Bharat Kaushal is the first Indian to become Managing Director of Hitachi India Pvt. Ltd. Bharat previously served as Chairman in India of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC). He is also the first non-Japanese to be appointed as SMBC India’s CEO and served the role between 2012 and 2015. Bharat has over 25 years of industry experience specialising in macroeconomic policy, Government advisory, project finance, debt restructuring and mergers and acquisitions. In a conversation with CXO Outlook, Bharat talks about leadership challenges during COVID-19, things that he did differently at Hitachi, his journey so far with the organisation, and much more.
Leadership has not been easy in the past few months. What has your approach been, and what are your plans?
The business convolutions around the world are altering each day, posing challenges that require an immediate address. The sturdiest of economies are receding in their endeavour to sustain society. I feel that these interim impediments bestow a lot of prospects for us. Cohesion, Creation and Contribution will rejuvenate the future augmentation driving incessant sustenance.
We put our best adapting to situations and circumstances the environment around us has to offer. The rule of perpetual change governs Business Environment too. Reinvention and rebounding our business ethos will support and reveal the inhibited competencies we all possess.
As leaders and as business custodians we must devise a framework that not only encompasses varied solutions from amongst the intense Hitachi product pool but must also proliferate our coordination and draw a short- and long-term framework to further strengthen business profitability.
Once you became MD, what did you do differently at Hitachi India?
Joining Hitachi is like wearing many hats, encompassing different roles, challenges and opportunities where every hat you wear gives you a different perspective, experience altogether. By taking this decision, I have set a tough task for myself to adapt a steep learning curve.
My journey that took off in 2017 started as an autonomous exploration of business. Collaborations, ventures and seamlessly weaving the symphony of solutions in a single thread gave Hitachi, in India an unprecedented growth platform.
India is a strategic and emerging market for Hitachi. I believe that my experience in promoting cross-border business relationships between the Japanese and Indian Government and companies is a unique advantage for Hitachi to achieve unprecedented growth. With strenuous efforts, I will continue to work towards aggressively expanding Hitachi’s Social Innovation Business, develop novel solutions and draw upon Hitachi’s wealth of technologies and expertise to provide a diversified range of information technology solutions across various industrial sectors, empowering the citizens of India, transforming the landscape of Indian economy and aligning with India’s growth.
With supportive teams I effectively ingrained strategic farsightedness that offered Hitachi an envisaged future, from just offering the stakeholders a solitary solution, I collaborated with teams to build deep inroads by providing a holistic, bespoke business elucidation. From formulating an archetype to incise foundations for a firm India, today Hitachi has invigorated and empowered millions of people through Digital solutions across varied business categories.
Hitachi through its well-established and credible OT X IT technologies has been touching millions of lives through offering its technologies with Digital as the cohesive platform, combined with Social Innovation Business solutions in India that seamlessly connects with our sturdy presence across diversified technological business environment, a testimony of our burgeoning partnership with India. Imbibing our more than a century old legacy, Hitachi will strive to focus upon Social, Economic and Environmental values focusing upon improving people’s quality of life for citizens and society at large.
What sort of mistakes have you made during your career so far? What was your most unexpected lesson in leading for growth?
The worst mistake I made was avoiding training conducted on migrating operating systems from MS-DOS to Windows. All banks were adapting to the newly introduced software, but somehow, I evaded these training sessions and prioritised the capital market scam scrutiny and investment banking related projects. The result was that I was always conscious and felt tech-handicapped for a long time at work.
When I look at my professional journey, while the majority of my tenure and career has been in investment banking, serving Hitachi India as the Managing Director is an insightful reinvention for me, i.e. a transformation from financial background to managing multiple & diversified businesses and verticals cohesively. Owing to the widespread presence of Hitachi in India, it allows thinking differently and accelerating the business in such a manner that it broadens horizons every day.
What has been significant milestones during these years of your journey as a leader? Why?
In my 28 years of the professional journey, I got numerous opportunities and attained industry experience specialising in macroeconomic policy, Government advisory, project finance, debt restructuring and mergers and acquisitions.
While the greater part of this career has been in investment banking, I also served successful assignments as Strategy Advisor to the India Investment Centre, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India and as part of the Economic Policy Unit of the World Bank in Washington DC.
I was also Co-Chairman of the Finance, Banking, Capital Markets and Insurance Committee at PhD Chamber of Commerce and Industry for 2 years.
At present, I am a member of the Indo-Japan Task Force (IJTF) set-up by the two Governments and is the Convenor of the Financial Strategy Group to address policy as well as operational level concerns of Japanese Government and private sector institutions pursuing business opportunities in India. This allows me to explore and acquire numerous opportunities for Hitachi as well as India.
What does your typical working day look like? How do you handle pressure and stay calm all day?
