Learning should be life-long says Hero MotoCorp IT Chief, Vijay Sethi

BW CIO World caught up with Vijay Sethi at his New Delhi office for an up close & personal conversation revolving around his life and work experience till date. Vijay shared his beliefs, life lessons and the importance of on-the-job continuous education, post-graduation, family support and hardwork, in achieving professional success in life.

Vijay Sethi, CIO, Hero MotoCorp

Other than being the CIO of the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, Hero MotoCorp, Vijay Sethi is well known among the CIO fraternity and the analyst community for being unequivocal; he is regularly consulted on contemporary topics. Sangram Aglave from BW CIO World caught up with Vijay Sethi at his New Delhi office for an up close & personal conversation revolving around his life and work experience till date.

Vijay shared his beliefs, life lessons and the importance of on-the-job continuous education, post-graduation, family support and hardwork, in achieving professional success in life.

Edited Excerpts below:

BW: Please tell us about your career journey and about your early days? What got you here?

Vijay Sethi: I completed B.Tech (Mechanical Engineering) from REC Kurukshetra in 1987 and immediately after that, finished Masters in Industrial Management from NITIE in 1989. I joined TCS as a Management consultant after my Masters. I also completed a second Masters, MBA in Supply Chain Management. I have done various other diplomas and certifications like Exports management, ISO 9000, Project management and lots of diplomas / post diplomas in IT and other areas.

In 1996, Ranbaxy was looking for a management executive for their newly formed Business Solutions Team specifically someone who understood both the Technology and Business side of things. I moved to Ranbaxy in July 1996, after around 7.5 years at TCS. I led the global Business process re-engineering effort at Ranbaxy. Ranbaxy decided to deploy SAP and I was given the responsibility to implement this solution. Additional responsibilities followed soon after, and I was given the entire Corporate IT portfolio to manage at Ranbaxy. I was heading Ranbaxy’s IT operations across 40 odd countries. I joined Hero MotoCorp in 2007 and I am still here. I have worked at three companies in 28 years, seven at TCS, 11 in Ranbaxy -- and I am in my 10th year at Hero MotoCorp. I believe in long hauls for two reasons: one, it takes time to understand big organisations and two, it takes time to really bring a difference and leave your mark. I always ensure that I am top of things in Technology and allocate my time to grasp all the developments and innovations. I have also attended leadership programs at IIM Ahmedabad and Indian School of Business. I regularly share my knowledge by attending seminars, and through speaking roles.

BW: Did you have a favorite subject during your school days?

Vijay Sethi: Mathematics has always been my favorite subject. That subject helped me during my Engineering days, management school days, and now at work in Analytics.

BW: Some events or suggestions or realisations leave an impact and are truly defining moments. Can you share some pivotal moments as you look back in the past, that have made an impact on you?

Vijay Sethi: Everybody has some events like that in their lives. The earliest pivotal moment in my life was when my father supported me in pursuing Engineering at REC, and that also meant stepping out of home  for higher studies and starting a hostel life. I was 15, and in those days Engineering used to be a five-year course. Another moment was when I declined a public-sector job offer after Engineering, but instead went ahead with my post-graduation at Mumbai. I had secured 99.3 percentile score in the GATE exam, and my father supported me in that decision as well. During post-graduation, most of the cohorts were interested in joining Civil Services, and even I appeared for Indian Engineering Services exam, and was selected by IES. I had to decide sometime in the January of 1989, that either I get into Government Sector or work in the Private sector. I did not join IES. My father supported my decision of joining TCS.

I got the People management responsibilities at TCS while I was just a management trainee and that gave a head start to my career. Later on, at Ranbaxy, which was one of the first multinationals from India, I got an opportunity to lead the SAP implementation team.I was among the relatively junior members on the team not just by age but also designation wise and had several senior level people reporting into me. The stint at Ranbaxy exposed me to various global cultures. I had teams reporting into me from UK, France and many other countries. This had an enormous impact on my way of thinking and shaped my managerial style. In 2013, I was asked to head HR for Hero MotoCorp along with IT. In 2014, I was asked to head CSR at Hero MotoCorp. In 2011-12, I was asked to lead Innovation, and in 2010, Hero split from Honda and I had a played a specific role in the entire brand transition exercise.

BW: What are the two top values that you think have played a key role in your success?

Vijay Sethi: The values that I give most importance in my life are Humility and Integrity. I have my feet on the ground always and every time. Hard work is important and I genuinely believe that there is no fun in making quick money.

BW: Who has influenced your Leadership style?

Vijay Sethi: Interactions with Shri. Brijmohan Munjal Ji, the founder of Hero Group have had a huge influence in shaping my leadership style. My earliest influence was my first boss at TCS who told me that professional success requires you to leave your ego at your home.

BW: Can you walk me through some of the most challenging times in your professional front? How did you address those challenges?

Vijay Sethi:  

So many of them. Most of the projects have not been easy. Objectively, I think you will always cross the river when you try to put square pegs into square holes, trust your team and support them. Support of family plays a key role in challenging times at professional front.

BW: What do your kids do? Are they planning to join IT? Will you encourage them to get into technology?

Vijay Sethi: I have two daughters. My elder daughter finished her MBA Finance and is now working at a global Bank. My younger daughter is in school and most probably would follow her elder sister. I think the current generation understands IT very well; it is part of their lives regardless of whether they pursue Finance or Economics or Medicine or Engineering.

BW: Please share your favorite books?

Vijay Sethi: Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; Employee First & Customer’s second by Vineet Nayar; Only paranoid survive by Andy Grove, Winning by Jack Welch.

BW: Who are your favorite singers?

Vijay Sethi: Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar.

BW: What is your favorite food?

Vijay Sethi: I am a foodie. I eat all types of vegetarian food.

BW: What is your favorite movie?

Vijay Sethi: I have not been to a film theatre since last 25-30 years. I don’t watch movies.

BW: Which is your favorite holiday destination?

Vijay Sethi: I hardly go for holidays. I have not been to holidays for many years. The only place I go to is Chandigarh where my parents live.

BW: What do you do when you are not a work? What are your hobbies?

Vijay Sethi: There is hardly any time for hobbies outside of work. I spend time with my daughters, whenever I have time. I also like listening to Gurbani.

BW: What keeps you awake at night?

Vijay Sethi: Nothing keeps me awake at night.

BW: What is the social media application that you check first thing in the morning? Which one are you most hooked on to? Do you own an Android phone, an iPhone, or a Windows Phone?

Vijay Sethi: I am a regular user of WhatsApp. I do not check LinkedIn regularly. Other than that, I do not have social media presence on other channels like Facebook, Instagram etc., I carry both an Android and an iPhone.

BW: It's always best to learn from generational wisdom transferred from one generation to the other. On similar lines; What is it that you want people in their mid-careers to watch out for? And a message to those who have just started on their career journey.

Vijay Sethi: Post graduation is very important. And finishing formal education like Engineering or MBA it should not be the end of education, but the beginning of your education. Constantly upgrade your skills and keep on learning – be it formal certifications or courses or informal. Focus on Humility, Integrity, and Knowledge and hardwork. There is no shortcut to success. And above all, always remember family support is very important in life.

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leadership cio hero motor corp


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