HCL Technologies, one of India's top IT services companies, known for its philosophy of 'Employees first', has scored another first by appointing a chief productivity and competitiveness officer.

HCL Technologies is a $4.6 billion (August 2013 figures) global IT services company based in Noida, India with US headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, and offices worldwide.

According to sources at HCL Technologies, Rajiv Sodhi, one of the most senior executives of HCL Technologies, has been given this new role.

Sodhi, mostly recently the company's Senior Corporate Vice President and Chief Customer officer, has been with HCL for 15 years.

Previously, within the company, he has held responsibilities such as Global Head of Operations, Global head for Retail and Consumer Service Delivery, Head Advanced Technology Center, Head of Offshore Delivery for HCL James Martin and Company and Head of Sales for offshore projects worldwide.

"In this role, Rajiv Sodhi is responsible to transform and globalise the workforce and workplace," said a source familiar with the matter. "He leads these efforts through Talent Acquisition and Mobility, Talent Skilling, Work Force and Facility Planning and Global Delivery Centers Strategy. He works closely with CHRO to industrialise these practices across the delivery universe and anchor new initiatives."

A few weeks before this announcement, this reporter met Sodhi in Singapore when he visited the city to attend a board meeting of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (he is a member of the advisory board of SUTD, set-up in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

We started off talking about his journey in HCL Tech, a company he joined in July 1997. "When I joined, it was a very small organisation," he said. "Our total business size was about US$60 million dollars, which is now about US$4.5 billion. I have seen that journey. As a company again, most of our business was staff augmentation initially. From that it has changed to project-based and impact-based work. We have added our services lines. We started with offering technology services, that was the core of HCL. Our second service line was custom application. We thought Y2K was a very small opportunity, and we did not venture into that. Our third business was infrastructure and fourth business was BPO (business process outsourcing) and last was packages."

"I joined as head of sales and marketing-was globally responsible for worldwide sales. We did our IPO in 2000. We had about US$150 million dollars. We invested the money in acquisitions. Then he worked in the area of joint ventures."

"In 2002, we verticalised ourselves," he said. "We specialised and became more industry-oriented."

When he headed the retail segment, retail and financial services were the big verticals. In 2005, he became the head of operations and worked with the CEO's office. "At that time, we were about US$700 million," he said. "Now we have grown to about US$4 billion."

"Currently, I am looking after all the non-financial services (including enterprise transformation services) and custom applications" he said. "Custom applications is about 33 percent of our business or US$1.5 billion."

Prior to HCL, Sodhi was with TCS for 16 years. "TCS again, when I had joined, it was a million dollar (revenue of Rs.4 crores) company in 1981," he reminisced. "At that time, there was hardly any communication-no lease line, no Internet, etc. We had to go and work on customer premises. Or we had to do project work on our computers and implement projects. So for about 10 years, I worked in different countries."

At TCS, he was responsible for managing Offshore Development facilities in India as well as Sales and Marketing operations in USA and UK. He provided Business and IT consulting for Global MNC's and led several large engagements.

In the last 31 years, which he has spent in the IT industry space, he has spent 10 years in eight countries overseas including US, UK, Switzerland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Malaysia and Bahrain.

Custom applications

"If you look at our size of business of custom application, it is US$1.5 billion," he said. "We may not be as large as Infosys or TCS, but if you look at how much work we have done in transformational areas-events based processing, service-oriented architecture, you won't find a match here."

"We are well-positioned in research area (product engineering). Outside the captives, we are number 1 in India in product engineering."

"Other than BPO segment, which is turning around, we are in leadership positions in our four service sectors in terms of capability to address the market."

Changing business model

"Business models are changing," he said. "If you look at the business mix, it is moving from time and material (T&M) to outcome-based pricing. We get paid only when we perform in terms of outcome."

HCL now has more revenues coming from this new business model-others still have higher T&M revenues, he said.

"Besides the traditional services, we have a new service called the Future Gen Service and very few companies are looking at that service," he said. "This service is targeted at the CMO while the traditional services are targeted at CIOs and CTOs. Today, social media creates more brand value than print and broadcast media. The CMO has a problem because he is a non-IT person. Now he needs help in leveraging the social media. That is a huge focus for HCL".

The importance of APAC

HCL Technologies recorded a growth of 22 percent during the financial year 2013.

The company's net income touched a five-year high of 16 percent and its return on equity for the year has been 34 percent which HCL claims is among the best in the industry.

"We have the highest percentage of revenue from APAC," said Sodhi. "Most others (IT service providers) are Europe and US centric. We have been in Singapore for 32 years as Far East Computers (name was changed back to HCL). Today, Japan is a large outsourcer of product engineering."

An IDC 2012 Japan CIO Survey report stated that the Japan sales of HCL Technologies have led the company into its top position among offshore vendors in Japan.

"We have always done well in Singapore," he said. "We have grown in Malaysia as well."

"In unsaturated markets we are number 1," he said. "In the replacement market (packaged services because of Axon acquisition) we are in a leading position."