Special Article (March-2018)

 Special Articles

INTERVIEW with KANKANA BAURA, Chief People Officer, Tally Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore

Kankana Baura

Designation : -   Chief People Officer

Organization : -  Tally Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore


Technology can aid business but it cannot replace human touch

Tell us about yourself and your professional journey up to present position.
KB I belong to Tezpur, a small town in Assam known for its scenic beauty and a heritage of the state's traditional art and culture. Early years at St. Joseph's Convent were hectic but disciplined and structured and I am grateful to my teachers for the experience. After graduating from school, I wanted to pursue commerce much to the disappointment of my teachers who wanted me to follow the then mainstream career options like Medical and Engineering.
However, staying true to my desire and with the support of my parents, I decided to join the commerce stream and eventually completed my Bachelor of Commerce from the Gauhati Commerce College. Subsequently, I completed my Company Secretary-ship course from the Institute of Company Secretaries of India and became the first woman from the N.E Region of the Country to do so. During this period, I worked in several corporate houses in Kolkata like Bata, Brooke Bond & Lipton, Assam Brookes, and IFB among others. After getting married in 1993, I moved to Guwahati where I joined a Sunrise Biscuits (a fully owned subsidy of Britannia) as their Company Secretary.
In addition to taking care of the corporate legal requirements and compliance, I got closely associated with their 400-strong factory workforce, their engagement, welfare, minimum wages, labour unions etc. and developed a passion for workforce and HR management. I thereafter joined a large public sector undertaking which was into Teaas their Company Secretary and HR/IR head and simultaneously completed my LLB, which had a large workforce of 16000 permanent employees.
I finally decided to move out of Assam to expand my horizons and joined a company in Chennai for a short stint as their HR head in one of their business units. Post this, I joined the Pharma Industry starting in a senior managerial position and moved up the ladder as Senior Vice President & Global Head of HR by the time I left after 8 years of an enriched experience. I then moved to the IT space in 2013 with my current Company, Tally Solutions Pvt. Ltd. as their Chief People Officer.
What is your HR vision and your organization's HR practices?
KB The people vision at Tally aligns with the organization's purpose, to make any person who touches Tally happier. This not only holds true for our partners, customers and external stakeholders but also our employees. The focus is on a delightful experience for all employees and connecting with them every step of the way. We area people centric organization, focused on making things easier and simpler for all our stakeholders. All our people practices are formulated and executed keeping our core value, "Our Strength is our People", in mind. Every employee of Tally is our responsibility, including their safety, well - being, enrichment, and personal and family health.
What is the present scene of HR function in your industry sector?
KB Over the last few years, the IT industry has increased their focus in managing the millennials. Age old HR practices may not work and we require a fresh approach and thought process which needs to be constantly aligned to this volatile and active group. It is crucial to integrate their aspirations along with the organization's so that both sides stand to benefit.
What kind of a leader you are and how would you like to be remembered as one?
KB I like to lead from the front and desire to leave footprints of my leadership. I believe in standing by my team, perpetually supporting them and empathize with their needs and concerns. Success of a leader depends on the ability to influence and engage all stakeholders cross-functionally. I am a collaborative and participative leader and I believe in enabling and empowering the team with the right guidance. For me, decisions need fast closure and delivered meaningfully without compromising on quality.
Are there any development goals set by you for yourself and your organization?
KB We are living in a fast - paced world and learning, like change, should be constant. If you are not up-to-date with the present scenario, there is high chance you will be left far behind in a short span of time. Tally has always patronized a culture of learning and development, which enables every employee with tools and platforms to enhance and develop themselves which can also help fulfill their career aspirations. This is the primary focus for us for the year 2018-19. My goal is to study and understand the minds of millennials not just in this company but across the industry and the country at large.
What are the opportunities and threats emerging in your industry in terms of HR?
KB There are plenty of opportunities in the IT industry from an HR standpoint. Innovative technologies and associated fast paced industries provide many options to explore, design and develop people practices which enable retention and growth of the best talent. However, there are two sides to every coin and if this pace in development is not met with simultaneous development of skills, it throws a big threat of a gap, putting the people working in industry at risk of redundancy.
Tell us about your organization's work culture.
