As a technology leader, I cultivated the knack of understanding one step above the others so that I can handle them, says Dr. Chandran Raghuraman, CTO at Bahwan Cybertek

As a technology leader, I cultivated the knack of understanding one step above the others so that I can handle them, says Dr. Chandran Raghuraman, CTO at Bahwan Cybertek
As a technology leader, I cultivated the knack of understanding one step above the others so that I can handle them, says Dr. Chandran Raghuraman, CTO at Bahwan Cybertek

It enhanced my stature as a technology leader, and the interactions with the corporate heads made me a sought-after technology consultant in the IT market.

This is an exclusive article series conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Dr. Chandran Raghuraman, Chief Technology Officer at Bahwan Cybertek.

It has been a roller coaster ride as a technology leader for the last 40+ years. It started when I was quizzed by everyone about why IT (it was 1982) since IT  was in its inception in India with few IT companies in vogue. Over the years, after a lot of ups and downs, I established myself clearly in the industry and am now recognized as one of the foremost figures in the technology industry.

Professional Journey

Fresh from college in 1982 (College of Engineering, Guindy, Mechanical Engineer), I was faced with the choice of taking up a job as a graduate trainee in TELCO (a sought-after job for mechanical engineers those days) or continuing my education as a postgraduate in industrial engineering at NITIE. I chose to study at NITIE for the next 2 years.

The background at NITIE changed my whole perspective towards my future career, having been introduced to System analysis and Design. As luck would have it, I was selected as a management trainee in the IT department of Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL). This paved the way for my professional journey in IT for the next 4 decades and more, and  am still continuing.

After a brief stint at HPCL, I joined as a software support engineer at Tata Burroughs Ltd. (now Tata Technologies). I was given a complete 3-month training in Burroughs Systems—its software and networking. As a software support engineer, I supported a few Burroughs system clients in and around Bombay, sorting out their system issues as well as training them. My big break came when I was transferred to Bangalore to support two major sites: HMT and Canara Bank. As site software engineer, I was responsible for training the incumbent IT personnel at both sites, assisting them in using Burroughs systems, and sorting out the day-to-day issues.

Being in the industry for 3 to 4 years, the IT personnel in both of these sites were experienced software programmers, although in local Wipro and HCL systems. It was a monumental task to convince them that I could handle the entire site, teaching them the nuances of Burroughs Systems (main frames) and highlighting the difference in Cobol language. Many of them started with the thought, how can this young guy help us? My task was to change their perspective, and in the 2 years I was there with them, I changed their perspective to that of Chandran, who cannot be replaced.

This experience paved the way for my journey as a technology leader who can manage people (including seniors) and get into areas that are new, but I cultivated the knack of understanding one step above the others so that I can handle them.

My next foray was at NIIT as the Head of Corporate Training. I was a sought-after trainer in Cobol, where I could always understand the issues immediately and give solutions. As Head of Corporate Training as well as Sales Head of Major Accounts, I could interact with various corporate IT heads in Chennai and Bangalore, understand their technology landscape, and suggest appropriate software solutions for them. This enhanced my stature as a technology leader, and the interactions with the corporate heads made me a sought-after technology consultant in the IT market.

This made me jump into starting my career as a businessman, selling hardware and software to corporations. This went on for more than 4 years, during which I established myself as a real technology leader. As I was continuing to enhance my business, I got a chance to work as a project manager at HCL HP. This was a real career jump; I went after it and changed the whole track of my technological leadership journey.

During my stint at Tata Burroughs supporting HMT, I was introduced to MRPII (manufacturing resource planning) and ERP (enterprise resource planning). With my background as an industrial engineer from NITIE, where we had been introduced to supply chain and capacity planning, i.e., MRP (material requirement planning), I could delve deeper into understanding MRP II. This is the time HCL HP became an SAP partner, and I was one of the pioneers in India in 1995 to get into SAP (ERP) which has been my foremost technology till now.

My first assignment was to select the right ERP for Mercedes-Benz in Pune. Merecedez has traditionally been a BAAN user. I had to travel to Stuttgart, where I was given presentations by Baan, Oracle, and SAP. Based on these, comparing the business processes of Mercedez and the ERP software, I decided on SAP as the ERP software for Mercedez, Pune. This was the start of Mercedez Worldwide becoming an SAP user. It firmly established me as a sought-after project manager for SAP.

