As part of A Few Good People – This blog features Dr Sridhar Mitta, a pioneering visionary who not only established Wipro as a global leader in Technology Outsourcing but also built the foundation for the industry. Dr Mitta has influenced the lives of thousands and on this Guru Purnima I would like to pay my respects to this wonderful man.
In 1980 when a young 30 year old walked into Wipro’s nascent Information Technology Division as a founding employee he achieved two things. He helped catapult Wipro into a Global Technology giant and set the ball rolling to position India as a Global Outsourcing hub.
Bangalore in 1980, with a population of ~ 2M was a quaint little town deserving the sobriquet of a pensioners paradise and a hub of Research Institutes. The Janata government had shown the door to IBM, The PC was yet to be discovered, Infosys did not exist and the Indian Rupee was trading at 1 USD = Rs 7.86.
This was also the time when a young Azim Premji (AHP) at the helm of Wipro was hungry to expand. Whether it was vision or chance one would never know – but AHP who always had the knack for identifying great talent hired Ashok Narasimhan (A smart savvy financial controller from Telco) and Dr Mitta. Between them they were tasked to build the IT / Technology business at Wipro.
Dr Mitta armed with a MTech from IIT Kharagpur and a PhD in Control Systems from Oklahoma State University (He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009) was the right choice for Wipro. He was a visionary but hands on. A wonderful team player he was crystal clear on the road ahead as he went about it step by step with determination and passion.
I recollect my first interaction with him in 1992. At our induction program he predicted that in the coming years the PC would be like a telephone, just a black box – and the whole attention would be on Software and Services. How right he was.
Over the next 20 years the successful trio of AHP, Ashok Soota and Dr Mitta built Wipro into a global giant. (Mr Ashok Soota took over as the President of Wipro Infotech from Ashok Narasimhan in 1984)
The first phase between 1980 and 1990 was the “Make in India” journey. Intel was coming out with blazing fast microprocessors and Wipro started building multi-user Minicomputers the S86, S286, S386, Landmark 486, Pentium based Synergy series etc. some of them based on the Unix operating system
Designing a Multi Processing Computer in the 80’s was not easy. Remember there was no Internet and Google. The R&D team under Dr Mitta built deep expertise in Chip design, Board design, Operating System, Compilers, Interoperability, Testing and all the zillion things that go into making a reliable high end system.
Dr Mitta recalls that in those days Wipro was the 1st choice for any IIT Graduate because of the quality of work and company ethics. People, Process & Technology were the bedrock for the R&D team and that was Wipro’s positioning for many years. Quality work always gets noticed and global tech companies like Intel started exploring partnerships with Wipro’s R&D team. This would prove to be the foundation for the next wave of innovation.
The young engineers from Global R&D. Most have grown to be Tech entrepreneurs,CTO's and CEO's of leading companies
By the early 90’s it was evident that the India was liberalising. HCL had tied up with HP, Compaq had an alliance with Microland. All the large players were beginning to make an entry. They had global scale and size and it would be unviable to try and compete with them in manufacturing given the small size of the Indian market.
The visionary in Dr Mitta saw an opportunity amidst this threat. He started contacting his friends in the US who were working in large Tech companies like Intel, Sun, Tandem and NCR. The bold pitch was to ask for projects that could be done by his team of highly qualified engineers from India. He was crystal clear that there would be no body shopping (The model that software exporters had adopted initially).
The going was not easy as foreign travel needed RBI permission and there were strict controls on the amount of Forex you could carry. He recollects – “We survived on less than $50 a day living with friends and at times eating one meal a day. It was tough. But we were fired with a mission.” Infrastructure, power and network bandwidth were the other challenges that the team had to surmount.
Doing work remotely needed a strong process. Wipro led the industry in embarking for ISO and later CMM certification. This gave a high degree of comfort to clients on the process maturity of the company. Thus was born Tech Outsourcing from India. A wave that has transformed the lives of millions and positioned India globally.
After that there was no looking back as Wipro’s R&D transformed to Global R&D executing high end work for tech giants in US, Europe & Japan.This was when Dr Mitta decided to explore his entrepreneurial calling. After a 20 year stint at Wipro starting as employee No 1 he had now become the President of Wipro Global R&D. But deep down the technologist in him was itching for doing more innovative work that would impact society.
He spent a decade in EnThink and E4E two innovative startups. EnThink was an Intellectual Property design and licensing start-up located in silicon valley. At E4E he helped develop the concept of EAP – Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program working closely with TIE (A Global organisation fostering entrepreneurship). By now he had seen the challenges of the rapidly growing IT Industry in Indian cities. It was time to connect the dots and bring his 40 years of experience in creating something new and innovative. This led to the creation of NextWealth.
While conceptualising NextWealth he met the legendary Dr C.K.Prahlad who spent a lot of time with Dr Mitta and finally concurred that his basis for NextWealth was foolproof. Dr Mitta still remembers his advice ” Think beyond Best Practice, invent the NextPractice – The next big business model“. The founders wanted the company to be named NextPractice but since that domain was not available they settled for NextWealth.
NextWealth was Co – Founded with leaders from Wipro and the team of Dr Mitta, Anand Talwai, S.R.Gopalan and Mythily Ramesh steering it ahead.
NextWealth was created to add social value through entrepreneurship. The company has a unique business model that solves many of the challenges of the day.
- The Vision of the company is to provide 10,000 jobs in smaller towns. They call it The Distributed Delivery model.
- Each job generates 5 ancillary jobs and kick starts the local economy. NextWealth promotes not just employment but overall economic development in smaller towns. “40 Years back Bay Area outsourced work to India 5000 miles away so why can’t Indian companies outsource work 500 miles away in their own backyard? Questions Dr Mitta.
- A lot of good talent is available in smaller towns at very affordable prices. This kills two birds with one stone – Lower costs and almost nil attrition.
The company identifies business opportunities and partners with entrepreneurs in smaller towns. The local entrepreneur runs the centre with inputs from the experienced leadership team at NextWealth. The company has now partnered with competent entrepreneurs in smaller towns like Salem, Chittoor, Mysore, Hubli and Bhilai and has established its business model with many customers.
Over the last few years NextWealth has delivered with some very demanding Global & Indian customers in eCommerce, Finance, IT & Retail. Their core expertise is on deriving insights from Digital Data that can be monetized by blending people and automation. The focus areas are
- Customer Interaction
- Assisted Digitisation &
- Business Process Management
It is a Win Win formulae for Customers, Employees and the Entrepreneur. A mid sized company that can scale rapidly and deliver quality output at very affordable rates. Quality of staff is good and with the right training and mentoring the staff excelled. And it was no surprise that more than 50% of the staff are women.
I visited their largest centre near Salem. It was buzzing with energy. The process & security standards were foolproof. NextWealth supports over 40 customers in a variety of high end digital services. (Judgemental, Cognitive, Analytics, Lead management and Lead conversion customer support) and is meeting metrics ever day and every week
Backed with the vision and operational depth of Dr Mitta and his leadership team NextWealth is now ready to take on large complex projects. The proof of concept phase is over. NextWealth is now ready to accelerate this proven model. It is truly delivering its promise “Human Touch to Digital processes”.
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