The versatile CIO
strategic planner, company secretary, professor, philosopher, adventurer, mathematician.
Meet Vikas Gadre, the CIO of Rallis India who is all these and more. by Kumar
Any unsuspecting person entering Vikas Gadres office is guaranteed to
be intimidated by a large notice board covered with cryptic markings. He calls
it a people mapper and uses it to analyse and predict peoples
behaviour and performance. There is yet another notice board that is filled
with reminders from Gadre to himself about what he has to do more often and
what he shouldnt.
These are clues which reveal his mind and in-depth knowledge, but they are just
the tip of the iceberg. There is much more hidden in the sparkling eyes of Gadre.
Right from his childhood Vikas Gadre excelled at mathematics and got many prizes
at school. At one stage he wanted to become an actuary but fate had different
plans for him.
After graduating in chemical engineering from IIT Bombay, he studied business
management at IIM Bangalore. Later, when he felt he needed to know more about
law, he became a company secretary. While working for Eureka Forbes he realised
that he also needed to know more about quality control, so he then obtained
the necessary qualifications for becoming a corporate quality head, including
a certified quality analyst.
Gadre likes to learn but loves to impart his learning even more. He teaches
students of the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies and other management
colleges where he is part of the visiting faculty.
INVOLVEMENT WITH IT
Gadre began work as a maintenance engineer in 1973, and even now is confident
of opening and servicing a valve and a pump with his own hands. After completing
his studies at IIM he joined Tata Economic Consultancy Services in 1977.
This was followed by a stint of more than 10 years with Garware Polyester, which
led to his first encounter with IT. Garware had introduced PCs, and as he liked
to do things systematically he took the opportunity to get involved.
Working with companies such as Garware, Ceat Tyres, Eureka and Rallis gave Gadre
exposure to all functions including manufacturing, procurement and finance.
It also helped him understand the intricacies of setting up companies in Mauritius,
starting a new business in Vietnam, or raising funds in Hong Kong.
LEARNING AT EUREKA FORBES
A practice at Eureka totally changed his business approach. Eureka encouraged
senior officers to accompany sales or service executives to the field so that
policy makers could understand first-hand how the customer behaves and what
he wants. Only when you face difficulties at the grass-root level do you
know how to tackle it. Otherwise you just sit in an ivory tower and talk about
policies, declares Gadre.
||Wife and a son. Married for 27 years. Son an IIM-A graduate
||Loves reading, especially books on philosophy, yoga and management
|Idea of a vacation:
||Take long walks in the Himalayas. Gadre has already visited
major hill stations in the region
||C K Prahalad, Michael Porter, Jack Welch (especially his Four
Ps of Management)
||Openness, frankness, classical music
||Sluggishness, missing deadlines
||Takes risk, loves the excitement of facing the unknown. Travels
with wife to places such as Jaisalmer armed with only a credit card and
then faces situations as they arise
||Philanthropy, wants to contribute to society
While working as Vice-president for Strategic Planning at Rallis, Gadre was
made a CIO to implement ERP and take Rallis from a legacy system to SAP 4.7.
Even before the ERP project was completed, Rallis delivered actionable information
within 90 days.
Gadre feels that since he looked after strategic planning in addition to playing
the role of a CIO, he is in a good position to ensure that IT policies are aligned
with corporate strategies. We at Rallis have the determination to make
all available information actionable, and then make it available 24x7, anywhere,
anyhow, says Gadre.
Even though Rallis is a diversified company with five factories, eight regional
offices, 1,500 dealers, and more than 2,000 vendors, it has implemented six
modules of SAP. Currently, even the vendor and dealer portals get actionable
information from the SAP implementation. We have also made the actionable
information available on mobile phones, reveals Gadre. Rallis uses a combination
of Microsoft Excel and SQL Server for data mining.
Since Rallis has already analysed their action plan from the strategic angle
to stay competitive, Gadre feels that their future focus will be on extracting
additional value from the supply chain and on dealer-vendor relationships. Rallis
services around 50 lakh farmers through our dealers and 25,000 retailers. Our
relationship with our dealers and retailers is therefore critical, as is the
need to get strategic information from the agricultural market. All our future
IT actions will be focussed on this area, states Gadre.
He elaborates that Rallis has invested in assets and programmes
for supply chain management, distribution management, advanced production planning
and data mining. It enforces a strong IT policy and operating process, and will
also initiate a disaster recovery system in case another disaster such as the
recent Mumbai rains occurs. In that case we know exactly what to do and
when to do it without any need for a leader to drive things. It should function
in auto pilot mode, quips Gadre.
A firm believer that a CIO has to change his career profile every ten years
in todays environment, Gadre comments, If someone thought that he
could become a bank manager and retire as a bank manager it was probably true
for the previous generation. With the current level of technology in the corporate
world, even expecting to remain at the same position for long is difficult.
He feels that a CIO must not only have functional knowledge but also be an expert
at management because it is a critical aspect and runs across all industries.
As a CIO he spends even more time in relationship-building because no IT project
can be implemented without support and approvals from the CEO, board of directors
Gadre considers himself fortunate because he looks after strategic planning
along with being a CIO. That way he has a fairly good knowledge of where the
company is heading in terms of business and where IT can help the company, so
selling an IT project to colleagues becomes simpler. Because business
strategy is arrived at by consensus and IT projects support this strategy, my
job of convincing people becomes that much easier, Gadre points out. According
to him, a good CIO must have a clear understanding of the realities on the ground.
A CIO cant stay on the banks of the river and advise someone else on how
to swim. He must go with the flow.
The CIO must be familiar with the sales, production and maintenance functions
at the bottom of the ladder. Only then he will realise what the IT system or
the companys product is doing to transform the life of the people it affects
the most. At the end of the day, the company makes profits and prospers,
but a CIO is successful only if the people around him feel that he has helped
raise their level of skills and knowledge, reflects Gadre.
THE PUZZLE APPROACH
As a CIO, Gadre uses the puzzle approach to handle difficult situations and
difficult people. Once you start solving a puzzle, every bit of the solution
changes the problem. The same approach can be applied to business. In a complex
situation, every step forward or attempt at communication gives some new piece
of information or clue. The perspective and the equation changes with every
attempt. The new piece of information and previous experience can be coupled
to solve a problem. All you have to do is to try continuously and persistently.
In a clash of egos, situations or personalities, it is best to win over a person
if it is for the good of the company and if it ensures the desired result.
WISDOM BREEDS HUMILITY
A mathematician at heart, Gadre likes to analyse people and predict their behaviour
and improve their performance. He makes a chart and categorises people to understand
and deal with them better. He also tells people to take risks, stretch out and
achieve something more.
When asked to rate himself as a CIO on a 10-point scale, Gadre gives himself
between 3 and 4. He believes that there is still much for him to learn, and
that a vast part of the ocean of knowledge before him is still uncharted territory.