Instead of an 'I follow' - attitude people should show an 'I lead' - attitude
In conversation with Barbara Belpaire - General Manager TomTom India
Navigating through the streets of Mumbai
'Take a left to Nargis Dutt Road' in 400 meters'. A soothing female voice echoes in the cab while navigating through Bandra, Mumbai. We never really take the time to realize the kind of work done resulting in a female voice guiding you and your cab driver through Mumbai's narrow lanes. The only thing we usually want is reaching our next destination as fast as possible. However when we do take the time for some reflection, we all know that there is a highly technical, thought-through yet complicated system developed by extremely bright engineers. Engineers who have done thorough research to make sure that those maps behind a navigation system are a reflection of reality. So what is my reality today? My reality is to drink a coffee with Barbara Belpaire, General Manager of TomTom India as I would like to understand how she perceives change in this fast changing world.
The passion of a leader
Barbara Belpaire, born and raised in Belgium and currently in charge of TomTom India's headquarters in Pune, has been working with TomTom for 15 years. She knows the organization from inside out. 'People, creating and implementing structures is my passion'. Whether it is a team, a department or an entire organization somewhere across the globe to be build up. Once things are in place, Barbara is often ready for the next challenge. Her high level of energy is contagious and shows her capability to build and create. Her style is participative, collaborative, always ensuring commitment of her colleagues with a strong sense of accountability. She is aware of the fact that sometimes she moves too fast and knows when to pause in order for her peers to catch up. This is exactly the answer to the question 'what were your key learning's over the years when it comes to change? 'I have been working on having more patience to explain the 'why' behind decisions being made and how to go about change. Secondly I learned to repeat, repeat, and repeat so that the message remains in the minds of people.'
TomTom, by origin a Dutch company and now a global giant with its presence in India since 2008, designs and develops innovative products that make it easy for people to keep moving towards their goals and to make smarter decisions. TomTom empowers movement.
In order to do so, it focuses on four different key areas: consumer (offering sport watches with in-built GPS systems to consumers), automotive (providing maps, traffic, software and hardware to car manufacturers), licensing (licensing of world-class maps, traffic and navigation content and services to for example governments, network operators, mobile phone handset manufacturers and internet companies) and telematics (offering fleet management, vehicle telematics and connected car services with more than 650.000 subscriptions worldwide). 70% of TomTom's workforce contributes to literally mapping the world. Out of its four deliverables the business unit 'consumer' contributes the most to TomTom's revenue and profit. It's all about gathering data and information, analyzing our planet's data, constantly updating TomTom's deliverables and coming up with innovative new products. TomTom is going strong being a preferred partner of many high-end OEMs, fleet management and disrupting companies like Uber, Apple and the likes.
TomTom India started with a joint venture however bought 100% of the shares in 2011 now being a fully-owned company. With currently 800+ employees in India, TomTom has the ambition to reach the number of 1000 employees within the coming months. Talking about change!
The ambition is to let TomTom India grow quickly with high potential Indian engineers. Why? The quality level of engineering in India is extremely high as well as the level of English. The objective is to grow from within as TomTom India will function as a shared service center and customer care center globally in the near future. So what about the organizational culture? TomTom's culture can best be described as one big family where people receive a huge amount of space to develop, innovate and create. In other words, each professional has the freedom to find his/her own ways to contribute to TomTom. From that perspective the first step has been taken by opening its first global innovation hub in Pune with the vision to let employees act as entrepreneurs and innovate much more.
The current challenge is to upgrade the existing talents within the organization especially keeping in mind TomTom India's ambitions. Strong values, ownership, anticipating change and market trends are key areas with a strong focus. There is much more talent across TomTom India. I would like to extract that from each professional, manager and leader.
In order to achieve TomTom India's ambitions all leaders have to be onboard both within India as well as the functional leaders across the globe. The global leaders are the stakeholders and their participation and involvement are crucial for TomTom India's ambitions. TomTom India's clients and global leaders are seen as internal stakeholders. 'Their commitment is very important to us'. Therefore Barbara and her management team apply the strategy to involve TomTom's global leaders constantly. It is crucial to brand TomTom India within the organization as well. Why? Because we all know that it takes two to tango. Once there are more enthusiastic people aware of India and its immense opportunities, TomTom India's ambitions will be achieved efficiently and with high speed.
Besides TomTom's global leaders, the local leaders have to be fully aligned and feel owner of TomTom India's vision too. Instead of an 'I follow' - attitude people should show an 'I lead' - attitude which requires a change in role for each individual. People have to show a different kind of ownership across the organization requiring modelling behavior. Barbara is positive that this new reality of TomTom India and its people will have great positive impact on both the business and India as a country.