On challenging days, you need to motivate and push yourself with grit and determination. For me, it is the morning run which not only gives a big energy boost but makes me feel as if you have accomplished something even before the day is stared. It is a sense of satisfaction that you have already crossed a hurdle by setting a target and achieving it first thing in the morning. This feeling of contentment propels many other things inevitably, allowing me to manage my day more efficaciously.
The same passion and determination translate into delivering my daily tasks, and I promote the same approach and dynamism amongst my team members: Set yourself a difficult target and persist towards conquering it. Achievers will often express the sense of high they achieve after accomplishing a task—making a successful client pitch, closing a deal or delivering an impressive presentation in front of the board.
What are the lessons you learned in your childhood/college days that helped you to become the leader that you are today?
In 2002-03, I faced a lower-back issue because of which doctors advised me to give running a break. They suggested I take time to recuperate—however since I was a strict believer in running for both physical and mental health, I negotiated with my doctors to continue fast walking and soft running. I brought down the distance to 4-5km a day from an average of 8-10km. That period was a lean phase, and it took a while for me to get back into the rhythm later.
I think key learning for me was how I could challenge myself and follow my passion despite the odds stacked against me. There is always an easy way out—I could have convinced myself to stop running altogether for a few months, as advised by medical experts. But I had faith in myself and my decisions—being a little stubborn about my passion also helped.
What advice can you give to someone who wants to become an expert in their chosen field?
In the current dynamic work environment, we all need to be highly adaptive, with a “growth mindset”. Thus, the advice would be that one should be relentless, keep reinventing be fast and agile. These skills will support in expanding the business, which will ultimately motivate you, inspire you, and evolve you as an individual as well.
In addition to this, maintaining a healthy regime is another mantra to follow. Fitness quotient is a combination of physical and mental strength. We are all aware of the repercussions of unhealthy eating habits and sedentary work. Given the hectic workload and business mandates that today’s leaders follow, equal weightage should be given to health. For me, running and swimming are the key to remain fit and healthy. It’s like you challenge yourself by setting new goals, and while you are in the process of reaching your goal, you gain a sense of direction and progression. And when you finally reach your goal, you gain a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Fitness is a lifestyle, not a fad. It’s never easy to pursue your health and fitness with consistency. But if you are able to establish a routine and follow it for months and years, you imbibe the same passion for perseverance in all aspects of your personal and professional life—never bow down before a challenge, and demonstrate the same rigour for business.
The COVID-19 pandemic is undeniably affecting industries across the globe. In this time of social distancing, what are the major challenges businesses in India face now?
A new era has emerged, a one in which adaptability and affability will help all of us sustain and evolve. The present and prevalent circumstances might have got extended beyond our expectations and control, but we must all emblazon resilience to overcome these exacting times. When we flip back to refresh the excursion of life, one aspect resembles all of us – “Change is Eternal” nothing around us is permanent. We put our best adapting to situations and circumstances the environment around us has to offer. The rule of perpetual change governs Business Environment too. Reinvention and rebounding our business ethos will support and reveal the inhibited competencies we all possess, and we must embellish our expertise to drive imminent growth.
The answer lies in embracing empathy and innovating our lives around human-centric innovation which will encourage us to create businesses representing social values by empowering people through innovation driven by Hitachi’s legacy in digital technologies that will increasingly espouse the competitive edge for Hitachi globally. Human-centric innovation which comprises of three components Creativity, Intelligence and Connectivity will subsequently result in Empowering people with digital technology: improving the lives of citizens through the usage of data-driven algorithms and enabling connectivity between businesses and society by providing an effective platform.
The key to successful human-centric innovation originates from the fact of understanding values that are created by enabling collaboration amongst citizens, stakeholders and Government while keeping them at the centre. That’s where Hitachi’s Connected Citizen Solutions plays a vital role. Hitachi, under its diversified product portfolio, encompasses technology and solutions starting from e-Governance, e-Education, finance, mobility, infrastructure, IT, healthcare and agriculture. As one of the leaders in offering Social Innovation Business solutions, Hitachi can accomplish a competitive edge in the world, by improving not only operational resilience but enabling flexibility in a new reality, characterised by rapidly changing market dynamics. This is an opportune time for us to reflect on the enormous talent base we possess and leverage it to build a pervasive foundation.
Restructured work; Redefined roles; Reserves of trust coupled with reskilling of resources is going to be the future of work. Work and life are rapidly changing, and it will never be the same again. The world will see major behavioural and social changes. Amidst all this, technology will play a vital role in bridging the gap between the public and private sector.
As we rethink how business is done, it creates the opportunity for organisations of all sizes to advance and achieve their goals and experience a more resilient work culture wherein we witness a complete architectural change, not confining ourselves into boundaries.