KB At Tally, the work culture is one of the best in the country. The organization truly imbibes its values which reflect in our daily operations, and we encourage every employee to work around the value system. This practice has been followed from the last 30 years, since the company's inception. The culture of an open - door policy encourages employees to voice their opinion and address any issue they might be facing and no issue is ever trivialized. Every concern is heard with empathy with the intent of providing a decision or solution which is in the best interests of the employee.
Any individual/professional who has influenced your thought process?
KB My biggest learnings have been from two of my former managers even though they were the most difficult people to deal with. To have these strong and accomplished figures during the formative years of my career, was a blessing in disguise. I was greatly influenced by the way they thought and eventually learnt to think and make decisions the same way. Late Abani Borgohain taught me an important lesson which I abide by even today - "Trust your team and delegate. Don't micro - manage". Mr. Shridhar Mosur molded me into an individual who takes fast decisions and can think quickly. His important lesson to me was - "Learn from mistakes and move ahead". A common learning from both was to never get influenced by what other people say when it comes to taking decisions. Make a judgment backed with data without any element of bias. My greatest life lesson that I have learnt in the past 4 years is from Mr. Bharat Goenka (Managing Director, Tally Solutions) which has helped me through my biggest difficulties in life - "Be Positive". When you think positive thoughts, 9 out of 10 times we will only see great and positive outcomes. When life gets tough keep your focus and faith on, rest everything will fall in place with the blessings of the Divine.
What irritates you most at work place?
KB Work related surprises irritate me, though they rarely occur. Any problem can be solved or a solution offered when one is aware of the problem from the beginning.
One skill you would still like to learn.
KB Brilliance in Math.
One natural ability you are blessed with.
KB I believe I am a good listener and can provide comfort to people just by listening to what they have to say. I frequently hear this about myself and it is probably because I genuinely give my unwavering attention and time to people. Empathy and compassion seem to be dying traits. A lot of times you can solve problems just by listening with care and providing words of comfort.
Are there any tough decisions that you had to make against your desire at work place?
KB There are so many of them, cases where I had to take a decision because it was the need of the business but against my personal desire and this is even more difficult. I have had the toughest arguments in such situations but as a professional have always taken decisions which are in the best interests of the organization and the other party.
Tell us about your first job experience and learning from that.
KB My first job was with Bata where I joined as a Company Secretary (management trainee). When I look back now, it was exciting and enriching to see and learn how factories are managed. To be a part of a venture which caters to the needs of the entire country was a challenging and overwhelming experience. The company in those times was managed with a British style of operations characterized by meticulous division of work. I still remember the passion of the factory manager in ensuring that every stitch, fabric and sole of the shoes are in perfect condition. This was my first learning - If you're passionate about your job and love what you do, work becomes so much more exciting and interesting even if it is a task as simple as sorting of shoe laces.
How can HR acquire center stage in business environment?
KB There has been a massive transition in HR in the last few decades, moving from mere paper pushers to becoming strategic partners. HR is the business guiding pillar, managing large workforces and being core contributors to the financial decisions of the company. Across industries, it is the people who make the difference and in the IT sector people become all the more critical. The HR horizon has changed considerably. Merely competent functional/technical leaders will not make you successful unless you choose a track of being experts. Individual contributors too need to shape their people management skills for holistic development. Our department is responsible to up-skill the workforce, get the best talent and retain them without which organizations will not be in a position to succeed.
Do you think HR is ready to take a leap in the present business environment full of uncertainties and turbulence where technology, analytics and robotics are taking over people processes and systems?
KB Technology, analytics and robotics are fast gaining importance and certainly they have made processes easier and less people dependent. However, no technology can take over the emotions associated with people which are inherently present. In fact it is my fear that if every investment on human capital is linked with ROI overlooking the EQ of this primary resource, the day is not far when everything is managed by robots and we have a workforce just to manage these entities without emotions. What we can do instead is to take the help of analytics and big data to become better HR managers. Technology can advise us on better decision making and faster processes but it would be unjust to completely right off the importance of people around processes and systems. The question is what we visualize our world to be, a world full of robots or a rightful mix of humans. I hope for a world where robots do the mundane and routine tasks thereby enabling talented and skilled people to bring about a revolution in the world of technology, science, art and literature.