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NASSCOM Leader Talk: Interview with Dr. Sumit Mitra, CEO - Tesco Business Services & Tesco Bengaluru

NASSCOM staff writer in conversation with Dr. Sumit Mitra, CEO - Tesco Business Services & Tesco Bengaluru. 

1. Tracing the journey of Tesco Bengaluru.

Tesco in Bengaluru started 15 years ago. It is the home to both Business Services and Technology teams, working together to serve Tesco shoppers a little better every day. The centre has evolved from a more transaction based services to valued added services. Thus helping the shopping experience of our customers little better every day. 

Since our inception, the Bengaluru centre has progressed through the following stages of evolution.

  • The first stage: a greenfield project, which involves the procurement of land, setting up operations and supporting teams.
  • The second stage: we looked add adding more capabilities, therefore, headcount growth was inevitable.
  • Third stage: we aimed at improving our engagement with the markets we serve.

We are currently in the fourth stage of our journey where we professionalize our capability through best in class automation & a continuous improvement culture which leverages the scale to execute as a global function supporting all our markets.

In my earlier assignment at British Telecom (BT), I conceptualized Contract Delivery Shared Service (CDSS) and led the global implementation. I had the opportunity to benchmark the business as a world-class capability, a differentiator in the telecoms market. During my tenure at BT, I also strategized and executed BT’s global business services model with a direct responsibility of 7000 plus employees, across 9 countries.  It is this expertise that I bring to Tesco in Bengaluru in order to set up the necessary capabilities needed to support the global business.

We are working to strengthen our Global Capability Centre with a strong innovation-led culture. Over the last few years, Tesco in Bengaluru has become more specific about the key capabilities it wants to focus upon. For instance, teams in India manage all the Property work across markets. So if we want to buy land anywhere, design stores in any of the 10 countries, it done by our teams at Bengaluru. In addition to this, if it comes to how is it we want to layout stores, which fixtures we put where, all of that is managed by teams in India too. There are many examples of how Tesco in Bengaluru is contributing to Tesco globally in a collaborative approach - all the maintenance, all the kits and equipment that we put in, even the security, if the security alarm goes off in the UK store, it goes off here. So all our stores is been very much like hard wired to the stores and to our business services centre here in Bengaluru and then there other capabilities that we build. 

65% of the entire Tesco Finance work is managed from this centre. We also manage security services, technology helpdesk, people practices (particularly the payroll of 3.2 lakh colleagues), learning and development content development, property development along with product and supplier engagement and much more.

2. Tell us about the Bengaluru ecosystem for GICs

I feel the words ‘captives’ or ‘GICs’ don’t do justice to the value we deliver to the business.  I believe, these kind of classifications create barriers and puts a needless strain on the relationship with the mother ship. I prefer to look at the both Business services and Technology as entities, which sit horizontally across the business and support Tesco globally. Bengaluru happens to be a centre where we are located.

I believe driving change is fundamental and cannot be restricted to a geography. However, we do have an excellent campus where we create an environment for success for our colleagues.

3. What are the challenges you see while doing what it takes for Tesco?

I see scope for the city infrastructure to improve as there is an inordinate amount of time that people spend commuting - which impacts productivity. I also believe there is potential to re-skill and up-skill people. For example, our teams at the Bengaluru centre have adopted robotics processing automation (RPA) that frees up colleagues to do more valued added work.  What is critical to understand that this is a win-win situation where colleagues can work on more complex processes, which require high application of logic and expertise. In parallel bots can achieve a far higher degree of accuracy on the mundane tasks. However, it’s important that you have a strong L&D and People team to ensure that colleagues are supported through the journey & are re-skilled to take on this new work.

4. Your approach to achieving your plans?

We have a very robust and an invigorated focus on execution. It is up to the leaders to create an environment where success. An environment where talent can nurture & experiment without fear. I quote these famous lines from Rabindranath Tagore – ‘where the mind is without fear and the head is held high’. I believe these immortal lines pretty much sum up the culture that forms the bedrock of Tesco in Bengaluru. I am a firm believer of the culture that encourages innovation and continuous improvement. Our purpose – ‘serving Tesco shoppers a little better every day’ has a strong undertone, which reflects the culture of continuous improvement. This is where individuals (first line managers) are at the forefront but are always suitably trained, coached and guided accordingly to create a diverse and inclusive culture. News ideas are rewarded as well to drive innovation.

Since the time I joined, we have undertaken significant amount of work towards gender and generational diversity. It is a reality that Gen X & Y will be working alongside the millennials, therefore organization’s values and culture will have to be inclusive to ensure we nurture talent based on equal opportunity. In most organizations, strategy execution fail because it sits beautifully equipped in the top two layers and the people at ground level either don’t understand or don’t feel part of the strategy. Keeping this challenge in mind, we have been working towards building a culture where we take the whole organisation on a strategic journey – popularly scripted as ‘Think Strategy’ initiative, where each individual understands their contribution to the overall strategy. Having the objectives aligned to this helps drive the “bigger picture”.

5. Your leadership mantra?

My mantra is to get the organisation to aim high, always. Mediocrity is unacceptable. Therefore, we must strive to deliver the undeliverable. In the same time, it is also important as a leader to create a supporting and coaching culture, which acts as a safety net for people. This is to ensure that people feel confident to take risks and know they are well supported and have the tools to make things happen.

Underpinning this philosophy is the culture of creating trust and energy. This energy inspires people around you to move the immovable object.

6. Thoughts on the future?

Future is good for Tesco as a whole. The merger of the Booker business makes us the biggest food retailer in the UK. We have the highest market share in our biggest country. However, we never sit on our laurels. We continue to simplify our business, drive efficiencies to improve shopping experience our customers, which is fundamental to our success.

Here in Bengaluru, we will strive to re-innovate ourselves every year to create that competitive advantage for Tesco in the retail space.