Hitachi is committed to ‘Powering Good’ by co-creating solutions that are enhancing Social, Environmental and Economic values of the society and the customers. And as we move forward, we must rethink the environment in which we all operate. Succeeding in this uncertain period requires moving together, mastering a transition from the growth economy to a value-based economy. Companies that would lead the growth and transformation in the present emerging and dynamic world will be those that put people first and best meet their needs, whether they are employees, customers, business partners or society at large.
When did you become a part of Hitachi India? How has been the journey so far with the organisation?
After working for 25 years in the investment banking sector, I took this challenging opportunity on June 1, 2017, to be the first Indian head of Hitachi in India and feel truly honoured to be appointed at this position. When I took over to head Hitachi India in 2017, it was a different yet intriguing field for me, a one which I often described as a Cricket Match, where you can play all sorts of games be it a five-day match, a one day international or a 20-20 short game. However, over the years, my realisation has outpaced all the expectations. During these three eventful years, I have discovered Hitachi’s vastness, diversity and the augmented footprints in India that have remarkably touched millions of lives, an accomplishment that would have never been possible without support from the stakeholders you collaborate and partner for achieving milestones.
All these past years have been transformative, momentous and full of attaining milestones. The journey that initiated in 2017, by offering physical solutions to strengthen the foundations of India evolved over the years into empowering the citizens through Digital Solutions not only illustrating Hitachi’s century-old legacy in OT x IT but emerging as Connected Citizen Solutions impacting every aspect of the citizen and the society at large. The scalability to revolutionise Hitachi’s solutions is a testimony of unified the solutions that we have been able to Customise, Create and Collaborate with stakeholders offering solutions to drive business in some of the most stringent phases.
India, through its massive transformation, is making tremendous progress in the field of digital infrastructure. This progressive disruption is helping the country in becoming one of the fastest-growing economies. The technological evolution in India is transforming the lives of citizens, and Hitachi’s innovative technology has ignited a social revolution. Brought to the forefront are technologies like IoT, AI, robotics and so on, that touches every sector. Through digital technologies, Hitachi reforms social and business infrastructure to empower citizens more than ever as they reimagine how goods and services are delivered.
India is a leader in the public sector led to social change by using technology to drive e-Governance measures. Several government schemes and its deployment in India are a fine testimony of social innovation which is constantly easing the lives of common citizens. Hitachi, through its Social Innovation Business, has been engaged in transforming governance, businesses and societies through its strength in OT x IT. It has its ethos embedded in its businesses that are aimed at touching the lives of millions.
What are the services that Hitachi India offer today, which makes it unique in the market?
Hitachi India’s burgeoning footprints is a testimony of how Hitachi is transforming India through Social Innovation Business. Hitachi’s partnership with India dates back to 1930s, since then Hitachi has been solidifying its position with presence of around 28 group companies (as of March 31, 2020) and approximately 11,000 employees (as of March 31, 2020) fueling the transformation of India.
Hitachi through its well-established and credible OT X IT technologies is offering its technologies with Digital as the cohesive platform, combined with Social Innovation Business solutions in India that seamlessly connects with our sturdy presence across the diversified technological business environment. Hitachi India has been expanding its business boundaries, offering solutions in the core sectors, including Urban Transportation, Information & Technology, Energy, Payments, Construction Machinery. Hitachi through Hitachi MGRM Net is Offering solutions across the gamut of e-Governance, e-Education, e-Health, Agriculture as part of our Connected Citizen Ecosystem. Our technologies and solutions are endless, and so does our quest to support India become one of the leading economies in the world.
Hitachi India’s competencies go beyond the bounds, to a System Solutions provider that encapsulates system integration capabilities including Information Communication and Telecommunication (ICT), Data Cloud, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Pentaho, supporting the multiple journeys of Digitalization, India is witnessing. We have been at the forefront of innovation that delivers value-based outcomes through IoT enabled solutions envisioned to connect and assimilate devices, people, infrastructure, and processes. With Hitachi’s innovative and globally recognised OT (Operational Technology) X IT solutions and data analytics, customers progress from IoT-enabled interactive devices to artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled devices with the cognitive functions of living beings. This is a testimony of how technology touches live and fuels the digital revolution. Through this technological leap, Hitachi has been continuously laying the foundations of a new world of possibilities for policymakers, businesses and organisations to enhance the quality of life.
Hitachi has partnered with the Government of India in its initiatives like ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’, leveraging its superior technology innovations and global expertise to address India’s unique challenges. We are belligerently contributing, by localising the infrastructure capabilities through sprucing up capacity in India.
Hitachi’s growing partnership in the successful implementation of Metro Rail Systems is consistently demonstrating the comprehensive urban mobility solutions and its pioneering capability in Advanced Train Control, signalling (CBTC) and Telecommunication Systems, Rolling stocks and Seamless open-loop transit systems.
