Powered By Technology; Driven By Ethics
If in academics he sailed past IIT and UPSC, in professional career he served both government as well private enterprises, MNCs as well as PSUs with elan. And now, when he quips, “Giving back some portion of the knowledge / experience to society,” it only becomes exemplary for future aspirants.
Seated in his plush new office as advisor-IT infrastructure, Yes Bank, in Mumbai, S. R. Balasubramanian, fondly called Bala, reminisces about the landmarks of a career that is glittered with some marvelous achievements and unflinching commitment.
“After completing BE (electronics & telecom) from Madras (now Chennai) University in 1971, I started off as a trainee in Bharat Electronics but soon joined the Ministry Of Defence’s production division for the Indian Army with a salary of Rs 750. It was here that I set up the first automated standards and calibration laboratory for testing purpose,” said Balasubramanian.
Soon thereafter came a chance for higher studies when the Indian Army sponsored him for a post-graduate diploma in computer science from IIT Mumbai, in 1976 (with the condition to serve the Defence services for five years). But the ambitious achiever that he is, Balasubramanian soon cleared an interview by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to become the Sr. Scientific Officer, this time at the Air Force production division.
Bala adds, “I was involved in developing applications for input substitution, rationalization, and variety reduction for Air Force Defence Testing Organisation, Bangalore. This department was responsible for giving import clearance for various equipments needed by the Air Force.”
“By using these applications, monitoring and scrutiny of the equipment database could be done, which helped in preventing import of parts that were already available indigenously. This way automation encouraged indigenisation,” said Bala.
In 1982, once the bond with the Defence got over, Bala worked on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel automation project. But it was the assignment as Citibank Data Center manager in Delhi that remains very close to his heart as through that project the initial concepts of centralization was being ushered in the Indian corporate landscape.
Also, it was the Citibank stint where he interacted with the likes of Aditya Puri (now MD of HDFC Bank) who was heading Citibank’s corporate banking then, and Jerry Rao (now chairman of Mphasis) then leading the retail banking of Citibank
He then got an opportunity to move to Singapore as Citibank planned to shift the corporate banking technology operations and Balasubramanian was promoted to the post of AVP. In 1995, Bala was put in charge of revamping IT at Citibank Kenya. After the project was over it received the highest audit rating and he rose to become the VP Technology Country Head for Citibank Kenya.
His stint with HDFC began in 1997 when the bank was just two years old. He says, “Initially I handled projects like data center, technology optimization, and branch expansion and then in 2000 with the Times Bank merger with HDFC, technology integration became very crucial.”
He reminisces how his wife decided not to leave for Singapore to provide their son a home grooming. In fact, Bala gives all the credit to Mrs. Balasubramanian for the stupendous success of his son (one of the toppers in Maharashtra in Xth, XIIth and for the gold medal he won as he passed out of IIM-A last year). While the son who won a gold medal subsequently joined an international consulting firm, the father, around the same time got the second best CTO of India Award.
On technology evolution, he says, “IT in the 80s was need based, which by the late 90s became expectation based.” According to him, awareness of the capability of IT has grown tremendously, which is one major reason why IT is being accepted so fast.
Offering some suggestions to business leaders he says, “Business heads should think of offering innovative products that stand out from the rest. Quality of service is another area that should be given due importance. Similarly, the turnaround time should be quick enough to ensure customer loyalty.”
Following his maxim, ‘work till 40, become a consultant between 40 to 50, provide advisory between 50 to 60, and be a mentor beyond that,’ he is now the IT advisor for the upcoming Yes Bank and business advisor for Computer Associates. As a concluding thought he says, “It is high time that I give back to society at least some for so much it has given me in my lifetime.”