Mukesh Aghi is the Chairman and CEO of Steria for India. I met him a few moments after I had been chatting to John Torrie on the phone, though Mukesh was in person. We were outside in a Chinese teahouse by the side of the Hyatt hotel and the Mumbai sun was extremely hot, so thankfully we managed to sit under a large shade. I was In the direct sunlight chatting to Mukesh and that was a big mistake as ten minutes in the Indian heat can feel like a couple of hours in the park in London’s excuse for summer.
Mukesh had been making the news, with various announcements splashed across the Indian newspapers on Friday so I was keen to talk to him. First, he had been officially announced in his new role, though he had actually been in place for a few months. Second, Steria had announced a major expansion plan of their operations in India including a proposed doubling of the workforce. The Indian press were thrilled so I wanted to ask him about his plans face to face.
He began by talking about his new role for Steria: “My role is really one of leadership. Dealing with the media, the government, and of course the execution of running the company, which is not purely delivery, but also building the team and the vision of India within Steria. The other task I have is to focus on building the new Steria academy for training our people.” Mukesh has also been appointed to the main executive committee of Group Steria, a position I asked him about. He said: “I have been appointed onto the Steria executive committee because 27 per cent of the workforce are based in India, so my position gives increased focus on India and allows us to influence the strategic decisions of the company.”
Mukesh said that the decision to ramp up the team size in India is really linked back to the expected growth of business in Europe: “It is a combination of trying to drive the business between Europe and the UK. We have made a commitment to double our Indian workforce in the next three years, so we need to increase business in Europe to ensure we can grow this fast.”
The Steria academy is a major commitment to the education of Steria employees and though some of the Indian majors have explored this type of idea in India, Steria is one of the first foreign firms to consider this type of investment. Explaining the reasons for the academy, Mukesh said: “When you look at how do you train and retain your talent force it becomes important that you can offer a certain development plan for them. Our Steria academy is going to feature multiple schools, including a school of sales, school of management, school of consulting, and a school of leadership. All four schools have objectives, which will help drive our business. We are also interested in getting our customers to come and use the facilities of the academy. It’s really based on some proven business principles and the type of academies created in the past by major companies such as GE and IBM. So we will see alliances with world-class universities and professors to help build a physical campus in Chennai and to offer offline training as well.”
That sounds like an exciting idea, an academic institution created just for Steria and those invited by Steria to share in the knowledge. I wanted to ask about some of the challenges ahead and Mukesh outlined where he thought they might be: “The challenges are always in the area of attracting good talent and keeping them focused on the right direction. The environment itself can be a challenge, if the economy changes direction for example, and competition is getting more aggressive and hungry, so you need to compete harder to get your own share of the pie.”
Of course, I could not finish chatting to Mukesh without asking what he had felt about the past couple of days at the NASSCOM conference. He said: “This event is where you can be seen with your peers, your brand gets recognised and you can get a sense of what is really happening in the industry. We are not a small company, so it’s important for people to see us from the perspective of branding for potential customers and for peers to see us. NASSCOM plays a key role in this positioning of the company.”
Sharing ideas, best practice, networking, and being seen. That’s what most conferences are about and, as Mukesh suggests, NASSCOM really excels in all these areas.