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Issue of December 2006 
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A man of strong will

N P Singh, Senior VP, IT, Madura Garments, is a man who believes that you must learn from your experiences and use the knowledge that you possess. He shares his life story with Varun Aggarwal

I’m basically from Delhi, but for the past 15 years I’ve been based in Bangalore. My father has a house in GK 1 in South Delhi. After he retired he worked as a consultant with real estate companies such as DLF. Today he has given up consulting and is passing his time working with GKRA Association (GK I), doing some secretariat work. He’s basically an accounts man, so he takes care of their accounting. My mother is a housewife. My wife is an entrepreneur and she has her own set-up for IT and non-IT placements; she operates from home where she maintains her own office. My elder daughter Jessica is 18 and studying at NIFT Bangalore, doing textile designing. My younger daughter Esha is 14 and is in class IX.

Education

I did my schooling from Delhi. I was born and brought up in the capital, and my first job, with the UB Group, was also in Delhi. I did an MSc in Physics and went on to do an MTech in computer science.

Achievements

I would consider my biggest professional achievement the award that I got as the second runner-up for CTO of the Year in 2004. As for personal achievements, I set my KRAs every year. Over and above these I do one innovative thing which I consider my own personal target as well as my achievement. This year I took up an RFID project that I decided to do because nobody else has done it in India. We have linked the factory and the warehouse, and the latter is live on RFID. All dispatches from one factory and inventory in the warehouse are automated through RFID tagging. Now I’m in the process of linking the warehouse and one retail store in which the staging area has already been tested, and maybe by next weekend that part will also be through. Linking the factory, warehouse and store is something that nobody has done so far in India, so that’s probably what my personal achievement’s going to be. I’m implementing it at Planet Fashion Forum in Bangalore. The way ‘Metro Cash and Carry’ in Germany talks about its future store, this is what our future store is going to be.

Striving for excellence

There are three types of enterprises. One is fighting for survival, another believes in maintaining competitiveness, the third kind is breaking away. So we’re moving from maintaining competitiveness to breaking away as far as apparel and clothing organisations in the country are concerned.

We have been ahead of competition, and with RFID we are breaking away. We’ve proved this before in 2002 when I implemented SAP, and Madura Garments was the only organisation in India to go for SAP’s apparel and footwear solution. Six months back Arvind Mills did the same. So for three and half years we were the only one in India.

Fact-File
Date of birth : 15 January 1962
Born in : New Delhi
Father : Retired Govt. Officer
Mother : Housewife
Wife : Kamal Singh, an entrepreneur
Kids : Jessica Singh, daughter, 18 years, studying at NIFT, Bangalore Esha Singh, daughter, 14 years, studying in class IX

His favourite project

Talking about his favourite implementation Singh says, “I came to Madura after working for seven years at HLL, which was the first organisation in India to go in for ERP. I worked on the HLL ERP pilot during 1992-93. Moving from an ERP background to Cobol, Ingres and Visual FoxPro was a challenge for me which I accepted…I transformed this organisation from its legacy environment to SAP. It was the first garment company in India to go in for ERP, and that too with a solution which nobody had implemented in the country. The technology was also different, not the traditional standard methodology, and yet we deployed it successfully.

I began with coding; I used to write programs at the UB group, and from there I joined PwC in 1989. I’ve risen from System Executive to Senior System Executive to Assistant Manager to Manager to Senior Manager to GM to VP to Senior VP—that has been my growth path. I believe that you must rise from the experience and knowledge that you have. As of now, I’m content and satisfied, but definitely there’s a lot more to do and learn.

Growth path

I was reserved at school and didn’t really enjoy my schooling. I had to go school so I did that. My experience at college, on the other hand, was good. Here I represented Deshbandu College in TT tournaments at Delhi University. There wasn’t any college as such for post-graduation; you do it directly from Delhi University. After that I did my MTech and joined the UB group; the job was with McDowell’s, and I moved to its IT division which used to be called PICS. From there I moved on to PwC and onwards to HLL, Coats Viyella and now to Madura Garments—it is now a part of the Aditya Birla Group.

