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The coming year will unlock many opportunities for IT industry: Aalok Kumar, CEO, NEC India


Aalok Kumar, President and CEO, NEC Corporation India, is optimistic that the coming year will unlock many new opportunities in terms of the overall IT ecosystem. Kumar believes India’s time has come as he speaks about the company’s recent rebranding, dealing with the Covid months and the country’s digital transformation. Edited excerpts:


How have the IT sector and NEC fared in India during the Covid crisis?


In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, the IT sector has come to the rescue of millions of people and businesses as they look to completely move online. Without a doubt, the technology sector has done relatively well in sustaining momentum during the crisis, and is expected to accelerate even more as the economy revives.

NEC has been instrumental in empowering people, society and governments to unlock the power of technology over the years. We have worked relentlessly on building our product portfolio including contactless technology, which is of utmost importance in the current times. With our world-class pool of engineering and technology talent across sectors including aviation, tourism, public safety, etc, we are partnering synchronously with the government to help usher in digital transformation of the country.

The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the adoption of digitisation and shone a spotlight on the use of emerging tech for the safety of communities that otherwise were moving at a slower pace than is worthy of the transformational change they necessitate.


In terms of firings and pay cuts, how did NEC India navigate the Covid months? And how does one tackle the current woes of the workforce with respect to appraisals and promotions?


Our recent rebranding — to NEC Corporation India — is targeted towards achieving a pre-defined accelerated growth curve which is backed by strong talent capabilities in the country. Moreover, the entire business framework is driven by a people-centric strategy and cultural transformation. Unlike many other organisations, we have not laid off our workforce. We have done thoughtful new talent-hiring during this pandemic. We continue to honour our core people-centric value system despite the extraneous circumstances.

The current uncertain times have lined up unforeseen challenges in front of organisations. I firmly believe that these scenarios are a testbed of the value system an organisation inculcates over the years.


How do you see the next year going for IT and NEC India?


We remain bullish on the prospect of both IT and NEC in India. The digitalisation journey will only get further accelerated, bringing true opportunities to the vast talent pool of technologists in India.

We have identified some 5-6 key growth drivers for NEC Corporation India. Besides our product suite, we are also looking at how we can create solutions for the ‘New Normal’ and make the customer adapt to the product for the better. We are partnering with the government to drive solutions based on the new models. Our local presence in the Indian market is robust in terms of quality and serving the customer.

In terms of the overall IT ecosystem, I am an optimist that the coming year will unlock many new opportunities for the industry.


What’s your outlook on global investors entering the Indian IT market?


India is pregnant with a huge domestic demand for digitalisation due to rapid urbanisation, internet infrastructure and government policies. It presents an unparalleled opportunity to investors — not just in terms of domestic demand, but also in harnessing a world-class IT talent pool to serve global markets. I believe India’s time has come on the world map. We have to be methodical and pragmatic in training the solution stack to serve the customer pain points to truly unlock India’s opportunity.

From an investment perspective, the emphasis and focus Japan has for India is massive. NEC Corporation India has good support from the global team and India is at the centre of NEC’s global growth plans. The Indian government plans investments in key areas including smart city initiatives, 5G, citizen services, infrastructure, transportation, logistics, etc. This alone creates a huge systemic level demand pull that will be very attractive for global investors.


Is expecting growth a pipe dream, or will IT — and NEC in particular — get back to pre-Covid levels in the medium term?


IT and telecom companies have been instrumental in driving digital transformation not just in India, but globally. While the overall economy has taken a hit due to the lockdown, many businesses have been able to reach their pre-Covid levels due to the right technological interventions. To further strengthen the economy, the government and IT incumbents are coming together to offer solutions best suited to the new normal which place the health and safety of people on top. NEC has always been a frontrunner in empowering businesses and people. In my opinion, products and solutions that address the immediate and long-term requirements of the economy will witness widespread adoption by the society.

There is going to be an increasing focus on the use of technology to make cities, businesses, and lives safer, more efficient, and smarter. NEC is already making headway in this direction and we are confident that with our expertise and significant contribution to aid India and global business growth will enable a positive recovery.

As far as the overall sector is concerned, cumulative efforts by the players will see the complete revival of the sector much sooner. Overall, our expertise and contribution to India and global business growth give us the confidence on a positive and accelerated recovery as we move ahead.


What was the thought behind the rebranding? There seems to be a big push for the Indian market with the ‘India Go Big’ initiative.


The shift reflects the company’s strong commitment to the country and India’s growing importance to the NEC Group’s global business. NEC has plans to expand the portfolio and depth of its solutions and services offered — both in the Indian market and globally. Supported by a strong and talented workforce of 6,000 employees in India, the company now serves as a global delivery hub for offshore support and product development, pursuing further growth in the domestic market.

2020 marks an important year in the execution of our future business strategy to drive global growth for the group. We are promoting an ‘India Go Big’ initiative by leveraging our solution development and delivery capability from India to power global business growth. The name change is a result of a rebranding effort designed to mirror the expanded and deeper portfolio approach and our commitment to the Indian market.


NEC seems to be on an acquisition spree. What are the areas of focus?


As countries across the world reel under the impact of the pandemic, we have been focusing on empowering governments and businesses to unleash the power of digital. To this end, with our ‘In India – For India’ strategy, we are focusing on strengthening our R&D efforts and developing innovative solutions at NEC Laboratories India to create social value and drive long-term impact. We continue to evaluate portfolio moves that complement and are synergistic to serving the long-term success of our customer journey seamlessly.

We are committed to contributing to the development of safe, secure and smooth communications infrastructure by expanding our solutions business portfolio. Smart City initiatives, 5G, transportation and logistics, public infrastructure and digitisation are some of our focus areas.


What is the long-term outlook for NEC India?


We are focused on building our product portfolio including contactless technology as its scope and demand are high in sectors including aviation, tourism, public safety, etc. When it comes to the transportation and logistics business, we are contributing in terms of providing a safe and seamless procedure to ensure contactless payment of bus tickets — we have collaborated with Paytm in Ahmedabad to provide cashless ticketing. Additionally, we have developed a mobile app – Janyatra app – which can be used to book tickets through Paytm and have introduced QR codes to validate devices at bus and railway stations. We are working on introducing paperless boarding at four airports in the country.

More recently, we have completed a major infrastructure project — the 2,314 km Chennai-Andaman undersea optical fiber cable project — which was inaugurated by Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This marquee project is going to improve connectivity in the islands significantly thereby enhancing commerce, education, and tourism opportunities in the region.

Banking on the brand legacy, we have already started working towards providing solutions that are very specific to the needs of our customers in India as we move ahead in the changed circumstances.





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