Vertical Summit Interview Series: Mr Prahalad Karman

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A second wave of IT is going to come from India

At IIM Kozhikode, we keep ourselves abreast of the industry trends and as part of our continuous striving to ensure this, Vertical Summit 2016 was organized by Industry Interaction Cell, wherein we had the privilege of hosting eminent speakers from six verticals: Operations, Information technology, Human Resources, Consulting, Finance and Marketing.

The Public Relations Cell decided to give it a more personal touch and covered the speakers’ thoughts on the verticals they all work in. This one is pertaining to the field of Information Technology, where we sat down with Mr. Prahalad Karman, Consulting Leader Strategy & Operations at IBM. He is someone who comes with 16 + years of experience in Business Transformation, Business Strategy, Operation & SCM, IT Strategy, Business Development and Delivery Management. He currently leads the Consumer Products Industry (Consult to Operate) and the Supply Chain Strategy Offering for IBM Global Business Services at India and advises the IBM Senior Executive team on strategic initiatives. He has also led various business consulting and IT engagements across the Globe specifically at North America, Europe, Middle East & Africa and India South Asia.


He has managed various Service Offerings, Programs, Projects and multi-million-dollar business units and worked across industries in Consumer Products, Manufacturing, Government, Education & Tourism, Technology. He is a visiting faculty at leading B-Schools in India and has been mentoring entrepreneurs for the last 3 years.

So for someone with his experience it had to be a very resourceful discussion. Below are the excerpts from the interview:

How has been your experience so far at IIMK, this is your fourth visit to our campus? Any difference you have noticed over the years?


Firstly, I love coming to IIMK, and over years there has been an improvement in terms of questions, the type of questions students ask. You get to know that they have experience, knowledge and learning. It shows that quality of students has increased over the years. I mean students had an understanding about the basics, some of them already had opinions on issues concerning IT as such. This shows fundamentals are strong. This further stamps that brand of IIM K is improving.

Secondly, When I came the last time I had heard about the entrepreneur cell that operates and a couple of entrepreneurs here. I had expressed my wish to mentor some of them here. I presently mentor many who have ventured into these waters. I have been associated with National Entrepreneurship network, NEN. Let’s see where we get with this in long run.

We talk about cloud & automation being new trends in business, now the Indian IT industry has generated profits on the “Headcount” basis in last 10 years. Won’t the move to newer trends lead to hiring issues and a hit on basic profitability formula for them?


Yeah…Yeah…IT per se is very abnormal in its characteristic, it started in late 1990s and at that time there was a lot of demand and so Indian IT companies served the supply side. Now what happens when you have that high demand and very less supply? You become cash rich but you don’t know what to do with that cash. You simply cater to it in whatever manner it is possible. Indian IT industry didn’t know what to do with this IT other than to serve and follow up what they were told. If client comes up with different versions of the application, they would maintain that. However why client came up with those versions, the business need for it, that understanding was missing, it is still not there. So now with new technologies coming up that have been automating your processes, you are left with no alternative other than to stop your hiring and in worst case fire people.

Yes. Most of them didn’t show any hiring statistics this year…


Exactly, even IBM won’t do that… you see with automation coming in you would not want to come up with hiring stats. What remains … you can stay if you are evolving… but most of them are stuck. Evolution is required both with respects to working culture and business culture. They have been able to change their working culture in most of the cases but business culture has still not changed. It has to change.

Something on a different line, we see the IT revenues primarily exports oriented contributing 70-80% of bills. Do you see a reversing of trends and demand being driven more internally in the future?


Absolutely!! See the first wave of IT happened on the cost basis. When I say ford automated replaced its staff doing mundane jobs with an IT system, it saved money. Looking at our economy now, this is where second wave comes. Most of the developed nations are saturated. Europe, US they are all done with IT now. India is the one that is growing at 7-8 %. Indian economy’s fundamentals are strong with 60% of our population below 35 and also china being in doldrums now. I see huge domestic demand rising here. Next wave should happen in India. In fact, many companies are now focussing on India. Infosys lost a big account with RBS due to Brexit issue but on other hand it won the contract with government for GST Bill implementation. All the Intels of the world, All the Ciscos are coming to India.

Now this is for the students, what is the difference between an engineer joining the IT ecosystem and a management graduate moving to IT? For those who are looking whether IT is a fit for them.


First, they should not look at application management services (AMS) point of work for our managers here. They should look at the kinds of Google, Microsoft and start-ups in that sense. You should focus on where technology is a game changer, where it is changing the business model. Example the OLA, it has changed the taxi ecosystem in India. You should look at jobs that can change that. Why? Because most of you are engineers you know how stuff works. Most of you have done that in past. Where it can make difference. That is what you should look at. Your engineer background aids you in creating something new and your management background helps with where you can make it work. So that holistic perspective is needed. Get into business side of it. Even if it has to be with AMS, then look at how I can market say Infosys over Wipro. Think on these lines. Be more role specific then company specific.

Given the fact you have been visiting Institutes for such talks, How Important do you see such events and role of committees like Industry Interaction Cell (IIC) for the students?


Ok…I get it…you see for IIM Kozhikode it is very important that you have more such interactions. You should build your people from Industry perspective rather generic one. All over the world it is with respect to Industry not strictly finance, marketing or any such water tight specialisation. Adding a flavour of industry would definitely help. Say a consumer product company comes and holds a session on the vertical that it caters to, then in this case it helps a marketing guy when that he goes on work in the similar vertical. You see companies otherwise, in most of cases have to spend a lot of money and time training new recruits on the consumer preferences, Industry scenario they work in, their product supply chain and all those relevant topics. If you as a management graduate already have that knowledge it creates a very positive value and an edge for you and the Institute.

In a nutshell you should have more such sessions and get more Industry oriented. Make it more like a continuum and not a once a year thing.

I am sure it would be taken into account and I must this has been a very insightfully talk, thank you so much for finding time for us at IIMK. I am sure there are going to be much better engagements of IIM Kozhikode and Industry going forward.

Interviewed by | Amritansh | Public Relations Cell – IIM Kozhikode

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