With over 19 years of rich experience in developing and executing IT strategies, Pertisth Mankotia is well-known in technology circles in India. Over the years, he has established himself as a leader and business partner who has successfully spearheaded technology to transform and simplify business processes at Sheela Foam.
Mankotia started his career in 1995, at the age of 22 at Sheela Foam. As a CIO at Sheela Foam, he has bagged many national and international awards for innovations and expending the business with various IT initiatives. He is also credited with developing and implementing a home grown ERP named as “Greatplus”.
In this exclusive interview, Mankotia talks to India CIO Review and shares his thoughts on the new age technologies that businesses are leveraging, key IT challenges and the new initiatives he is working upon. Excerpts:
Q. How do you utilize the new age technologies (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) for the benefit of business?
In today’s competitive business scenario, all these new technologies—social media, mobile analytics and cloud play a vital role in enabling agility, responsiveness and efficiency. At Sheela Foam, we are utilizing the benefits of these technologies for adding new dimensions to our business model.
Through our external social media networks, we comprehend the demands of customer and gain quality insights through their direct feedback. Our internal social media channel helps us to collaborate effectively and translate the technical needs into the business language.
The social media policy is already in place. We also utilize business analytical tools to capture the behavior of customers. There is a lot of team effort which goes into it.
Q. What are the major challenges while adopting these new age technologies?
There are some operational issues, which we are facing. In the case of cloud for instance, I have not moved my critical application. Reliability is the challenge. One also needs to innovate consistently to utilize the benefits of these technologies. There has to be a quantifiable and easy to measure business case.
What is the size of your IT team? How much time does your team spend on innovation or new projects?
We have around 40 people in the IT overall. Around 7-8 people directly report to me.
Currently around 30% of our time goes into researching and innovation. We are gradually increasing this time. There has been a lot of focus on identifying new technologies and mechanisms to accelerate our delivery model. In future, we would like to increase our time on innovation and new projects to 40%.
Q. Sheela Foam has recently undertaken a new project ‘Exchange offer’ to reduce the impact of seasonality in sales and help customers dispose of their old mattresses. What is the role of IT in executing this project?
We observed that a lot of our prospective customers delay their decision to purchase mattress because either they wait for season discount or they did not know what to do with their old mattress. The ‘Exchange offer’ program was introduced to enable customer dispose their old mattresses and buy without waiting for season discount.
Under the program, a customer gets 10% discount and many other benefits such as reward points. We integrated our homegrown ERP ‘greatplus’ with home grown Distributor Management System and Dealer Management System. We also created a new mobile app for customers through which they can track their reward points. The SMS gateway has also been unfied with the system to help receive messages from the registered mobile users.
Q. Where have you reached in terms of putting best security practices in your company?
Security, if you see is something which consistently evolves. There are still some barriers. You need to overcome with this. There is so much of data growing every day. For any CIO today, the key priority is that one should not be able to destroy company’s data. Someone should not harm your data. There is a lot at stake, always. The growing importance of data, the advent of social media and concepts such as BYOD have certainly increased the risk of data theft.
We have put up Mobile device management (MDM) to ensure support secure enterprise mobility. There are other initiatives underway as well, which I may not be able to discuss at present.
Q. Do you think there should be an increased collaboration between IT heads and CMOs to drive business change?
Collaboration has to be there. As a CIO or CMO, you need to understand the project that offers benefits to the business. Today, people have a lot of fear. Whenever you bring anything to the system, you lose power. That is something which should not be there. I agree that one needs to sync with all the partners to build something that can benefit the business in the long run. We need to focus on customer centric collaboration. That’s what we are doing at Sheela Foam. Innovate to get best insights from the data.
The primary focus is our customer. Integration is important or not that has to based on the result that you get the desired result. Since any collaboration requires a lot of effort and time, one needs to measure all pros and cons. Remember, just insights would not help, it is also pertinent to take right actions to make those insights valuable and result driven.