"Sitting in India, you donít get a perspective of markets abroad"

When Wiproís Manoj Nagpaul landed in Australia, he had a business plan which wasnít relevant. A new plan was needed but the challenge was ó where to start?

Published: Oct 29, 2009

I came to Australia in 2001, armed with just two bags and a lot of determination. It was my first posting abroad. I had travelled abroad on work before but I had never stayed away from India for more than four-five days. I came to Australia to execute a fairly aggressive plan — to expand Wipro’s business into Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Australia was a completely new territory for me — I didn’t have friends, relatives or business contacts here. In fact, I didn’t know what to do
once I landed!

Breaking Through

We were an unknown brand in Australia. When I spoke to people, I had to spell out my name and my company’s name! We had no existing relationships and that was not good for business. Before coming here, we hadn’t done a detailed study of the market. The idea was to come in, spend time, understand the market and develop a value proposition that is relevant.

But things weren’t easy. I had a business plan that suddenly wasn’t relevant anymore. Our business plan for Australia was thought up while we were sitting in India. I suddenly had to come up with a completely new plan from the ground up.

DOWN UNDER: Manoj Nagpaul is vice president and country head, Australia and New Zealand, Wipro
Image: Greg Wood/AFP for Forbes India
DOWN UNDER: Manoj Nagpaul is vice president and country head, Australia and New Zealand, Wipro
Australia is a reasonably large-sized market. It is an extremely competitive turf and a mature market. All the big multinationals are already here. Unfortunately, for me, 2001 was the year of the dotcom crash. So, customers weren’t investing in new IT projects. Besides, customers here did not understand global delivery. That’s an area where we had to educate them.

The first was to get to know as many people as possible and understand the environment. It was easier for me to meet with some of our industry partners like Cisco and IBM. I started attending a lot of industry forums. This helped me understand what is happening here and the state of the outsourcing market. Then I met people from the Nasscom chapter in Australia. That helped me get a perspective on what was happening with Indian companies here.

I have realised that it’s very important for you to be clear and precise while articulating your proposition in Australia. The senior people here don’t have much time. If you want them to see you again, leave behind a proposition that’s attractive.

Initially, I chose to focus on a few customers, a few verticals and a few solutions. The idea was to play to our strengths and develop a very relevant proposition. Getting a few quick wins was very
important to us.

The first deal we bagged was a fairly sizeable business. It was a five-year outsourcing deal and was very strategic for the customer — they were doing it for the very first time. We invested very heavily in it and came up with a solution that appealed to the customer. Today, we have become a big account — almost six-seven times bigger than where we started from.

Capturing the mindset of the headquarters was a little challenging. They came to this market, attended industry forums, met customers and got the sense that this is a fairly big market. The key was to demonstrate that this was the land of opportunities. When one is sitting in India and looking at the markets abroad, you don’t get the right perspective. I knew if we win this deal we will get a lot of attention from the rest of the country. I rallied the entire organisation behind me to get support. Once the deal was in, Australia started appearing very prominently
on the Wipro map.

Work-Life Balance
In terms of the workforce, a growing number of individuals are seeking part-time or flexible roles to fit in with their personal lifestyles. These individuals place a high value on their non-work time for a multitude of reasons including a desire to spend more time with family, go for further education, compete in sporting activities and other leisure activities. The Australian workforce is known for its strong work ethic and they will uncomplainingly stretch themselves if a timeline has to be achieved or a project has to be accomplished by a particular deadline.

In the early days, almost all employees would be expats and the feel of the workplace would be very much like that of an office in India. In the last couple of years, we have recruited many employees locally and our teams are now more culturally diverse and the feel is more local.  

Australia is a friendly country and the weather is excellent. Whoever I met welcomed me to Australia, wished me good luck and helped me in whichever way they could. The country is used to migrants and has people from 200 countries. The incidents of violence against Indians are unfortunate and I am not completely convinced that they are racially motivated.

(As told to Neelima Mahajan-Bansal)

(This story appears in the 06 November, 2009 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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