solutions. by Minu Sirsalewala

Aditya Puri was given a mandate to set up a 'world-class Indian bank', from scratch. The responsibility, seemingly impossible, was taken up as a challenge by him when he joined HDFC Bank Ltd., as Managing Director in September 1994. Since then his bank has been successful to earn the reputation of a true 'world-class bank' in India.

He has been named by Business Week (one of the leading international publications), as one of "The Stars of Asia" - leaders at the "forefront of change" in the June, 1999 issue. And he was listed in the August 1999 issue of 'Institutional Investor' magazine as one of Asia's most influential bankers.

Puri, a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India (ICAI) with over 19 years of experience in both local and international banking says that in today's financial services environment technology is not an option but a necessity. Technology is viewed as a vital 'enabler' of business, and not as an adjunct.

Without IT

"Many of the products offered by the bank today would have been impossible without technology and software. But it is important to note that, there is an interesting array of available solutions in the market. In such a scenario it is imperative that one makes the right choices everytime. In that sense, IT is a critical business entity," he explained.

The bank prioritized its engagement in technology and the Internet as one of it's key goals and has already made significant progress in Web-enabling its core businesses.

In each of its businesses, the bank has succeeded in leveraging its market position, expertise, and technology to create a competitive advantage and build market share.

Your role and IT

As the head of the company he believes in involving himself in key investment decisions regarding technology.

"However, my role is not to understand technology. I need to make sure that everyone understands how technology can benefit them. I also need to make sure that we get cost-effective and appropriate solutions. But since IT is a critical business function, I involve myself in key investment decisions regarding technology," he says.

Intelligent IT

The bank's business intelligence project involving a data warehouse taught the CEO many things about the customers and how they were using the bank's products and services. It also told the business heads which products and customers were most profitable.

"With the use of technology we were able to allow a lot of our corporate customers to transact with us on the Internet. This saved them time and money, and gave them the convenience of using their ERP systems and run their businesses effectively.

The CIO and the business

The role of a CIO needs to change from a technologist to that of a business strategist, where the CIO plays a significant role in steering business strategy using IT.

"We have been using technology as a strategic tool in our business and it has been possible only because we ensured that our IT team transcended the narrow requirements of a technology function and imbibed the role of a strategic enabler of business," explains Puri.

The CIO’s Transition

He feels that the CIO needs

to adopt a number of skills in order to make a transition from a technology person to a business strategist. And on the way he/she must also understand a lot about the business processes to make the transition?

"A CIO needs to understand technology and the business parameters. He needs to be able to bridge the gap between the business person's understanding of technology and their actual requirements and convert that into business-friendly solutions."

Aditya was a student of Bishops School, Pune and has a B.Com Degree from Punjab University, Chandigarh. He is married with a son and daughter.

Minu Sirsalewala can be reached at

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