The role of a CIO has undergone a sea change over the past few years, engendering a novel term - the modern-day CIO. A modern-day CIO literally needs to know his ‘business’. In other words, mere ‘hold’ over the IT functions of the organization wouldn’t cut it anymore and s/he needs to be acquainted with the nuances of the market and the industry. Having a robust international background in the Manufacturing Industry (Medical Equipment and Textile), in the very beginning of his career, has been instrumental in Gurbir Singh Bhatia (CIO, Redington India) becoming an exceptional technology leader. With close to three decades of experience, Gurbir today is more than a technology facilitator for Redington India – the second largest distributor of IT & Mobility products in India. CIO Insider is delighted to publish the exclusive chat session with Gurbir, who is a significant contributor to Redington’s growth plans.
In conversation with Gurbir Singh Bhatia, CIO, Redington India
You started your career in 1992 in the medical equipment industry. It’s been a long journey and things have changed. Looking back, what do you attribute your success to?
Being able to kick start my career in the medical equipment industry, especially with exposure to the European manufacturers, was a great milestone in my career. My cross-functional exposure across engineering support, operation theatre equipment management and critical care units till 2000 was an instrumental experience in building my professional foundation. Those experiences taught me some of the important lessons pertaining to various units, organizations, imports, and logistics.
With the Y2K technology boom, I got an opportunity to switch over to the technology domain and I underwent training programs. I switched over from assembly language coding to application coding and eventually started building my career in the ERP segment. The second phase of my career had a watershed moment in 2001, when I took a decision to move to
Chennai and join Redington India as a Project Manager. Over the next almost 14 years, leveraging my keenness to constantly learn new things and owing a great deal to some of the exceptional leaders who were my mentors, I grew in the company to become the Vice President – IT.
For three years, starting from the late 2014, opting for a different experience, I worked for a Global Shipping Company CMA CGM as Senior Director – IT, which provided me with the experience of a completely different Business Domain and again from a Global Perspective. I joined back at Redington in 2017 as its CDO before soon taking the responsibility as CIO.
The way we have built our infrastructure & constructed our strategies has allowed us to leverage the Critical Applications effectively with Security in place
Looking back, I think the ability to learn and unlearn continuously throughout one’s professional career pays off. I constantly try to widen my knowledge base by enrolling in different academic programs.
The role of a CIO has been dramatically transforming over the years. The IT departments have undergone a lot of changes as well. A modern-day CIO directly contributes towards the growth of the company and s/he needs to know the ‘business’. How do you perceive this change?
The Modern day CIO seeks direct collaboration with various stakeholders in the organization. A lot of the decisions and strategic business calls today depend on the technology function, demanding an intense involvement of the CIO. There is a huge responsibility that rests on the shoulders of CIO, which goes beyond IT deliverables as a function, to being a business enabler. A CIO should be able to actively help the organization build alternate business models and help it transition to a Digital way of doing Business, through the adoption of new technologies.
Well, we can’t leave out Covid-19. As a technology leader, what were the challenges you faced amidst the pandemic and how did you respond to those challenges?
Whatever we at Redington had built over the years from technology and applications perspective was put to test during this pandemic. I feel very proud that despite the monumental challenges and the tectonic shifts brought about by
the sudden announcement of abrupt & complete lock-down for six-to-eight weeks, we were able to ensure 100 percent Business Continuity & Operational Stability so that our company was able to fully access whatever business opportunities were available even during the most trying of times.
My team prevented even the slightest of disruption, whether it was the organization-wide connectivity while working from home, infrastructure, enterprise applications or our digital transformation and analytics initiatives. We at Redington were able to immediately switched gears to a 100 percent WFH environment. The way we have built our infrastructure & constructed our strategies has allowed us to leverage the Critical Applications effectively with Security in place. We focused on tackling evolving & unforeseen challenges as and when they confronted and this adaptability has now become the norm today.
As a technology leader, what would be your advice to the budding CIOs in the country?
Today, the expectations from a CIO are very high and demanding, especially when it comes to adoption of new technologies. The current age CIO understands that there is a need to combine technology expertise with Business acumen to drive strategy for organization’s growth plan. My advice to all the new CIOs is that you must evaluate the organization’s culture and its current level of maturity before moving forward and adopting new technologies and thus make sure that whatever new technology adoption you recommend, is the most suitable solution for the organization.
A shift is happening in transforming the Conventional IT to New Age IT. This shift is more about onboarding Technology Capabilities than IT Solutions. The perspective has changed from ‘inside –out’ to ‘Outside-in’. Customer experience has become the single most important parameter for all organizations. This shift is a journey, which requires transformation not only within the IT function, but across the organization. The Business models are getting re-defined as we embrace more of these new technologies and capabilities.
Data is now the most powerful asset an organization can have. Enabling business with the relevant data sets for decision-making in the form and format, which Business/Operations understands is the key differentiating factor. Of paramount importance is putting in place a strong, robust and highly adaptable Cyber Security Framework to address the inevitable & growing challenges of the digitally connected world.