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Issue of May 2006 

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The challenge seeker

He considers every challenge as an opportunity to bring in innovation and align the goals of a business with IT. Vinita Gupta traces the career graph of Ravikiran S Mankikar, DGM (Credit and IT) of The Shamrao Vithal Co-operative (SVC) Bank

In the co-operative banking sector, usage of IT is not extensive. This is where men like Ravikiran S Mankikar, DGM (Credit and IT) of The Shamrao Vithal Co-operative (SVC) Bank make a difference by introducing information technology into a business.

The biggest challenge faced by any CIO is to align technology with business needs. Mankikar has been successful in this direction since he put in place a dedicated IT team, consisting of officials handpicked from within the bank. This initiative was started when SVC bank took the decision to develop in-house software. The objective behind this move was to reduce dependence on vendors for servicing and business needs. In 1997, the team developed a roadmap to follow, and embarked on a journey to prove that self-help is indeed the best help.

This is but an example of the unique initiatives that Mankikar has undertaken. Join us as we explore the journey of the man, his achievements and what drives him forward.

The Quest For Innovation

Mankikar’s initiation to IT started in the early 1980s when he joined his family business, a stationery trading company. There he planned to use software which would help the business grow.

It was during this stint that he got interested in IT and chose it as a career. He says, “I found IT more appealing than business where nothing is innovative. In business you only buy and sell. In IT, you can be more creative and innovative.”

Mankikar has a penchant for innovation and this has helped his initiatives succeed. In the intensely competitive banking industry, it is necessary that a bank sets itself apart with capabilities that others lack. A good example of his innovative initiatives is the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) used by SVC Bank. Mankikar says that this was first of its kind, since no other co-operative bank has carried out RTGS on a Straight Through Processing (STP) mode.

Being a cooperative bank, SVC has many senior citizens as its customers. This age group is usually wary of using ATMs due to security issues and will make excuses such as “forgot pincode” to avoid using them. SVC Bank came up with an innovative idea to allay such fears. “We gave them an ATM card and convinced them that the card is a substitute to the token which is taken to the cashier to withdraw cash. All that is required is to insert the card in the ATM machine to withdraw money in a simple and efficient manner. We addressed their fear of using ATMs. In this way we helped senior citizens and our ATM usage increased as well,” says Mankikar.

Grooming Self For IT

He completed his graduation in commerce from Dahanukar College, Mumbai. This was followed by courses like Diploma in System Analysis, BS7799 Lead Auditor, CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor), QMS Lead Auditor training, and an IS security course from the Centre for IS and Assurance Technologies (CISAT). This is why Mankikar says that the first 10 years after his graduation until the first job was the period when he acquired new skills. These were the years that provided him with the knowledge base to become a CIO well-versed with all things technology.

Date of Birth:
September 4, 1960
Family: A supportive wife and a 17-year old daughter
Hobbies: Reading thrillers and listening to Indian classical music
Reading: The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman
Favourite authors: Jeffrey Archer and Robert Heinlein
Vacation: Prefers places that soothe the nerves—hill stations and seashores.
Dream: Bring co-operative banks on par with private banks.
Memorable moment: Receiving The CTO of the year 2006 award.
Retirement plan:
A farmhouse near Mumbai

The Initial Days

According to Mankikar, systems of yesteryears were different from what they are now. Today’s systems are more plug-and-play in nature. In the 1980s, programming was more of logic building as in the case of COBOL programs.

“You had to go through logical processes like understanding how things work. Then you try to build your software over that. So you have to think level one and evolve in terms of knowledge of systems,” says Mankikar. He further adds that though the process may appear uncomplicated, these were the initial steps to developing a process of logical thinking.

Mankikar has been working in the IT field for the last 15 years. 1991 marked the start of his career when he joined the Janakalyan Sahakari Bank (Janakalyan) as Head of IT. After a seven-year stint with the bank, he switched to IndusInd Bank for three years. Mankikar has been with SVC Bank for the past three-and-a-half years.

The SVC Experience

Mankikar says that when he joined SVC Bank, many things had to be considered. The background and customer base of banks that he had earlier worked with differed from SVC’s. So understanding customer needs and staff mentality was crucial.

Mankikar found the staff of SVC Bank to be more sophisticated, educated and receptive compared to Janakalyan Bank’s staff. “In SVC, the CIO has to make technology more in tune with the organisational culture. What I have achieved in SVC Bank, I would have not achieved in Jankalyan Bank or vice-versa,” says Mankikar.

However, he is of the opinion that working in Janakalyan Bank made him realise how technology can help expand a business. “Whatever I have learned there has helped me become more innovative,” Mankikar explains.

Mankikar to fellow CIOs
Things were simpler, easier to manage, and not much of a headache. Now you have to keep pace with change.

Learn, learn, and learn some more by understanding new techniques and trends. It is important to understand what your competitors do so that you put in the technology before they do.

You must focus on the company's core strength. Put yourself in the user's shoes and experience things from that perspective. Consider their unique needs and design software accordingly.

Be informed about new technologies. He explains this by giving an example: A big polar bear was chasing two men. The first man was running faster than the second. So the second man asked him, "Why are you running so fast, the bear is far behind." So the first man replied, "I am not trying to outrun the bear. I am trying to outrun you."

Team Leader

Mankikar is a team builder. He feels that the team leader must groom and develop the team.

The team leader should help, train, and educate his team. He inculcates these values in his work and wants his team to grow with him. For instance, his secretary was a full-fledged banker. According to Mankikar, when she joined the IT department, she did not like it initially, but today, she is the most competent person in his department. She can now run the IT department on her own.

The Future

Mankikar feels that there is a need to do lot more in the co-operative banking sector. He likes challenges and hence he will do his best to bring co-operative banks at par with private ones.

Private banks have capital, while public banks have a vast network. Co-operative banks are small and have limited resources which is where the challenge comes in.

Mankikar wants to take SVC bank forward. He says, “There are many more things to do. If you take the technology and changes that are happening, you will find that this is only the tip of the iceberg and there is long way to go.”

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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