In conversation with Ajay Bakshi - Director, HR - Vodafone Shared Services India
Ajay Bakshi is a renowned HR maven at Vodafone India Services Pvt Limited, a 100% subsidiary of the Vodafone group, incorporated in 2010. We happened to speak to him on the very day Vodafone won the Rs. 8,500 crore transfer pricing case, leaving a ray of hope for other global companies fighting transfer-pricing cases in India. Ajay graduated as a mechanical engineer and then studied Business Administration. He holds various certifications like ACC, Certified Hogan Assessor, Certified DISC Assessor, MBTI and OPQ32 to name a few. He is an all-rounder.
Vodafone's change agenda
Vodafone Shared Services India (VISPL) functions as the back-office for Vodafone worldwide. The shared services range from technology, network solutions, HR, financials, business intelligence to analytics. Within a span of two years they grew from 3000 FTE's (Full-time-employees) to over 10,500 FTE's with a 30% CAGR per annum. A tremendous growth spurt requiring huge change. Currently VISPL is busy driving and managing this change. Driving growth with existing lines, maintaining speed yet keeping business simple, reducing dependency on third party suppliers, increasing employee performance and productivity, and stimulating line managers are some key factors on their agenda. Interestingly, an employee seeking promotion needs to have the competence 'to handle change'. As Ajay puts it 'It's in our DNA'.
Basic principles for acquisition
In 2012 Vodafone acquired Cable and Wireless Worldwide, a UK-based multinational. Their services included managed voice, data, and IP for large corporates, governments, carriers, and resellers. For Vodafone it was a herculean task to integrate and align its employees, HR, financial, and legal processes to the newly acquired enterprise. However, Ajay informed us of the basic acquisition principles that Vodafone follows. To start with, every step and process is reviewed and tracked. Vodafone also follows a specific approach that is inclusive of respecting the other company's culture and its strengths. Even the leaders continue to hold their positions and stay where they were. Many companies tend to immediately move leaders from the acquired company however Vodafone believes in guiding and supporting them to understand the 'Vodafone Way' which is essentially the culture at Vodafone. The idea is to tone down the differences between the companies and make realignment successful.
Approach to change
Ajay acknowledges that cultural change is the hardest part. To unlearn and accept a new culture is tough. As per him 'It's a people's movement'. Communication driven from the top is key. Town hall meetings, team meetings, continuous increased awareness of the relevance of change, appointing role models as the driving force behind the change are all key. But he also points out that the need to provide effective platforms that address dissatisfied employees, clarify doubts and answer questions is equally important. The communication channels should remain open and clear. And not only the employees but the clients too must partake in this journey. Together with them one can demonstrate values, co-create strategy and deliver basis expectations. Clients undoubtedly form an integral part of the chain.
To be a partner of choice, have the best HR team, create global strategy, and showcase best practices. In ways, Vodafone India is ahead of its time from an HR perspective. Ajay and his team have won awards and accolades in HR Strategy as well as innovative Best Practices. One such innovative practice was charting the career framework for both technology and management teams. This was done keeping global career ambitions in mind. Clear personalized roadmaps were developed, with tailor made modules to enable a professional to reach where they wish to be. As Ajay puts it 'I want to build organizational capabilities while harnessing people's potential from within. How do you get the best out of your people? I learnt as I went along that you need to change your style depending upon the person in front of you. Align yourself with the person and his or her learning capabilities and maturity'.