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BW Businessworld

Mindtree: Many Plans On His Mind

Mindtree’s CEO is focusing his energies towards making the company a significant global player by 2020

Photo Credit : Bivash Banerjee

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If you haven’t met Krishnakumar Natarajan, you might walk past him in the office, mistaking him for just another employee. The CEO of Mindtree wears his success — and designation — lightly. But once you connect with him, you can’t help but notice the leadership halo that seems to be a part of his persona. KK, as he is popularly known, combines his humility and simplicity with a gregarious and meticulous nature — a potent combination!

KK, who graduated from College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai, in 1979 as a mechanical engineer, went on to major in marketing and systems as he completed his MBA at XLRI, Jamshedpur.

Before co-founding Mindtree, a global information technology solutions company, in 2009, KK had held several key positions at Wipro. During his time at Wipro, he launched and grew the e-commerce division, served as group vice president of human resources, and was chief marketing officer for Wipro’s IT business.

In 2013, KK was appointed the chairman of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), where he worked to strengthen the Indian IT industry. He envisaged the industry as a globally competitive ecosystem comprising established as well as emerging companies.

The Mindtree move was a big one, but it has paid off very handsomely. The company today employs more than 16,000 people and has annual revenues of over $600 million.

KK has been the chief executive officer and managing director since 2008, and has played key roles in building Mindtree’s innovative approach to delivering IT services and solutions to as many as 1,000 enterprises across the world. He was instrumental in setting up Mindtree’s operations in the United States, driving expansion in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and transforming Mindtree’s IT services business.

KK believes that taking the right risks at the right time has stood him in good stead during his eight-year-long stint.

In May 2008, right after he had taken over as the CEO, Mindtree acquired Aztecsoft, a mid-tier outsourcing product development and testing player, for around Rs 400 crore. This was then considered the largest deal in the Indian IT industry. In late 2010, he transformed Mindtree to take a more business-driven approach and focus only on four verticals: banking, financial services and insurance; high tech; retail consumer products; and travel and hospitality.

In the last 18 months or so, he has trained the spotlight on the digital space, which he refers to as “futuristic”.

Sounding Board
Inspired by industry leaders such as Wipro founder Azim Premji and Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, who built great institutions with the highest levels of work ethics, KK believes in a leadership style that allows others to do things on their own.

“I play the role of a sounding board, sometimes allowing them to learn things through their mistakes,” he says.

KK is also actively engaged in ensuring high quality of governance within the organisation. He’s focused on recruiting and bringing diversity to the Mindtree board, resulting in a highly valuable group of independent directors. His efforts and skills as a business leader have been recognised worldwide, winning him several awards and accolades.

An active member of the Manufacturer’s Association for Information Technology and the Confederation of Indian Industry, KK is a regular speaker at international IT industry conferences and a faculty member at management schools around the world.

But he’s got a lot of things in mind for Mindtree.

Effective 1 April, 2016, KK will be elevated to the position of executive chairman. In his new role, he will “help drive aspirations and prepare the company for the future”.

He will spend time mentoring digital teams within his company and outside, and work on partnerships with the startup ecosystem to solve unique customer problems. Another top priority will be mentoring future leaders in Mindtree and creating a strong pipeline of able leaders.

“Mindtree is on a strong footing today to explore newer opportunities that will take us to a different orbit in the years ahead. I would be focusing my energies towards making Mindtree a significant global player by the year 2020,” he says.

[email protected]; @ayushmanb