Manish Vyas Of Tech Mahindra: “Communications providers are dealing with three burning problems”

Communications providers are dealing with three burning problems — driving increased sales through the web channel, presenting the right product/service offerings to customers, and managing multi-channel sales campaigns. There is an opportunity to drive incremental sales and revenue by utilizing next-generation digital capabilities to transform how customers interact with service providers. We are working with a leading […]

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Communications providers are dealing with three burning problems — driving increased sales through the web channel, presenting the right product/service offerings to customers, and managing multi-channel sales campaigns. There is an opportunity to drive incremental sales and revenue by utilizing next-generation digital capabilities to transform how customers interact with service providers. We are working with a leading CSP to streamline CX thereby directly impacting repeat and new revenue.

Manish Vyas is the President of Tech Mahindra’s largest industry vertical — Communications, Media and Entertainment. He is also the Chief Executive Officer of Network Services business, a leading growth pillar of Tech Mahindra. An accomplished leader with extensive expertise and experience across global markets, Manish has led large and diverse global programs during his 20 years at Tech Mahindra.

Manish believes in building an organization powered by high-performance teams, diverse workforce, and entrepreneurial capabilities, and cherishes mentoring Young Leaders. He has co-authored Technology papers on ‘Network Innovation’ with CXOs of Network-based companies and published several blogs on the Future of the CSPs.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My backstory has been all about converting inherent challenges into positivity and that positivity into strengths. I am from a small town in India where getting access to exposure and information in a pre-internet era was highly challenging. Yet, that challenge drove up my inquisitiveness until it got me to an undergraduate engineering college and out of my hometown. But this proved to be not enough, and I chose to move to that one city that I thought had limitless possibilities — Mumbai, a fusion of New York and Los Angeles with an Indian twist. Mumbai embodied the ‘survival of the fittest’ and once I was in that river of humanity, all I could do was learn to swim. In summary, it was an innate urge to get to a better place, despite the difficulties, that forms the theme for the formative first 10 years of my career and laid down the foundation of who I am today.

The start of my pivot to Telco arrived when I started with Godrej Telecom and got exposed to China and the power of manufacturing, design, R&D, and the power of creating products. This made me realize that the greatest value going forward was in the business of software. The fact that I played a mini-CEO role for about two years where I did everything from selling to supply chain management, was an incredible learning experience. It gave me a 360-degree view of how to build, scale and manage a business. I still believe that those two years were the most game-changing of my career, just before working at Tech Mahindra, or Mahindra — British Telecom as it was known back then.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

This might sound Hollywood-ish, but at the start of my career, I gave up every other opportunity, as I was clear I wanted to do business and sales. Having started from a small Indian town with makeshift English skills at best, I had the chance to meet the Managing Director of India’s leading English daily newspaper to pitch an electronic device for advertising. He was a gentleman and on realizing my struggles with English, asked me in Hindi — “What is the life expectancy of your product?” In my urge to impress him not only with my product, but also with my English skills, I blurted out that my product “had no life”, intending to tell him the product will never die. That’s when I felt a little tap on my shoulder accompanied by the kind words “Child, everything is okay. Don’t worry”. I turned back to discover it was from Alyque Padamsee, the guru of Indian Advertising.

I still distinctly remember walking down to the famous Queen’s Necklace in Mumbai to stand on the ledge facing the Arabian Sea, and screaming “Why am I pursuing this when I can’t succeed? This is not for me.” in the driving rain. Yet next day I was back to it once more. I have repeated this story hundreds of times not to regale anyone, but rather to remind myself, that after every failure, there is success, no matter how bleak things seem.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The one person who shines the strongest in the long list of people who have had a massive influence on my life has to be my school principal, Sister Veena, who I consider to be my first Guru. This is not because of the subjects she taught me, but rather for the entrepreneurial spirit she embodied. At just 27, she had arrived from the state of Kerala without knowing either English or the native language of my state, Marathi, to set up a school in a very conservative town. It was her dogged determination and belief in her cause that had helped her succeed in setting up one of the best educational institutes in Central India despite the immense resistance she faced. The other reason I look up to her is for her ability to re-invent herself. She had left the institute during its peak to focus on building several orphanages and leading many programs for her convent. She made her mark not just in India but also in Japan, Germany, and different parts of Europe. She is now in her late seventies and still has the energy of a 20 year old.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I had picked up “Iacocca: Autobiography” on the recommendation of a friend, long back in Mumbai, and devoured it in just two days. The lessons in transforming Chrysler have stayed with me since. I am sure there are better stories of corporate turnarounds, but this was the first one I read, and it showed me how fun this role could be. It eventually became my first Bible for turnarounds and has remained a very special book. My favorite in fiction is “The Fountainhead,” which exposed me to the concept of combining art, science, imagination, and the big city life.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Our vision has always been very clear. We set out to become a people-centric company that is obsessed with helping our customers simplify their core business through technology. This fact is recognized by leading analysts in their commentary and by our customers. I have always loved the value system ingrained in Tech Mahindra through its federated model and the strong systems around ethics, honesty and just being nice. Our customers have always told me that the one thing they love about doing business with Tech Mahindra is that we are very nice and simple to work with. We achieved this by cultivating an environment that encourages inverting the pyramid and encouraging entrepreneurship and the freedom to express oneself. Anand Mahindra — the Leader at the helm of the Mahindra Group, himself has been an advocate of the “freedom within boundaries” model. One, as an entrepreneur, has the freedom to do what s/he wants if they are loyal to three things: our brand, our values and compliance system, and our HR and people practices. We are determined to keep this people-first approach going and are confident in its ability to keep us growing.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We are seeing an increasing number of projects around Next-gen Telecom Infrastructure for 5G from our clients to enable business growth and enhanced experiences. 5G means faster data which makes use cases like AR/VR, telemedicine, and self-driving cars, a reality and is projected to add trillions of dollars to the global economy.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation is applying the latest technological innovations like Cloud, AI/ML, Internet of Things, Automation, 5G, and more to modernize the core technology stack of a business, to reinvent the business processes and eventually to reimagine the culture and business model itself. In essence, Digital Transformation means “Modernize to Monetize”.

