This is an exclusive interview conducted by Santosh Vaswani, Content Writer & Editor at CIO News about the professional journey of Kuljeet Singh Sethi, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Bajajsons Ltd.
When asked him about his role and key business priorities at his firm, Kuljeet Singh Sethi, CIO at Bajajsons Ltd., in an exclusive interview with CIO News said, as a CIO my role at Bajajsons is not limited to the IT domain alone, others include:
Keeping IT aligned with business goals:
In a manufacturing concern, a lot of synchronization between business processes and manufacturing processes is required. The systems are normally very fragile and there is a tendency that the actual process, taking place at the shop floor, may not be exactly what is recorded in the system. Therefore, the IT systems must be so tightly integrated that the moment there is a gap between the actual process and the recorded process, the alarm bells start ringing.
Keeping IT & Operations in Sync:
To achieve this as a CIO I need to have a complete understanding of the manufacturing processes; how every process works, what are the limitations, etc. This information helps me in designing the analytics too.
Capturing data at the right place at the right time is very essential to achieving synchronization. For this, we have embarked upon the IOT journey, which again is one of my responsibilities.
Cost & Analytics:
Every organization must know its bottom line therefore there must be robust systems in place to capture costs, analyse and report from different perspectives; the manufacturing head will have a different perspective from the Managing Director’s.
Planning & Monitoring:
To keep an organization on track with its mission and vision, planning and monitoring are essential tools. Annual Operating Plans which are part of ERP are one of the best ways to see where we are going and take corrective actions, tune our strategies and refine our approach.
Lean & Agile:
Once all this is done it’s very natural that we learn about our wastages, our inefficiencies and take up projects accordingly. We are trying to keep our manufacturing lean & agile.
All this comes under my key role; in nutshell to help keep the organization moving ahead, on the path of its mission and vision, he said.
When asked about how he planned his career path to be a CIO in an automobile/auto-component industry, he said, “My career path has been quite interesting”. After finishing my education, which was scattered all over India, I joined Punjab & Sind Bank at Calcutta (now Kolkata), in 1980. The bank job did give me any satisfaction; it was a monotonous job with no challenges, no creativity, and a place very fertile for the grapevine. So I quit my Bank job, in 1983 and started my career as a programmer. Just imagine the system on which I learned my programing was HCL System-2 and it had just 64 Kb of RAM and two 8” floppy drives of 1 Mb each and now, we have our datacentre. Starting from BASIC & COBOL, I have implemented SAP and other ERP systems.
He said, it has been a long journey and on the way, I have supported more than 100 companies to provide solution design, implement their business applications, been their change agent, and managed their business processes including business process re-engineering. I have worked with bicycle manufacturers, auto component manufacturers, hospitals, trading houses, export houses, steel manufacturers, garment manufacturers, fabric manufacturers, restaurants, retail, logistics, and banks of course.
Till very recently, around 2009, the majority of companies at Ludhiana did not realize that IT had become a game-changer and they needed to align IT with their business goals. The emerging concept of CIO was not understood by the organizations here. I managed to convince two organizations, Avon Cycles Ltd and Bajajsons Ltd why they should have a CIO and what will be his role. Finally, the two organizations shared me as their CIO from 2009 to 2015. After that I am continuing as a full-time CIO at Bajajsons Ltd, he said.
Speaking about the challenges faced while implementing digital technologies in an automobile/auto-component industry and the plans to overcome them, Sethi said, in the recent past we have been involved in implementing Industry 4.0 and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Implementing digital technologies is very challenging. First, you have to learn the nuances yourself, then you have to identify the use cases within the organization and the most challenging task is to sell the idea to all the stakeholders. The results are, in most cases, not immediate.
There are pitfalls, there are teething problems, and there are ego issues, and much more. Keeping the motivation levels of the operations team is another challenge. It is a journey and a slow one, you can’t rush. Another big challenge, in mid-level organizations, is the resource crunch, getting the budgets for newer technologies are tough.
When asked about his advice for a successful professional journey of other CIOs, he said, advising other CIOs is not in place. Every CIO has had his/her journey and learning. The most I do is to share my journey and my learning. What I have learned from my journey is that one has to be sincere with one’s job, keep learning new things, speak out what you think is right and there is no substitute for hard work. I have kept my personal life and professional life very balanced and did not compromise on either. I never spent time thinking if this was my dream job rather I spent time thinking about how can I do this job better. I spent time learning new technologies and I still consider myself a student, just recently in 2020 I completed one year course on Business Analytics and Business Intelligence from McCombs School of Business, Texas University.
The mission and vision of my journey have been:
- Mission: To live life joyfully and to spread joy around me.
- Vision: I will ensure to keep good health, work to the best of my abilities, be compassionate, humble & helpful, remain truthful, take care of mother earth, and stay connected with me.
Speaking about best practices/industry trends for fellow CIOs, Sethi said, the most important practices involve:
- Master Data Management – it should be very well defined, very well classified, and very well controlled & updated.
- Clean & authentic transaction data
In this age of fast-moving businesses, the key is making the right decisions at the right time. The decision-making is helped by tools like business intelligence, business analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. All of these tools are dependent on the data provided to them. Therefore, all the future growth paths of an organization will depend upon the quality of data and organization is capable of.
The processes and best practices should be so designed that the data being captured is clean, authentic, well defined, and well classified, he added.
He further said that it is also important to keep one socially engaged too. Society has a big contribution to self-development and it should be our duty to give back to it in any form. I have been involved in:
- Lions Clubs International – the highest post held was Zone Chairman
- Northern India Chamber of Commerce & Industry – General Secretary
My hobbies and interests are golf, traveling, gardening & cooking.
Also, watch his video interview on our series VOICE OF CIO with our Chief Editor, Khushbu Soni: Youtube – Episode 22 – Kuljeet Sethi