To grow big, start small
Ishwar Jha is all of 34, but the Vice-president of
Essel is wise beyond his years. Kumar Dawada profiles the man who believes
that success starts with small initiatives
name, designation and tone of the telephonic conversation makes you wonder if
you will be meeting a silver-haired person in his 50s looking good in a suit.
Seeing a simple, informally dressed, 34-year-old greeting you makes you wonder
whether you are in the right office. However, as Ishwar Jha starts to speak,
the level and depth of his knowledge says volumes about why the young hotshot
is the Vice-president of the Essel Group.
MCA By Default
As Jha recalls, he had many career choices before him. While his father wanted
him to be a teacher, his uncle urged him to be a bank clerk and he himself aspired
to be a journalist. Hence, Jha prepared for entrance exams for all the three
and appeared for all of them.
After getting selected for an MCA (Master of Computer Applications) and joining
the course, Jha came to know that he had qualified for journalism as well. However,
when he went to cancel the MCA admission, the college refused to refund his
money so he ended up doing the course.
Jha has no regrets about doing the MCA. He believes that when
you take up a professional course like CA, MBA or MCA, you end up loving the
stream thanks to the method of teaching, grooming process, campus and environment.
Besides, once you enter the job market and start getting rewards and career
growth, then even your heart says this is right for you, he says.
Starting From Scratch
Jha started his career in 1992 as a regional computer executive with Patel Roadways.
The company wanted to computerise its operations nationwide. It had nine regional
computer centres across the country to capture field data including booking,
transport and customer details. Moreover, it was a pioneer in the use of e-mail
to transfer data as a text file from branch offices to the head office.
According to Jha, during the early days he even helped load and unload trucks.
He also spent time working at various countersbooking, delivery and cash
to learn the processes. In 1994 he joined a small chemical company in Baroda
as the IT manager doubling as an office manager. It was during this stint that
Jha learnt to manage and develop projects from scratch.
Despite offers from big names, Jha preferred to join companies where he could
learn from actual implementation. This he felt had more value than working in
a company where the processes were well-defined and streamlined.
To grow big in a company, start small. Take little initiatives and consistently
give results. If I walk into a company and start talking about big projects
and results at the start, the management may not have faith in me and my proposals
may not be accepted. Consistent success in small initiatives will give the bosses
greater confidence in me, observes Jha.
Later, Jha joined Sony, where he developed and implemented a logistics management
system. The project cost Rs 3 lakh but saved the company Rs 2 crore in terms
of inventory. In his six year stint at Sony, Jha says that he never had to take
the boss approval for anything. He never had to give a break-up of what
he was buying for the company, or at what rate. He had built up trust and it
helped his growth in the organisation.
Jha has completed more than 10 courses to upgrade his management skills and
develop his personality. He has continuously improved his skills and knowledge
on technology by doing in-depth courses.
Case in point: Jha attended a five-day course of Microsoft .NET when it was
in beta. He believes in becoming familiar with new technology when it arrives,
preparing for implementation, and delivering value to the organisation.
CIO=Career Is Over
Before working with Sony, Jha was in a typical CIO or IT heads rolebuying
technology, developing software solutions, implementing them and maintaining
them so that the organisation benefited. Jha is known for his statement CIO
means the Career Is Over. It got a lot of media attention and was debated
in many forums.
He explains, Whenever a CIO takes up a job or changes his job, he wants
to do new things. Most companies have a mature and stable IT set-up. All that
is needed are upgrades, maintenance and someone who can expand the companys
business and IT strategy. However, the typical new CIO has fresh ideas which
will cost crores of rupees. He goes to the CEO or the Board of Directors with
his proposal and is eager to start implementation within six months. If his
proposals are not accepted, he gets discouraged and ends up switching jobs and
At Essel, Jha does not have a specific or a set job. As he informs, only one
thing is very clear at the board level: I have to develop a technology
for the business which will either earn substantial revenue or help the company
reduce costs. Once the technology is implemented he hands over its maintenance
to someone else and moves on to a new project.
His first project was to turn around Cyquator, the technology division of the
Essel group. It had only seven people and lacked proper direction. Jha took
the core team, worked out a strategy, and helped develop it into a 30-member
The next project was the 7575 mobile software platform. Jhas job was to
integrate the technology with Essels business. Today it has become Indias
second-largest software platform in terms of content, services and performance.
Another challenge was developing a website called myplaywin.com, an online gaming
site. Due to the efforts of Jhas technical team, it is currently doing
a monthly business of Rs 1.5 crore. Next years upgradation will make it
the second-highest grossing e-commerce Web site in India, next only to that
of Indian Railways.
A project very close to Jhas heart is ZAMS, or Zee Asset Management Solution.
He explains that Zee has become the first company in the Asia Pacific to implement
an end-to-end asset management solution. Once raw footage is added to the system,
the production, editing and broadcasting happens on the digital platform.
ZAMS will help Zee manage enterprise content and deliver it to emerging media
such as IPTV, HDTV, video-on-mobile and video-on-demand. It will position Zee
to take full advantage of the digital video wave, provide digital services,
and take on future challenges.
This project was so huge that it required 10 months to get the right vendors
and people, and identify the right approach. Our investment will be recovered
in four years and then there will be substantial profits, says Jha.
Jha is very excited about his pet project, the soon-to-be-aired game show Kum
Ya Jaada. The show enables people to play from their home and offers rewards
for speed and accuracy. The viewer has to use a telephone or a mobile to play
If I had made a business plan and gone to the management saying that I
have this game show in mind, they would have thought, What does a tech
guy know about a TV game show? says Jha. So he decided to adopt
a different approach. I proposed that since there is a telecom boom in
India, why not do something unique to reward telecom-users just for their intellectual
capacity. Since then, things have evolved to the point where the programme
is ready for launch.
Jha firmly believes that hard work and thorough preparation lead to success.
I do simple things. I deliver the return on investment. Even though I
am a CIO and a technology guy, I take care of the revenue and cost/benefit.
He keeps track of the latest technology and how it will impact the business
domain of his enterprise. Then it is just a matter of putting a business plan
into action. I can see the potential or business opportunity, but I cannot
for sure say that it will be profit-making or not. The management has to bring
in a business wizard to ensure that, states Jha.
He feels that a CIO must know how to tackle difficult situations. The best way
is to keep the other stakeholders informed. If it is a business venture he has
to keep his boss, peers and colleagues informed, and make them a part of the
process. Proper communication makes them feel that whatever has been decided
is a joint decision.
Jhas approach for dealing with difficult people is using
silence. Sometimes, you cant justify your point or prove the other
person is wrong. You have to wait for the right time to prove it. Vanquish your
enemy with your good work, he advises. He believes that to be a successful
CIO, the first thing is to believe in yourself. Do your homework, deliver small
results successfully and consistently, and then go for big challenges.
|Birthdate: February 5
Family: Wife and two children. Parents
in Bihar. Father is a priest and an astrologer.
Hobbies: Yoga, spirituality, Ayurveda
(treats bronchitis and asthma in kids), cooking, taking cooking
classes (teaching housewives how their food helps make their children
successful in life).
Idea of a vacation: Short trip to Lonavala,
visiting parents in Bihar.
Likes: Wisdom and humility in people.
Future plans: Wants all upscale Biharis
to go back to Bihar and help it develop, grow and prosper.