Hitachi has also been contributing towards the ambitious expansion and modernisation plan by the Indian Railways. With passenger traffic growing manifold, the Government has envisioned segregating freight operations on the busy passenger routes through the implementation of Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) along the Golden Quadrilateral. In 2015-16, Hitachi signed their very prestigious railway contract for the implementation of the signalling and telecommunication systems for the western DFC from Rewari to JNPT, Mumbai. Hitachi, in fact, is installing state-of-the-art signalling and telecom equipment for a segment of the entire western DFC, a 1,500km high-speed of 100 kph from Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor, which is the backbone of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor mega infrastructure project funded by Japan.
In the energy sector, by combining world-class power grids business with Hitachi’s advanced digital technologies, Hitachi and Hitachi ABB Power Grids will provide innovative energy solutions spanning the Energy (utilities), Mobility, Smart Life (cities), Industry, and IT sectors.
Committed to the Government’s vision of a knowledge-based economy, Hitachi through Hitachi MGRM Net is emerging as an ideal partner in offering e-Education to millions, utilising its ICT solutions ensuring children enter the most crucial part of their exploration with tenacity. In agriculture too, the comprehensive solution architecture of M-Star platform is changing the agrarian practices and helping farmers thrive to new level farming efficiency. Additionally, the M-Star enabled digital Healthcare solutions platform is also contributing to building an inclusive Healthcare system at the very grass-root level.
In the automotive sector, Hitachi is expanding its horizons to move beyond just offering its expertise in the component business to providing holistic solutions that are going to not only enhance the environmental values for the citizens but would pave the way for a path-breaking technological expansion. Hitachi aims to become one of the leading conglomerates to offer automotive solutions that are significant and can easily be adapted across varied automated auto platforms.
In today’s critical areas of manufacturing, construction, mining and production, Hitachi transforms industries by co-creating data-led asset management solutions with customers, accelerating the desired transition to Industry 4.0 Hitachi’s Advanced Payment Solutions are also contributing to the financial inclusivity of the nation. Our partnership with State Bank of India (SBI) for the establishment of a state-of-the-art card acceptance and future-ready digital payment platform for India will help in further strengthening the financial inclusivity of the nation.
Through our strengths in OT (Operational Technology) X IT solutions, we are partnering with India to improve the quality of lives and Powering Good to build a sustainable society.
Tell us a little bit about your education and life as a student.
I am an alumnus of Columbia University, where I pursued a Masters in International Affairs (MIA) and Northeastern University, where I secured a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). I obtained an LLB from Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. My graduation (Bachelors and Masters) was from St Stephen’s College, Delhi.
Swimming and running are both excellent forms of relaxing myself both mentally and physically. As a student from Delhi’s Modern School and St Stephen’s College, I won laurels at national and state-level swimming championships. Being a runner for almost 31 years and an active sportsman/swimmer since early school days, I have imbibed these qualities in my daily life. I believe I have reflected these in my leadership style over the years. When it comes to running, for me, it’s about long runs to explore parts of any city I happen to be visiting. At the age of 49, I ran in around 50 half marathons, with the best time of 1 hour, 50 minutes in the 1996 New York City Marathon. During my travel in Europe and the US, I would run at formal marathons and informal jogs organised in the city. This enabled me to quickly cover major parts of the city. Over the years, I have established some favourite spots — for example, every time I am in Tokyo, I run around the Imperial Palace, usually early morning or evening as time permits, before I head to my meetings or after finish off my assignments for the day.
Who would you consider to be a significant influence on you professionally, and can you explain why?
No journey in life is travelled individually. Our environment influences those around us and often forms a key part of what we achieve and lay the foundation for the life we want to envision for ourselves. I am deeply grateful for the ingrained culture, ethics and values that my parents have bestowed on me. We are shaped by the people around us, and our societies are a reflection of the individuals who are part of it. Everyone needs a mentor in life, for me, I would say my father, is an inspiration, my peer and my mentor, who has served the nation being a part of the Delhi Police.
“Leaders are not defined by positions.” One of the things that I inherited from my father lies in power to make a difference in other’s lives. Life is more about our contribution to help people around us.
Leaders influence people, build an inspiring vision, set direction and create something new which can change the gridlocked beliefs and contribute towards the betterment of the society.
My approach as a leader has been influenced a lot by the positive traits my father possesses. Ability to handle the crisis in a composed manner, Critical thinking, Problem-solving skills, Communication skills, Interpersonal skills, effective decision making, strong moral character and devotion to the community are some of the skills I have inherited from my father, and the defining source of inspiration have been my parents. It’s about mapping out where you need to go and “win” as a team or an organisation; with an approach which is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.
The roles and duties when you reserving the community are numerous and varied, which are customised according to the situation. This includes choosing the direction, identifying the ways and the means to achieve desired outcomes, and guiding the decision-making process leading to these outcomes. My journey of 28 years is an amalgamation of the skills I have acquired, that has led to making me a successful professional.