Tete –a- tete with Dr. Ganesh Natarajan, Zensar Technologies

The Zensar Chief and also the immediate past Chairman of NASSCOM, Dr Ganesh Natarajan has been attending the Leadership Forum since 1994 – and still counting ! Speaking to him, has always been so insightful, as he brings in his own brand of pragmatic erudition. One of the few people, who has seen both sides – as a senior representative of the industry and as part of NASSCOM- Dr Natarajan had an interesting tale to tell.

In 1994, the conference was a melting pot of the IT industry. It was like any other national conference, revolving around copious discussions. Over the years, especially in the last decade, the Leadership Forum has grown beyond imagination and the calibre of speakers who now address, are of the highest level, he said. Growing from strength to strength, the conference has positioned itself, as a global summit for the IT BPO industry. Dr Natarajan also talked about the NASSCOM Awards Program, at the conference, providing an additional fillip to those who participate – a chance to gain recognition in front of a global audience. Over time, the themes have remained futuristic and forward looking – one of the reasons why we see so many international delegations thronging to the venue year after year. Even as we witness an increased scope and ambit, we now have analysts, economists, business leaders, academics, politicians, beauracrats and the leading thought leaders – all  attending NILF.

A general feeling of bonhomie:
The camaraderie amongst the attendees is quite contagious too, as members have been able to rise above their individual companies, Dr Natarajan said. On being asked about the friends / business partners that he may have encountered at NILF, he narrated the AMR Research example. On how, he met them at the Leadership Forum and have remained a trusted customer. The conference has a way of unifying people, overlooking their individual limitations, and bringing them all, on an even keel.

Dynamic nature of the industry:
Dr Natarajan talked about some of the tracks & themes, particularly praiseworthy being the BPO Track, the Innovation theme and the CIO sessions. It is an opportunity for smaller companies to come forward and showcase their process / product innovation. The industry has always been dynamic but the conference, always managed to stay a step ahead and look into the future.

Branding exercise:
Over time, technology has played a very important role in bringing delegates together. Whether it was the newly introduced “NASSCOM Connect”, last year, or the usage of RFID, the three-day experience, has always been very pleasurable. The interactive Blog site, application on social media were all examples on how a “positive buzz” can be created to bring about awareness, he said.

On speakers:
Dr Natarajan, spoke very highly of the speakers. The quality of speakers has really gone up over the years, as now we have global leaders of Fortune 500 Companies, Academics from Harvard Business School, Economists, Analysts, CIOs, Politicians, all addressing at the conference. Amongst the ones who left a deep mark, he was somewhat non-committal on selecting any favourites, but he did point out John Chambers, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Pankaj Ghemawat, Shashi Tharoor, Tarun Khanna amongst others, from the immediate past, who were very impressive. “The sheer range of speakers was breathtaking and listening to them was a tremendous value add,” he added.

Entertainment evening:
Not everything has improved with time. Here’s another man (besides Harish Jagtiani) who spoke fondly about “softwear” and how Dewang Mehta was instrumental in putting it all together. Perhaps, we should attempt to recreate that magic, he said. Moreover in the early nineties, participation levels were only a few hundreds, but now it was close to 1500  – reason enough for the classy fashion shows to do a comeback. He also recounted a time, when EC members were all dressed in special attire. “I came in as Shivaji,” he added, much to our delight.

The Leadership Forum is an excellent platform for the youth to come together. “The Youth can connect at a totally different level and participate in a Talent Contest,” he said. We should also try and increase the level of participation for the Entertainment Evenings, he added. Dr Natarajan, was all praises for the core content of the conference and felt that there was no need to tinker around with it. He suggested that new venues like Hyderabad & Pune could also be explored. The Convention Centres in these location were built to accommodate a crowd of 3000 and upwards. Over the years, Mumbai had served well, but it was now time to look at new venues, he said. Participation of SMEs and start ups should also be leveraged by using technologies like remote login and Telepresence, he added.

As we thanked him for his time, we also extracted a promise from him, to try and get one of the big names for this year’s entertainment evenings. We didn’t make his life any easier, as we zeroed in on Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar and Raju Irani. We were in no mood to relent on this one, even as we thanked Dr Natarajan for sharing his thoughts.

Thank you, Dr Natarajan, see you in Mumbai….

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