General Motors India (GM), SAP was being implemented by Siemens, India. They faced a lot of hurdles, and the GM, being an HCL HP client, came to HCL to handle the SAP project. I was the program manager, handling the consultants from HCL, and the earlier failed project was set right and brought on track. This gave me an idea of what can go wrong in an ERP implementation and what nuances to take care of so that the implementation can be done in the right way. I understood all the technological nitty-gritty involved in SAP implementation.

This stood me in good stead when I won the SAP order from Kalyani Brakes, Pune, acting as a pre-sales consultant and then becoming the program  manager. Since I was involved from the beginning with the client, I could clearly understand their expectations, at the same time highlighting how SAP can handle their expectations, but at the same time, all they have to do is tweak their processes to ensure successful SAP implementation. The project was a major success for HCL HP, allowing by to place many more orders.

Meanwhile, I got an opportunity with Satyam Computer Services, who had started their SAP division in 1999 and were looking for SAP experts. I was advised against joining Satyam because I was told it was a Y2K company. Still, I joined them, and that was a significant move. I was one of the first 50, and when I left, the SAP division had 5000 people, the largest in India. The stint in Satyam made me firmly established as a technology leader, one of the foremost in SAP implementation, and also the initiator  of the onsite-offshore model for SAP, both in ABAP development and SAP implementation, for the first time in the world. As you are aware, India is foremost in handling any ERP onsite or offshore model.

My stint at Satyam started with handling Pricol SAP implementation, GFCL implementation, Dr. Reddy’s upgrade, etc. This is the time Visteon Ford,  who is a customer for Satyam in other programming areas, was asking Satyam to handle their ABAP programming. I went to the US with an ABAP programmer and showed them we could handle ABAP programming while also handling the ABAP programming to be done offshore since Satyam was an established onsite-offshore programming company for Java and other programs. On the successful completion of the onsite programming opportunity, we were asked to handle 30 programs from offshore, which became 150 programs. Please note that this is the first time SAP programming is done in an onsite-offshore model. The rest is history. When I started handling onsite offshore models for Dupont, Unilever, etc.,

Up came the opportunity of SAP implementation at GM Japan. With our experience of the onsite-offshore process, I convinced the client to grant us the opportunity to handle the entire SAP implementation, onsite and offshore. The project timeline was six months, and getting a permanent visa for Japan was taking a long time. We got a business visa for our consultant, who worked for 3 months, and were replaced by consultants who were offshore. By this, the entire team understood the onsite/offshore process, and the whole project was completed in six months, with a go-live date of July 2, 2000. I was the program manager for the entire project.

My fame as a technology leader got another fillip after I firmly established the onsite offshore process for ERP implementation (in this case, SAP).

This gave me the opportunity to become the ERP head at Zensar, which is a major Oracle Apps implementation partner. My stint at Satyam helped me establish an onsite-offshore process in Oracle Apps. In addition, I made sure that Zensar bought an SAP company to become an SAP partner.

My technology leadership has been seeing the side of being a consultant in implementing ERP. That is when I was selected as the CIO of Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, Chennai (that is the name by which Mercedes-Benz is referred to). It was a greenfield site. As I had indicated before, I was the one who made Mercedes-Benz implement SAP in Pune and then became a worldwide SAP customer. I was faced with the task of implementing SAP at Daimler Chennai. But at Daimler, SAP implementation was traditionally done by German consultants, and I was being informed that I had to do the same. But my local MD wanted to reduce the cost, which I committed to. With the help of my German Head, I constituted a team of our German and Indian IT and functional teams to go through the presentations of Indian vendors who have done many implementations for multinationals, and they finally selected Robert Bosch India as the vendor who has the experience of implementing SAP in India and Germany for multinationals. Especially automotive companies. The implementation was a huge success.

The special technological innovation that I established was integrating the JIT material model with SAP. This model has been followed by many manufacturing companies.

Later, when I became the CIO and then CTO of my current firm (Bahwan Cybertek), all the above technological innovation I brought to the onsite-offshore model stood me in good stead to establish many technology leaders of repute.


That is my overall professional journey as a technology leader, especially in ERP implementations. This journey had lots of ups and downs, and practitioners were not believing that established processes could be relooked at. But I proved to them that it can be done, and what you need is the right focus and perspective.

Also readContinuous evolution is crucial in product development, processes, technology, and thinking, says Daya Shanker, CTO & Group Vice President at Comviva

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