April 2015 | Nithin Rao

'Mindset is the key'

Tata Communications aims to be recognised as a meaningful player in terms of scale and innovative services in the coming five years. Excerpts from an interview with managing director Vinod Kumar.

Tata Communications was always quick off the block with regards to technology changes. What further needs to be done to become more nimble and agile?
There are so many technology choices that keep emerging; our customers' business models and the procurement of telecom and infotech services keep evolving. Our competitive advantage comes from agility, flexibility and hyper-communication with our customers and markets.

We have launched two major programmes, both of which have proved successful. One is SauMill — a combination of 'sau', which in Hindi means hundred, and million — the idea being to find opportunities to generate $100 million of cost savings. There was great enthusiasm across the organisation for the initiative and we achieved the target. 'Shape the future' was a programme that sought ideas from employees regardless of function or level. These ideas go through a rigorous evaluation process before internal and external judges choose the best. Two rounds of the initiative received nearly 300 responses, of which we shortlisted three.

Separately, we have invested in an artificial intelligence company. We cannot build everything ourselves; we need to partner extensively. The key aspect is investing in technology companies that complement our strengths. We're also working on a space mission, alongside TeamIndus, India's only competitor in the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize. TeamIndus is determined to be the first-ever privately funded team to land a spacecraft on the moon. As their communications partner, we will be helping them achieve that dream.

Which are the most significant challenges for Tata Communications?
There are many challenges and opportunities. One is around service innovation: the customer experience and making telecom and infotech infrastructure services user-friendly, flexible and adaptive to customer needs. Service innovation relates to using new technology, bringing faster network speed, higher uptime for networks and easier-to-deploy hosting solutions.

Mindset is the key; this is about looking at everything through a customer lens, and having systems in place so we can partner and create services and bring them to market quickly and intuitively. We have a broad portfolio of services and have to internally partner across functions and product categories to create powerful propositions. This leads to the bedrock: people.

Five years down the road, where do you see Tata Communications?
While we are serving a big market, our goal is to redefine the scope of our addressable market from $30 billion to $50 billion. We believe that in five years we will be recognised as a meaningful player in terms of scale and also for the innovative nature of our services, for our agility and flexibility, the way we serve customers and the experience we create for them.

This is an excerpt of the interview from the April 2015 issue of Tata Review in which chief executives of 14 Tata companies speak about the performance of their companies in the year gone by and their plans for the future:
Tata Consultancy Services: 'At TCS, it's always about the team'
Read the complete interviews and more in Tata Review
Jaguar Land Rover: 'Will deliver 12 significant product actions in next 12 months'
Tata International: 'Scale is necessary for a trading company'
Tata Steel: Driven by innovation
Tata Steel Europe: 'European countries remain the key to our success'
Tata Motors (commercial vehicles): 'We will deliver tangible value to our customers'
Tata Motors (passenger cars): 'We plan to introduce two new vehicles every year'
Tata Chemicals: 'Fiscal 2016 is going to be a year of consolidation for us'
Tata Global Beverages: 'The global market is vital to our health'
Titan Company: 'Will continue to explore opportunities in lifestyle space'
Rallis India: 'Want to be among the most valuable companies in our domain'
Tata Technologies: 'We see opportunities in aerospace and defence'
Voltas: 'We look forward to deploying our strengths...'
Tata Projects: New areas of business, new opportunities