INTERVIEW WITH MANAGING DIRECTOR TERADATA

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(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Apr 12 - 18, 2010

Khuram Rahat is the Managing Director Teradata in Pakistan and Bangladesh. He is Masters in Business Administration and has been actively involved in management and technology issues for over 18 years.

Khuram has held various senior management and sales positions at the country and regional level and has a wide exposure to the government, financial and telecommunication industries. Following are the questions and answers.

PAGE: YOU HAVE HAD EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE IN FINANCIAL AND TELECOMMUNICATION INDUSTRIES AND BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE SOLUTIONS. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS OR EXPERIENCES?

KHURRAM: The telecom and financial industries in Pakistan have different business dynamics and are at a different maturity curve. The financial industry has matured over the years. Primarily this is because the market penetration has been low if you consider the ratio of number of accountholders to the total population, and this scenario has not changed much over the years.

Although the consumer banking did see some aggressive activity during the last decade or so it does not contribute significantly to the overall financial market. At the same time the banking sector has enjoyed high margins. As a result, the need for Business Intelligence solutions in the banking sector has not been felt that much over the years. However, the economic meltdown since last couple of years has suddenly made the financial industry realise the need to look at their customers and operations in a more microscopic manner, be more aware of the risks and look for efficiencies in the operations.

As a result, the financial sector is now showing keen interest in having granular details available to the decision makers to conduct detailed analysis of their customers and operations.

The telecom sector on the other hand has evolved at a very fast pace over the last 10 years and thus the dynamics have been totally different. With Telenor and Warid entering the market in 2004 and subsequent presence of China mobile, there has been stiff competition resulting in a very aggressive price war. With the total market size hovering around 90 million connections now, the Telcom has to rely heavily on information technology to better understand and cater to its customers while looking to achieve optimum efficiency. Thus, the telecom sector has mostly been actively using business intelligence solutions for competitive advantage.

PAGE: WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESPONSE OF VARIOUS SEGMENTS OF THE ECONOMY TO THE SERVICES AND PRODUCTS OF TERADATA PAKISTAN?

KHURRAM: Teradata was the first to introduce the concept of Enterprise Data Warehousing (EDWH) and Business Intelligence (BI) in Pakistan, back in 1997. Since then Teradata (earlier as part of NCR and now as an independent company) has been focused on creating awareness and promoting usage of BI and EDWH in Pakistan. The adoption of EDWH and BI has varied across different sectors. The telecom sector has been the most eager to benefit from this technology followed by financial industry though at a slower pace. The manufacturing sector is waking up to the benefits they can get out of EDWH and there have been a couple of early adopters of EDWH in the manufacturing sector.

Amongst those in the public sector, NADRA has been an early adopter of this technology that has positively impacted a lot of initiatives taken by the federal government in facilitating the citizens and organizations in providing verification services. The government of Punjab has also started a similar initiative.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU FORESEE THE POTENTIAL OF IT DEVELOPMENT IN PAKISTAN? WHAT ARE THE EMERGING TRENDS?

KHURRAM: The IT sector has a bright future and huge potential for growth. Over the last decade or so, there has been increased emphasis by organizations to invest in IT. More and more organizations have realized the importance of having timely information and using information and also technology to facilitate and provide better services to customers.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU FORESEE THE POTENTIAL OF IT DEVELOPMENT IN PAKISTAN? WHAT ARE THE EMERGING TRENDS?

KHURRAM: Pakistan is one of the attractive destinations for outsourcing and off shoring IT operations in the world. With some existing markets becoming saturated and less economically viable this is a great time for Pakistan to take the lead. Teradata recognized Pakistan's IT potential in 2003 when we established a center of expertise where we sent our professional services consultants for projects in the Middle East. Expanding on this concept, the Teradata Global Consulting Center was established in 2004 and currently we have over 300 consultants working on projects across Europe Middle East and Africa. Unless we take active measure to promote ourselves, Pakistan's talent will never achieve the full recognition it rightly deserves.

In order to improve project management techniques, companies should take active measure to improve quality and service delivery standards to be able to compete at the regional and international level. With tough competition both internally as well as internationally, companies will need the power of business intelligence and analytics to make better, more informed decisions. All organizations will have to become more streamlined in this respect. We already see some of our customers adopt techniques that are just being introduced in the West in terms of their data warehouse usage. Now is the time for that sort of innovation.

PAGE: WHICH MEDIUMS DOES TERADATA FOCUS ON FOR EDUCATING CLIENTS AND PROMOTING ITS SERVICES?

KHURRAM: Teradata has initiated a number of channels to create awareness and educate organizations and individuals of the importance of business intelligence and data warehousing. We conduct focused seminars and workshops on the subject of business intelligence and the business value of having an Enterprise Data Warehouse. Teradata has implemented the first of its kind 'Teradata University Program' in Pakistan which has the mandate of bridging industry requirement of IT specialists with the academia. We have personally ventured into institutions and created labs where students could learn more about data warehousing.

