The People Behind the Tech @ ECI (Part 6)
Sreekumar Nair – Head of Operations and Services for India and SAARC
This week I had the opportunity to interview one of the most important people in our Mumbai office, Mr. Sreekumar Nair. Sreekumar heads after sales service and support for our Indian office. He’s joined us when ECI was accelerating its presence in the region and has been around ever since. His pivotal role is pertinent to customer satisfaction and loyalty, as his team is responsible for everything that happens after the contract is signed. Sreekumar must keep both his service, as well as business, head about him, in today’s challenging Indian market.
A bird’s eye view
Status: Married + 1
Tenure: 13 years
Q: 4 Things no one knows about you
- I am particularly fond of gardening. During the weekends, if I get time, I like to spend some time getting my hands dirty in the garden
- I was on the field hockey team at school
- Really fond of elephants, take every opportunity to see them wherever I can
- I had the ambition to become a fighter pilot, but ended up as an engineer in the air force
Q: What does your role entail?
I manage the services and operations activities in India RBU. This includes everything after the sale is made, which means: post sales services management, project management, implementation, technical support, field engineering, logistics and local supply chain. In other words, once the PO is in, everything from then on is handled by my team of nearly 200 employees comprising project managers, customer support engineers, field engineers (which is the biggest group servicing customers all across India) and logistics and supply chain team. Apart from managing business support and customers’ needs of on-time delivery, superior service, and meeting SLAs, I am also responsible for the business side of things (a.k.a. services revenue and profitability). The role combines both operations side as well as business aspects. .
Q: How did you come to work at ECI?
After a long stint at a telecom operator, I was looking for a change to a technology company. My previous company where I was working at that time was a customer of ECI. I admit that I was a very demanding customer, myself, therefore the level of interaction was very high, working closely with the ECI team. This was at the time the Indian office was beginning to grow rapidly. Large network deployments became a day to day activity and implementation and associated field operations requirements were growing intensely. They were looking to expand quickly and build a strong presence for ECI in India. During one such discussion on the need to expand the project management and field operations I was offered the role of head of project management. Later on I moved into my current role.
Q. What do you like most about working at ECI?
- First, I have a great opportunity to lead a team who are passionate about supporting customers to the best of their ability. I know it is a bit of a cliché, and yet….
- I feel empowered to make decisions and have sufficient flexibility to put my thoughts, decisions and plans into action.
- People at all levels of the organization are accessible, even the CEO. I find that everyone is willing to listen, if you prove you have something important and relevant to say.
- Lastly, people work together as a team. I work outside of the headquarters and find that distances don’t really matter.
Q: Success Story
Remember, I am from services background, so I have many success stories to tell. One of the most recent, and challenging, was when we introduced our Apollo optical product line into a big tier one operator here in India. This was a project of immense proportions, requiring the installation of thousands of nodes nationwide, brownfield network deployment, 3rd party OEM integration and with all the logistics you can imagine. Luckily, we already had successful background with the customer for large scale deployments. In this case, and with this customer, post-sales support is just as important (if not more so) as product features and capabilities. We understood that we were being judged upon our services capabilities as well.
This project was challenging mainly because of the sheer volume of activities, because we needed to install thousands of nodes throughout last one year, with specific targets on a monthly basis and progress was closely monitored by customer’s senior management. We’d never previously performed an Apollo project of this scale, in such a short time frame. In fact, this required us to completely change the project planning and execution: hire and train a large group of sub-contractors, improve our own team’s technical capabilities, supply and install thousands of units, and troubleshoot our way through this on a daily basis. It was impressive the way the entire roll-out was managed.
If this mega project wasn’t enough, at the same time our customer also decided to outsource their internal program management responsibilities. In effect we were entrusted with doing a dual role: both our own logistics, project management and installation, as well as the customer’ role. In a way, this actually helped us with better control over the big optical installation, because in such projects the customer had to make sure to define, plan and end to end manage the various tasks under of the overall project. The fact that we were on both sides, provided better synergies and efficiencies and ensured the stock of new inventory in customer warehouses was consumed and got deployed as fast as possible.
Q. How have your challenges changed over the years?
In the past, customer focus was mainly on building the network and increasing their foot print. It was all about deployment, deployment and deployment. While deployment and increasing capacity is still in focus, today there is more focus on operational efficiencies and SLAs. In other words, attention to operations issues is equally as important. This requires us to be faster at responding to customer issues, resolving them, and delivering within defined SLAs. Technical support challenges are on the rise.
Substantial focus is required to do things better and more efficiently, within the available resources. Also we are required to implement ways to control expenses in line with the key internal objective of cost reduction and improving profitability. Also, balancing and prioritizing between various customer requirements.
Moreover, networks are becoming much more complex. Requirements are more dynamic, driving the need for more flexibility, efficiency and simpler management. As the players in the market merge, we are seeing more network migrations and consolidations. This is pushing us to hone our skill sets, in the areas of network planning and design as well as NOC activities, in order to better help our customers with their evolving needs.
Q. In your opinion, how will the telecom industry change over the next 5-10 years?
With 5G on the horizon, more efficient mobile networks will emerge delivering higher performance, supporting multiple connected devices over high bandwidth simultaneously. 5G also promises truly converged wireless-fiber user experience. The driving force for future networks will be the seamless services delivery, from device to device, that will support the continuously connected consumer. To enable on demand services, at any time, from anywhere, there will be major technology advancements in variety of sectors - machine-to-machine, smart homes & cities etc., to name a few. From the operator’s perspective, I believe we will see a continuous growth in outsourcing so that they can focus on their core business areas rather than those areas where others have better expertise.
Q. How would your summarize your experience here?
It has been a real challenging time managing expectations over the years. Been through some very difficult situations with customers but I am satisfied that we have been able to overcome these challenges and continue to maintain an excellent relationship and trust with our customers. This has been possible with the support of a motivated and committed team.
Let’s finish with the questionnaire, which side of the following terms are you?
|Packet or optical?||Packet|
|Virtualized or software defined?||Software-defined|
|5G or 4G/LTE?||5G|
|Open-source or home-grown||Open-source|
|Service providers or non-service providers (utilities, etc.)?||Both|
|Disaggregation or integration?||Integration|