A time to learn

Talking about his mentor at PwC Singh says, “That was the time when I moved from an in-house unit within the UB Group to a consulting organisation where you’re always under pressure. In a consulting job, doing time management and designing the system requires you to assume higher responsibilities. How to go about it, how to interview people, what are the types of questions to ask….in these things, our team leader was my mentor, and I picked up a lot from him and the subsequent project which I did where he was the project manager and I was the team leader. He quit in-between, so I assumed the role of the project manager. I have great regard for him as he used to spend a lot of time with me teaching me to draw structures, design a project and a system, and then document the same all the way to preparing the presentations.”

Rapid Fire
  • Retirement plans: Perhaps I will take up part-time consulting work, help my wife in her work, and spend time to hone my tennis skills.
  • Favourite kind of music: Old Hindi film songs.
  • Favourite film: Sholay and the Bond movies.
  • Favourite book and author: I do not have one favourite book or author. I read books which are good and by any author like Winning by Jack Welch, and Execution by Ram Charan & Larry Bossidy.
  • Wish the most in life: I want to be a good human being and be respectful to everybody.
  • Miss the most in life: Nothing as such. I do not have any regret about any decision I have taken, whether personal or professional. I have always learnt from mistakes.
  • Things you do when you're not at work: Play tennis, read magazines and books, and play cards with my daughters.
  • Self rating as a CIO: Always 10/10.
  • Love about self: Ethical, honest and committed. Always ready to challenge the status quo.
  • Hate about self: Short-tempered.
  • Idea of a vacation: Adventurous locations, beaches of Goa, taking a holiday abroad with family in Paris, Malaysia, US, Bangkok…
  • Likes: To watch cricket matches on TV and spend time with my family. Whenever I get time we go on vacation, at least twice a year.
  • Dislikes: I do not like to do things which I don't like.
  • Favourite colours: Blue and black.
  • Favourite spot in India: Goa.
  • Beliefs: Always be honest, truthful and a team player.
  • What is the highest level an IT head can reach?: The CEO office. In today's competitive environment, an IT head is not just a head of the IT function but a business strategist with an all-round knowledge of business…he is a key member of the organisation's board.
  • Message to fellow IT heads: Always challenge the status quo, and be creative and innovative in whatever you do. Do your job with passion and keep yourself abreast with the latest technological advancements so as to leverage the same to enable the organisation to remain ahead of competition.

The defining moment

Getting the job at Coats Viyella was a defining moment for me. In HLL there were many managers, so it seemed like an ocean to me. From the position of Senior Manager I become the corporate IT head of an organisation, managing not only the corporate but also all the divisions that Coats Viyella had including the thread division, textile division, fabric division and corporate office. Suddenly I was elevated to a high position, and started getting recognised by people outside the company. There were unit IT heads of course, but I was the corporate IT head and was responsible for the overall IT management. I used to report directly to the Finance Director.

Student days

I did my graduation from South Campus in Deshbandhu College, and then I did my post-graduation from North Campus (Physics). After that I did my MTech from the Institute of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers for three years. I did this along with my first job at the UB Group. Post-graduation was highly regarded at that time. There were written tests and interviews before you got into the MTech course. I found it difficult to manage things as I was doing a job and also doing a three-year part-time course. My work experience also counted and helped me a lot during my project stages because I was doing an assignment for an organisation in financial accounting; I therefore took a project in the final semester in financial accounting alone. The head of the department at IIT-Delhi, Dr Arora, really liked what I did. I was fortunate enough to get a break in the UB Group as they were looking for freshers and I scraped through without having any knowledge of computers. I had a tough time as I had to both do a job and attend classes. The classes were in the evening from 5.30 to 8.30 or 9.00, and during the weekend they used to be during the day. Sometimes they used to start early, so I would take a break from the office.

Most memorable moment

When my daughter gave her 12th standard exams she wasn’t sure what she was going to do. Sometimes she would say that she’d join college and do commerce, but her inclination was towards textiles, so I used to spend quite a lot of time with her trying to figure out what she wanted to do. It was a bit late when she decided that she wanted to get into designing. Then she applied to NID, Shrishti and NIFT. She got through NIFT, and somehow she wanted to study in Bangalore—and she got Bangalore. We were thrilled as she didn’t have to stay in a hostel. Now I’m in Bangalore and she’s also in Bangalore, and these days we leave home together. I drop her to NIFT and then come to office.

 
     
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