On a practical level, Digital Transformation involves driving Customer Experience and Legacy Modernization through a mix of new-age technologies like Cloud, AI/ML, 5G, and more that enable customers to lower their operating expenses and create new revenue streams. A typical Digital Transformation journey starts with building strategic alignment to ensure the entire organization is clear and aligned with the roadmap. Next is building the capability to develop and maintain differentiating technology on a flexible Cloud tech stack in an agile product-centric model, where data is viewed as the driver of decisions. As the last step, the journey needs to solve for adoption and business model changes when scaling the initiative organization-wide.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation can benefit businesses across any industry, as the core philosophy is building what is best for the customer experience through rapid iteration. Technology just enables that philosophy and that is why we see the tech giants entering other industries with this new way of approaching business.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

We have been part of the Digital Transformation journey of many Fortune-500 clients. I am personally proud of having enabled the Digital Transformation of one of the largest US Telco in delivering greater flexibility across their IT operations. This included optimizing their core operations and modernizing their internal network applications to accelerate innovation as they marched towards a goal of nationwide 5G deployment, simplifying their network operations, and overall technology leadership. We delivered a faster time-to-market, lower total cost of ownership, better service quality, agility, and velocity. All of this was achieved through Cloud Migration. As an offshoot of this success, we are now helping them move their data operations to the Cloud and create a data-driven organization.

Another success story I proudly share is of a telecom facing major challenges with a slow launch of new services, an inability to handle Cloud & Virtual Network Functions, and facing complexity in scaling with the introduction of new-gen devices. We helped simplify their business processes by introducing visibility and automation through Digital Transformation resulting in 70% reduction in planning time, significantly lower operating expenses, and a transition to a DevOps culture.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

A minor change in one part of a business is difficult enough in terms of adoption, but when you scale it to the expanse of an entire organization, the obstacles stack up against successfully achieving Digital Transformation. The key challenges organizations face can be categorized into three phases. It all begins with Strategy, where an unclear and ineffective transformation strategy can derail the entire program. The same can result from a strategy that is right but without sufficient buy-in and alignment from the entire organization. The challenges in the next phase are around getting the right talent — not enough people with the right skillsets and the lack of an agile culture. The final challenge is in scaling adoption and the business model to harness the true benefits of organization-wide transformation. Remember, it is ultimately about people choosing to do business differently, and the processes and technology only enable them.

We help our clients succeed in this difficult journey through 3 interventions. We enable them to connect the dots between business and technology transformation goals at the strategy layer through thought leadership that comes with domain and technology expertise. We help them accelerate value realization through end-to-end support across business, technology, and processes delivered with our proprietary digital tools and experiences. As a final lever, we enhance their capabilities by introducing the right talent, governance models, tech stack, data architecture, and agile ways of working that help drive adoption.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Communications providers are dealing with three burning problems — driving increased sales through the web channel, presenting the right product/service offerings to customers, and managing multi-channel sales campaigns. There is an opportunity to drive incremental sales and revenue by utilizing next-generation digital capabilities to transform how customers interact with service providers. We are working with a leading CSP to streamline CX thereby directly impacting repeat and new revenue.
  2. While the Internet poses threats to the core Service Provider business, the ubiquitous connectivity and global application delivery platforms also create opportunities for participation in new-age digital business models by entering and offering vertical services. We have co-developed and are jointly marketing multiple vertical solutions for one of the largest Telecom service providers in the USA.
  3. Communications Service Providers need integrated views of their customers — the ability to see all the communications, products, and services that their customers use. We are using our next generation analytics platforms to help CSPs analyze their product mix to assess the impact of new offerings on existing bundles.
  4. To meet instant demands of digital customers, CSPs want to launch services quickly, with minimal risk and low upfront investment and are seeking a transparent, transaction-based service model. Embracing Cloud Migration and Modernization of legacy applications to be Cloud Native through Microservices and APIs allows for significant operational improvement and tech stack performance. One of our leading telecom service providers was able to save 30% in costs and were able to get to market faster.
  5. Current 5G demand is driving large-scale network deployments and upgrades. Companies investing in this area want a simplified network that is easier to manage. We have helped top 5 CSPs create a connected and secure enterprise through 5G, fiber-optics, and IoT capabilities.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

The way I approach innovation in Tech Mahindra flows from the Mahindra Group philosophy of Futurize that drives us to do more with less, do it together, and do it for all. My perspective on how to create a culture of innovation naturally stems from what we have implemented into practice within the company. As a first step, we inverted the pyramid and asked ourselves how we can encourage grassroots innovation to tap into the creativity of the crowd. This spawned the Intrapreneurship program — an Internal venture capital program to fund improvement ideas by employees and IRIS — the innovation platform for developing in-house intellectual property. We simultaneously also looked outside for collaboration through our University Collaboration program to engage with various reputed management colleges, while also co-innovating with startups developing niche technologies through joint innovation programs. Finally, for immediate vertical and horizontal innovation opportunities, we also leverage the acquisitions route to bring capabilities in-house.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That has to be “If you believe it can be done, go make it happen.” Rather than thinking someone else will do what can be done, go ahead and do it by yourself. Before I ask anybody on my team to do something, I either try to do it first myself or put myself in their shoes — whether it be a timeline commitment, a project, or any other task. I pretty much practice that every single day.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can follow me on Twitter @imanishvyas or connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/manish-vyas-61645a3/.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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