Additionally, we have the 'Teradata Podium Power' where consultants are present to deliver lectures at numerous universities on emerging trends in technology, business applications and a myriad of other topics. This is done with the spirit of raising awareness of international Beat Practices in the country.

PAGE: WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF COMPETITION IN THIS SECTOR? WHICH FACTORS ARE CRITICAL FOR SUCCESS?

KHURRAM: Technology is indirectly becoming a fundamental part of almost every sector by providing secure and uncompromising service to the common populace. What is needed is packaging the technology around each segment to derive benefit from market opportunities. Teradata offers a robust and innovative portfolio of horizontal and industry analytical applications such as data warehousing, customer management, finance and performance management, business intelligence and analytics. We deliver integrated, enterprise-scale analytical solutions based on the most powerful, scalable and reliable technology platform in the industry. Every day we push analytical intelligence deeper into operational execution, enhancing process efficiency and transforming corporate culture. As a result, the world's largest and busiest data management environments are currently running and growing on Teradata.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE TERADATA'S CONTRIBUTIONS TOWARDS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN GENERAL AND IT SECTOR IN PARTICULAR?

KHURRAM: Organizations need to invest in developing the HR base by investing in training and skill development of our young professionals. I think we have set the right example at Teradata by investing in University Program, IT Excellence Awards Program and setting up a Global Consulting Centre and initiating an Apprentice Program. I am sure there are many other avenues also where companies can come forward and invest and contribute towards capacity building.

PAGE: TERADATA HAS BEEN VERY ACTIVE IN PROMOTING IT EDUCATION AND TALENT IN PAKISTAN WITH INITIATIVES SUCH AS TERADATA NATIONAL IT EXCELLENCE AWARDS ETC. WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE COMPANY'S MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS AND RECENT PROJECTS?

KHURRAM: The Teradata National IT Excellence Awards have become an integral part of the IT industry recognizing various professionals associated with IT, be it software developer's educationalist, pioneers or life time achievers. We want to create an unbiased platform where we can recognize exceptional talent and give credit where it is due and also project Pakistan's image abroad. We take a lot of pride in initiating these awards in 1997 and making these awards the premiere awards of the country in the field of IT. This is made possible only because we have some great people working with dedication and full commitment to make this industry prosper and grow in Pakistan. These awards are to encourage more people and certainly to raise the bar for the relevant stakeholders.

We have had eight such successful award ceremonies with an ever-broadening range of nominations. In order to reaffirm the fact that Teradata is merely a host to these awards we have signed on Ford Rhodes Sidat Hyder, a member firm of Ernst and Young to monitor the nominations and liaise with the judges who are some of the most respected people in the field of IT, Banking, Telecommunications etc. Also in order to keep in line with current market trends we created two categories this year Excellence in Business Intelligence and Excellence in Project Management.

Two of our previous award winners have received scholarships to prestigious institutions like MIT and another winner was given a government grant to carry out his work on a national level. These awards have a strong positive impact on making recognised talents in Pakistan and providing our professionals an international platform.

There is a vast chasm between the industry and the academia. The students graduating from some of the top universities in Pakistan have little or no practical application knowledge and the investment that organizations have to make in training and development of new recruits is sizable. By inserting our skill set requirements into the final year graduating course curriculum and training faculty members of the recent technological advances in data warehousing, we not only recruit graduates who require minimum training, but who are productive to the organization after only 3 months.

The uniqueness of this University Program is that it is not Teradata-specific, it can be used in numerous other IT firms in the country.

PAGE: WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF COMPETITION IN THE IT AND TELECOM SECTOR IN PAKISTAN? WHICH FACTORS ARE CRITICAL FOR SUCCESS?

KHURRAM: I think awareness regarding technology has tremendously increased in the past few years. Businesses are more focused on updating themselves with latest technology available. IT industry relies on every sector's expenditure on technology budgets and innovations in the use of technology. Such a challenging state of affairs requires IT providers to explore growth efforts. With the demand and supply position in a flux, both concerned segments as well as IT companies are looking for closer association.

Now companies are battling each other for customer retention. Having acquired customers, they want to identify those that are profitable and have high lifetime value, as the optimal customers to serve well and retain. This activity increases their dependence on using their data to the maximum and thereby creating analytics as a core business operation. The Data Warehouse Institute (TDWI) published a report on Predictive Analytics, based on a survey it conducted amongst business intelligence and analytics users, practitioners, consultants and solution providers. According to this research, only 21 per cent of organisations had either fully or partially implemented predictive analytics, while 19 per cent had a project under development and the majority (61 per cent) were either still exploring the issue or had no plans. Yet the business value of analytics is very high. Amongst survey respondents who had implemented analytics, two-thirds (66 per cent) said that it provided "very high" or "high" business value.