"Our flexible business model sets us apart"

by Sohini Bagchi    Feb 27, 2013

Viresh Oberoi mjunction, a joint venture between SAIL and Tata Steel that promotes e-commerce activities in steel and diverse industries, always thrives on innovation. In an exclusive interaction, Viresh Oberoi, Founder CEO and MD of mjunction Services Limited shares with Sohini Bagchi of CXOtoday how the company has always moved beyond its original charter and diversified its business in an innovative manner by constantly leveraging the latest technologies. As one of the largest e-commerce company in India, especially a leading e-marketplace for steel, what did you get right at mjunction? How did IT fit into your overall organizational strategy? To begin with, what we got right was that we had a clear objective behind incorporating the company. At the time of the dot com boom, it was a common thing for many businesses to open up a dot com shop. However, as a joint venture of SAIL and Tata Steel, we believed that IT and web commerce has the potential to transform the entire business landscape and bring much value to enterprises. Before inception, the two companies researched on the e-commerce space to set up a venture together to bring about greater liquidity on the online platform and share the technological costs. It started growing rapidly as an innovative concept and customers across industry verticals as they witnessed greater process efficiencies at a fraction of the cost as against the traditional platform. We gradually diversified from steel and coal to venture into a range of e-commerce services in selling, procurement, finance and knowledge services across diverse industry verticals. Being in the IT and internet-enabled commerce space, we have always focused on leveraging the latest available technology for growth, cost-efficiency and innovation. From that perspective, we have always had a strong technology backbone and we did this by developing internal competencies and get the best value out of our investments. IT is used at every level in the organization. It is viewed both as an enabler and a catalyst for business transformation. The internet will continue to enable companies like us to innovate in many ways in the future. What distinguishes mjunction from its competitors? Our flexible business development model distinguishes us from our competitors - who mostly focused on fulfilling very high targets. From the beginning, our company has been flexible in its approach. We carefully listen to our customers, identify their pain points and redesign the processes to solve their pain areas. We were able to deliver greater results in terms of transparency and efficiency, lower costs right from inception. As a result, our clients always enjoyed our services and entrusted us with larger volumes. The other advantage we have is that we operate on both the buying and selling side of the supply chain. As we always explored the latest technologies, we ensured that all our services are built on a common platform. This allowed us to take advantage of common technology infrastructure and in turn made us profitable. In your long entrepreneurial journey, what are the key lessons you’ve learnt which you think other C-suites should know? What is your leadership style? There are several things I’ve learnt both from my successes as well as my failures. First of all, I believe to be able to achieve something different, you need to move out of your comfort zone and explore endlessly. The story of the Spaniards burning their boats after landing in Mexico is a big lesson in business. If you are going to achieve something, have the heart, attitude and dedication to accomplish it. Also it is desirable to be a self starter and be able to solve problems yourself. I remember, when I started mjunction, we did not rope in consultants from outside and relied on inhouse expertise. The strategy worked out remarkably for us. There were times we failed as well, but it is important to learn from your mistakes, avoid those mistakes and move on with gusto. As far as my leadership style is concerned, it keeps changing from time to time and from situation to situation. For example, when the company started, we were just a team of six striving to grow in a competitive marketplace. It was then that the style was more participative. Later, when we became a much bigger entity and started expanding our horizon, recruiting a lot more people, the style changed and became more delegative. What remains the same gaining the trust and confidence of your employees in whatever style you adopt. What kind of CIO do you prefer – a technology focused or a business savvy CIO? And do you think CIO and IT leaders should be part of boardroom discussions? The CIO’s core activity revolves around technology. So I prefer my CIO to have a strong technology background, is focused on process efficiency and cost reduction. However, he should deliver IT initiatives to drive business value – which is a critical component to stay competitive. The CIO like other CXOs should be a part of the boardroom as he should discuss how the business can benefit from his technology expertise. In our company, the CIO is certainly part of the boardroom discussion like every other CXOs including the chief marketing officer and the chief financial officer. That’s because they are all part of the same management team and are expected to discuss strategies and make decisions being a part of the same organization. Going forward, how do you plan to innovate with IT? We have some aggressive expansion plans for the domestic market as well as we will expand our footprints in Europe. Currently, we garner 2-3 per cent revenue from the European market. We plan to reach a 50 per cent mark in the next 1-2 years. And for all these new initiatives, IT will continue to play an integral role. Until now we were using IT to bring about more transparency and efficiency in the organization and we were much successful in doing so. Now we feel the need to take it one step ahead. We plan to deploy analytics that can help us make better, faster decisions and automate processes. We have been using mobile and social media to strengthen our B2B operations. Now we are looking to consolidate our B2C business with the help of new and emerging technologies. Our team is working on a cloud computing project which will also become live in the coming months. As a company, we have always believed in leveraging the latest technologies, especially in the online space and we will continue to do so.