One should be open to absorb the best things
strong believer in honesty and integrity, he has helped craft IT strategies
to empower auto giant Mahindras success. Here is the story of what constitutes
Arvind G Tawde, the VP & CIO of Mahindra & Mahindra. A profile
by Anil Patrick R
Introvert by self-admission and outstanding strategist by reputation. These
are the traits that mark Arvind Tawde, the man who plays a significant role
in deciding how Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) will chart its way ahead.
Tawde was instrumental in setting up the corporate IT function
at M&Ms corporate centre, which he currently heads as Vice-president
& Chief Information Officer. Under his leadership, IT at M&M has become
a benchmark in the industry in many areas.
from Maharashtras Konkan region, Tawde has spent his entire life in Mumbai,
from education to a career marked by professional accolades. The true-blue Mumbaikar
did his SSC (when it was the 11th standard, unlike the present-day 10th) from
Chhabildas Boys High School, Dadar, Mumbai.
Later he joined Ruia College and moved on to VJTI for his engineering degree.
My interests always lay in science, so engineering was a natural progression,
says the man.
Start Of The Trail
The year 1971 witnessed Tawde graduating in mechanical engineering from VJTI.
He immediately took up a job with Precision Partners, where he worked for four
years before moving on.
Tawdes stint with M&M started in 1979 after a brief association with
two other companies. During this interim period, he completed his post-graduation
in industrial management and masters in administrative management from Bombay
According to his own admission, he is basically a businessman
rather than a techie. This has helped him understand how to use IT most optimally
to meet business objectives.
His initial exposure to business included working on production
planning and material planning. When he joined M&M, he was into production
planning. He moved on to a function called management audit during the mid-1980s.
Tawde recalls that till he started doing management audit, it was hands-on work
on the shop floor and planning.
Audits gave Tawde good exposure in terms of how the whole group operates. That
was the best lesson he ever had into how each team operates. I had to
review operations for all teams and assess and suggest what could be done in
the best way. This involved understanding business processes and how to benchmark
operations, Tawde recollects.
Meeting His Mentor
The exposure to management audits became helpful when Tawde moved to Mahindras
corporate affairs department in the late eighties. This helped him get exposure
to the financial side of Mahindras operations.
It was also the point in time when Tawde met the person who guided him on his
career path. I was reporting to our CFO, Bharat Doshi as his Executive
Assistant. He is my mentor, he says.
Apart from Doshi, Tawde considers several friends and colleagues
to be positive influences. A lot of people, right from fresh graduates
come to my department and I get to learn a lot of from them. You should be open
to absorb the best things from them, explains Tawde.
I believe that the CIO needs to be more of a business
leader than a technologist. He needs to go beyond managing technology,
and focus on people management. A CIO's success depends on how effectively
he deals with people.
First on the list are his internal customers from
whom he needs to get buy-in for his solutionbe it new
technology or infrastructure investment to enable business strategy. Next
is his team, which needs to be motivated for delivering high performance.
It is crucial for a CIO to convince his peers in
business. These entities need to have confidence in the CIO for implementing
successful initiatives. The CIO also needs to ensure co-operation, collaboration
and desired performance from his outsourcing partners, service providers
The success of IT in business finally depends on
how the CIO creates the differentiating capability through his team and
partners and puts it to use for realising the intended business value.
Architect Of Change
As the Senior General Manager heading Corporate Affairs at M&Ms Corporate
Centre, Tawde was involved in various strategic initiatives such as mergers,
acquisitions, business revivals and restructuring.
With the nineties came liberalisation, and the entry of more MNCs into India.
It was then that M&M decided to go in for BPR across the organisation so
as to be the best in the industry.
Tawde was also leading the Programme Office function for
monitoring the BPR project. Since it was driven by the top management, it helped
Tawde gain insights into operations management. There was a cross-functional
team from across the organisation which was implementing the BPR. That gave
me good exposure in organisation management, says Tawde.
As head of the Corporate Affairs department, Tawde was coordinating
the management board and business unit reviews (war room reviews) which increased
his organisational and process knowledge.
||Elder daughter Tejshree
is an MBA in HR, younger daughter Mugdha is
doing a course in animation after post-graduation
in marketing management. Wife, Anagha, is
to music, especially old songs
||Rate of buying books
is more than rate of reading, so there is
a lot of backlog
||Honesty and integrity
||Been to Darjeeling
||The World is
Flat by Thomas Friedman
||To balance the work-personal
life equation better and spend more quality
time with family
||Catch up with reading
Once BPR was executed, M&M went in for SAP to automate its operations. With
the completion of SAP in the late nineties, M&Ms erstwhile EDP and
functional team that worked on SAP was spun off as a separate entityMahindra
ASYST (now Bristlecone, Inc) to cater to internal and external customers. This
brought about a situation where a team was required to carry out core IT functions
for the business.
M&Ms corporate IT team was set up as a result of this need. Tawde
was chosen to spearhead the initiative due to his cross-functional and BPR expertise.
Thus, he entered the world of corporate IT.
In the corporate IT team, most of my team members were from the business
side and not hardcore technologists. It was over a period of time that they
gained competence in evaluating, selecting and implementing the best IT solutions
to achieve business objectives, explains Tawde.
M&Ms corporate IT function has come a long way from its three-member
team in 1999. Today, it is still comparatively lean and consists of four groupsbusiness
solutions, infrastructure & information security, IT management and operations
& program management, supporting M&M and many of the group companies,
as part of the corporate centre.
Case For Secure Knowledge
As head of corporate IT, Tawde leads M&Ms organisation-wide initiative
on information security for achieving BS 7799 information security certification.
He is also the key person behind M&Ms knowledge management and server
The companys corporate centre office, data centres, plants & sales
offices of farm equipment sector, and the defence services division have already
received BS 7799 certification. Plant locations and offices of automotive equipment
are in the final phase of certification.
Four years back, Tawde decided to initiate knowledge management at M&M.
This was due to the realisation that there were good opportunities for synergies,
sharing of knowledge, and best practices across the Mahindra group. Since corporate
IT interacts with all the business functions, business units and being a part
of the corporate centre, it was in the best position to make this happen.
Initially, the knowledge management initiative was confined to M&M. The
present focus is to include group companies as well in the initiative.
Within three to four months, group connectivity and a group intranet portal
as the platform to share information, best practices and achievements will be
in place, says Tawde.
No Retirement, Please
Tawde has no plans for retirement. However, after corporate life he has plans
to take up social causes.
I have an example to emulate in my department itself in the form of Sridhar
Rane who does a lot of social work. He has done quite a lot of work in his native
place. It is quite commendable that he finds time to do it all after finishing
his work, says Tawde.