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Q: Ram, could you start by telling us a bit about your background and professional journey?

 A: Absolutely. I have over 35 years of work experience. I did my undergraduate studies in India and then went to the US for my master’s in mechanical engineering. I began my career in the auto industry in Detroit, where I worked for about 12 years. During this period, I developed a strong foundation in engineering and project management. Following that, I pursued an MBA, which opened up new perspectives and opportunities for me. I transitioned to the tech sector, starting with Microsoft in the US.

Eighteen years ago, I moved back to India and took on various roles at Yahoo and eBay, which included leading large teams and driving strategic initiatives. Currently, I’m with a new company where I continue to leverage my diverse experience. This journey, filled with diverse experiences and learnings, has been incredibly enriching and has shaped my approach to leadership and business.

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Q: What motivated you to shift from mechanical engineering to the tech industry?

A: After spending significant time in the auto industry, I felt the need for a change and decided to pursue an MBA. The tech industry was at its peak of innovation and growth, and I saw it as an opportunity to be part of something that was changing the world. This transition was driven by my desire to learn and contribute to a fast-evolving sector. Additionally, the tech industry’s dynamic nature and its potential to create a significant impact globally were highly appealing.

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced during your career transitions, and how did you overcome them?

A: One of the major challenges was adapting to new industries and environments. Each transition required me to learn new skills and understand different market dynamics. For instance, moving from the auto industry to tech involved a steep learning curve, but my background in engineering and the analytical skills I developed during my MBA helped me adapt.

Another challenge was cultural adaptation, especially moving back to India after spending significant time in the US. Building a strong network and having a mentor were crucial in navigating these changes. Mentorship played a pivotal role in my career by providing invaluable guidance and helping me navigate complex professional landscapes.

Q: Can you elaborate on how mentorship has influenced your career?

 A: Mentorship has been incredibly influential throughout my career. At Microsoft, I had mentors who provided invaluable guidance and helped me navigate complex professional landscapes. They offered broader perspectives, challenged me to think critically and strategically, and provided support during difficult times. Having someone to provide honest feedback and support has been instrumental in my growth and success. Mentorship helps in understanding the unwritten rules of an organization and in making strategic career decisions.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business?

A: It’s important to start a business for the right reasons. The wrong reasons include doing it because you can’t think of anything else or simply to get rich. The right reason is a passionate belief that you can solve a particular problem. Due diligence is critical—validate the problem, talk to potential customers, and see if they would pay for your solution.

Understand the personal and professional costs involved. Additionally, consider taking short-term courses to see if entrepreneurship suits you before diving in. It’s also essential to have a clear business plan and to be prepared for the highs and lows that come with running a business. Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires resilience, adaptability, and a constant willingness to learn.

Q: How do you think entrepreneurial experience is valued in the corporate world, especially if the startup doesn’t succeed?

A: The corporate world is increasingly recognizing the value of entrepreneurial experience. Even if a startup doesn’t succeed, it demonstrates initiative, resilience, and a broadened perspective. These qualities are highly valued in corporate roles as they show an ability to innovate and adapt. Entrepreneurs bring a unique mindset and skills that can drive corporate growth and transformation. They are often more resourceful, better at problem-solving, and have a hands-on approach, which are valuable assets in any corporate setting.

Q: What should Indian professionals do to stand out in global companies?

A: Building empathy is crucial. Understanding and building relationships with colleagues from different cultures is key. Communication clarity is essential—make sure there’s no ambiguity in what is agreed upon. Whether it’s with your boss or your team, clearly define purposes, outcomes, and responsibilities. This ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards common goals. Additionally, continuously upskill and stay updated with global trends to remain competitive.

Professionals should also focus on building a strong personal brand, being proactive in seeking new opportunities, and demonstrating a global mindset. Embracing diversity and inclusion, and being adaptable to different cultural contexts, can significantly enhance one’s ability to succeed in a global company.

Q: Can you share your views on the evolving role of Global Capability Centers (GCCs) in India?

A: The traditional view of India purely as a cost center is outdated. GCCs should be seen as integral parts of the global organization, contributing to market insights and strategic directions. Leaders in India should actively participate in global discussions and drive innovation from India. It’s about moving beyond just delivery to being a strategic partner in the organization’s global growth.

GCCs in India are increasingly taking on more strategic roles and responsibilities. They are not only delivering services but also driving innovation, developing new products, and contributing to the global strategy of their parent companies. This shift requires a change in mindset, both within the GCCs and in the global headquarters, recognizing the value and potential of these centers.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of cybersecurity and data with current global trends?

A: Data is at the core of everything today, and cybersecurity is essential to protect this data. The challenge lies in balancing innovation with security. We need to build a consensus on future directions and involve everyone in shaping the future of cybersecurity. With the rise of AI, there are numerous opportunities to enhance security measures. It’s crucial to stay ahead of potential threats and continuously innovate to safeguard data.

The future of cybersecurity will involve more advanced technologies, such as machine learning and AI, to predict and prevent cyber threats. Collaboration across industries and borders will be essential to develop robust security frameworks. Additionally, there will be a growing emphasis on data privacy and compliance with regulations, as organizations strive to protect user data and build trust with their customers.

Q: How do you see the role of technology evolving in the next decade, particularly in India?

A: Technology will continue to be a major driver of change and innovation across industries. In India, we can expect significant advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain. These technologies will transform sectors like healthcare, education, finance, and manufacturing, making them more efficient, accessible, and innovative.

India has a unique opportunity to leverage its tech talent and entrepreneurial spirit to become a global leader in technology innovation. However, this will require investment in education and skill development, supportive regulatory frameworks, and a focus on building sustainable and inclusive technological solutions. The next decade will be crucial in shaping the future of technology in India and ensuring it contributes positively to economic growth and social development.

Q: What are some of the key skills and attributes that future leaders should cultivate to succeed in a rapidly changing world?

A: Future leaders need to be adaptable, resilient, and lifelong learners. They should cultivate a global mindset, be culturally aware, and have strong emotional intelligence. The ability to think critically and strategically, coupled with a strong ethical foundation, is essential. Leaders should also focus on building collaborative and inclusive teams, fostering innovation, and being open to new ideas and perspectives.

In a rapidly changing world, leaders must be comfortable with ambiguity and be able to make decisions quickly and effectively. They should embrace technology and be proactive in upskilling themselves and their teams. Additionally, effective communication and the ability to inspire and motivate others are key attributes that will help leaders navigate the complexities of the future.

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