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Ness Connection: Meet our CEO, Ranjit Tinaikar

Welcome to Ness Connection, a new series featuring Q&A with our thought leaders and innovative trailblazers. This series is a direct connection for you to get to know what drives our team and learn some interesting facts about them along the way. In our first edition, meet Ranjit Tinaikar, Ness CEO. He brings a unique perspective as CEO, having worked on the demand side with CTOs and the supply side with service providers. Ranjit’s objectives are clear – to make Ness a top 5 pure play digital engineering firm that every Nessian is be proud to be part of.

Q: What does the concept of creating value for customers mean to you? 

A: One of my most cherished clients helped me make the distinction between a product or offering – what we sell; and what is customer’s value – what they buy. The two are often confused. My client was the newly elected Honorable Prime Minister, Jigme Thinley, of Bhutan – a small Himalayan mountain kingdom that had just transitioned from monarchy to democracy. It is a country famous for measuring its development in terms of Gross National Happiness.

I was presenting to the newly formed Bhutanese cabinet on a new tourism strategy. Most tourists visiting Bhutan travel to the same few places due to its mountainous terrain and poor infrastructure – resulting in overloading the local ecosystem. My idea was to distribute the tourist traffic across the country by building four helipads as it would expand tourist destinations and reduce investments in building large landing strips. But the Honorable PM didn’t like it. I was surprised and he saw it. He asked me, “Ranjit, what do you think is the tourist product of Bhutan?” I thought the answer was obvious. “The product is Bhutan’s breathtaking natural beauty, the mystical Buddhist monasteries, and the rich cultural traditions of a mountain kingdom,” I said with confidence.

And then PM Thinley said something that guides my insight into customer value to this day. He said, “Ranjit, the product of Bhutan is not the monasteries, the religion or nature. The real product of Bhutan is tranquility and preservation of nature. It’s central to what we call Gross National Happiness. If you place helicopters flying 300m above your head, you destroy tranquility and peace in our valleys – our core value proposition.” While fixed-wing aircrafts were more expensive, this was the path they chose. That was a valuable lesson to me because we tend to think about value in a self-centered way in terms of “what can I sell”. You often need to release your agenda and personal biases to see the value from the customer’s perspective. In this case, I was trying to describe a value my commercial conception was for the tourists as customers, not that of my client who valued Gross National Happiness, not Gross Domestic Product. I keep this example in mind as I interact with our customers to remember what value truly means.

Q: Everyone has their morning routine to help get their day going. What are the most important parts to starting your day off on the right foot?

A: I have been a traveling professional all my life, and the pandemic has temporarily changed this aspect. I now have a more regular morning routine at home, where I wake up around 6 am. I reserve the first 30-45 minutes to catch up with my wife over a cup of tea with ginger (which happens to be a favorite beverage that reminds me of my childhood). While it can be very tempting to pick up my iPhone and jump right into my day, I try very hard to resist this temptation. Starting my day off like this keeps me grounded for the rest of the day. I truly believe a positive state of mind is essential and shapes how you react to situations throughout the day. I find that interactions with colleagues are more positive and productive when you enter your day with the right frame of mind.

Q: When you think of leadership, who has influenced you the most, and what does leadership mean to you? 

A: I’m not going to reference any of the well-known leadership books because I haven’t had to go far to see what true leadership means. I see tremendous leadership in my home around me every day. Watching my wife raising two children has been an excellent example of leadership. I firmly believe leadership requires three important attributes, which you often see in mothers and caring parents. You need to have:

  1. Conviction: The ability to always know what’s right and wrong.
  2. Courage: The ability to stand by your convictions and fight for what’s right/wrong.
  3. Consistency: The ability to be courageous each day.

And since we are on alliterations, I would add a fourth C of leadership – Charisma.

Q: Tell us a little about your office. What do you keep on your desk?

A: We are a global and virtual community, and so the physical space of my office is less important to me as most of our colleagues and clients are often miles away. I have hardly used my office since I started, (due to the pandemic), and have managed to engage many of our colleagues without using the physical office. When I’m not physically in the office, anyone in the company is open to use it. I do keep three photos near and dear to me – one of my family, a photo with Colin Powell (whom I met two years ago), and a picture of me wearing a skirt with Bhutan’s Prime Minister. I also display a small award that was a big success as a reminder of a special time in my career.

Q: What excites you most about being the CEO of Ness?

A: Ness is in the digital engineering market where demand is outstripping supply. The pandemic has only accelerated the ongoing digital transformation as the entire world, stuck in legacy technology, desperately grapples with clutches of this dated infrastructure and processes. In these times, Ness is the right size organization with the right level of agility to quickly adapt to clients’ needs and provide much-needed services that are most in-demand such as, product engineering, cloud migration, data modernization, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The market needs these value-added services, and quite frankly, there are not enough of these capabilities out there. For this reason, I believe this market will grow by 20-30%. Just by being in this market creates tremendous growth opportunities for our employees. Ness can be 2-4x bigger in the future, giving our employees expanded opportunities to run large teams who may not be in senior leadership positions today.

If you look at this market, there are few pure-play digital engineering firms, and Ness is poised to break into the top 5 in this space. I come to work not to work for a me too IT services organization, but I want to be part of something special where we have a reputation for discovering, envisioning and engineering digital solutions of the future – where we walk the talk in our Marketing tagline: Discover. Envision. Engineered. That’s what excites me the most – being part of the Ness story.

Q: What’s on your to-do list?

A: My professional and personal passions are deeply intertwined. Visiting our various offices and customers around the globe has been and is still very much at the top of my list. One of the great things about Ness is that we are a global company with some fascinating locations culturally and geographically. I’m a history buff and love to experience history through culture, language, food, and stories. Now that my wife and I are empty-nesters, I anticipate even more travel and meeting more interesting people in the future.

Q: What does the future of this space/industry look like?

A: I think for the foreseeable future (the next 4-5 years), we’re going to see exponential growth primarily driven by two main areas on the customer side. Every industry will get rapidly transformed by digital technology through cloud, data, and machine learning. Simultaneously, the proliferation of new technologies will not slow down anytime soon; it will increase even further. We will see entirely new industries emerge – you will see that the various industries’ traditional boundaries will change. Financial services will not be financial services because Google and Apple are in financial services. Retailers will end up in logistics. TV and cable companies will become media companies. Media companies will become entertainment companies, and so on. There is a whole set of changes and transformations in the industrial structure and competitive landscape that Ness will be integral to because we will be building bridges to that future. The potential is not just in terms of growth, but the kind of problems we will be asked to solve will become increasingly complex and increasingly challenging. Therefore, Ness will attract some of the smartest and highest performing people on the planet.

Q: What’s the one word or phrase you use to describe Ness and why?

A: Engineers who take pride in solving complex problems. What I love about Ness is the classic engineering culture – we say it like it is and relish the thought of proactively identifying and solving our customers’ problems.

Q: You mentioned the pandemic had changed your morning routine. How have you been handling taking care of yourself during the pandemic?

A: Like many people, I’m trying to keep as much structure as possible as things continue to change all around us. I carve out time in my schedule to find a way to get outside of the confines of my home safely. When serving a global customer base and delivery footprint, it’s not always easy to have regular working hours. As often as possible, I get out my earbuds after 5:30 pm and take non-confidential calls as I walk in Central Park. On a given day, I walk up to 8 miles. When you’re stuck in one place all day, it’s not good for the mind or body. These long walks help me find a balance.

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