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Sanjay Vig, CEO, Orange Business Services

July 15, 2008
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The opportunity of heading a telecom MNC in one of the most vibrant markets in the world lured Sanjay Vig from Singapore to India. As he prepared to leave his cushy job with Hewlett-Packard (HP) to join Orange Business Services, India, as chief executive officer (CEO), Vig was aware that he was going to make a big jump –­ not only because he was about to change companies and countries, but also because he was about to enter a sector completely new to him.

"Most of my experience so far has been in the IT sector. I started my career with HCL in 1989, after which I moved to Wipro and then HP. I have worked as an engineer, in a consulting role and done people and resource management. Therefore, prior to Orange, I worked in practically all sections of business management," says Vig. His strong base in IT has clearly proved to be an enabler in his current role. "The truth is that the job at Orange is not just about telecom. In fact, it needs a blend of telecom and IT skills. Orange's strategy is to converge IT and telecom to offer solutions that fulfil the market's needs. I see my shift to Orange as organic growth and a good transition in my career."

Orange Business Services, which recently acquired GTL's managed services and enterprise services divisions, offers managed voice, video and data connectivity solutions to about 580 companies in India, including a number of MNCs.

"Orange started out as a service provider catering mostly to the needs of European companies that had started their business in India and wanted connectivity with their European offices. But with the rapid development of the Indian economy, many Indian companies are now seeking global interaction. That's where our services come into use," says Vig.

He claims that while the average growth rate of companies in the Indian telecom industry is estimated at 24-27 per cent, Orange Business Services, India is growing at a much faster rate. He feels that this growth is being driven by the demand for one-stop, converged telecom and IT solutions in the market.

The demand, says Vig, will become greater in the future and present a huge market opportunity for his company. So, he is making sure that Orange is ready to step up business. "The IT-based capacities are being enhanced. On the telecom front, we are trying to acquire the relevant licences and put in place frameworks to support growth and provide the best solutions," he says.

Working in India, Vig finds, is very different from working in Singapore. The two countries are a world apart when it comes to the way business is done. In his previous assignment, where he looked after HP's services revenue for Southeast Asia, he had become used to things being done in a certain way. "In Singapore, what's on paper is final, whereas in India, greater stress is given to relationships. Singapore's a very structured country with a smooth way of functioning. When you get up in the morning, you are sure about what you can get done in the day. You can predict the outcome of your business initiatives in one or two years, how the customer will react and even how the competitor will react to your initiative. In India, on the other hand, even though you may plan, things may not always move as you envision," he observes.

That is not to say that the work culture in India is a drawback; it only reflects the dynamism and growth of the country. "In fact, one of the reasons why I moved to India was to keep myself from getting into a monotonous, structured life, in which there is a danger of becoming complacent," he says.

Vig is an alumnus of the Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Mesra. When asked about what he liked the most about student life, he replies: "Freedom. I enjoyed a tremendous amount of freedom as a youth. After our exams, we would just pack our bags and travel around –­ this is unthinkable for me to do now," he says.

He says that he was always an aboveaverage student, and could have been outstanding had he made the effort. In fact, his taking the entrance test for the electrical and electronics engineering courses at BIT, Mesra was completely unplanned. It was more the result of coaxing by his friends than anything else. However, once in college, his outlook underwent a change. He gained exposure to different people and situations, and developed a desire to do his best in all activities.

While working in Singapore, Vig decided to upgrade his skills and study some more. So he took up a part-time M.Sc. course in technology management as well as an MBA from the University of Singapore.

While Vig is now in India, his wife and two daughters are in Singapore since the children go to school there. "Work does not give me stress, but what is bothering me right now is the fact that I have been away from my family for many months," complains Vig. On most holidays and weekends, he flies to Singapore to spend time with his family.

Vig's day at work starts at 9-9.30 a.m. and ends between 6 and 8 p.m. He feels that since most people are engrossed in work on weekdays and are thus unable to spend much time at home, weekends should be dedicated to the family. He says, "It is interesting to note that compared to people in Europe or even Singapore, Indians have a weaker work-life balance. For example, if work requires them to come to the office on a weekend, they would be willing to do so. I feel that there should be a minimum private space and time available to each individual, which should not be compromised."

As Vig does not get to spend much time with his family these days, he makes it a point to pack in as many family activities as he can when he is in Singapore. "I usually spend all my time with family when I go to Singapore. All my day goes with the kids. They have to be taken for classes or shopping or sightseeing," he says. In his free time, Vig likes to play tennis. He also likes to watch movies with his family, but the chances of doing that are obviously very rare these days.

Vig appreciates the support that his wife provides him. He remembers that when he was working and studying part-time in Singapore, he did not have much time to spare. At that time, his wife took care of everything. "After work, I used to attend classes three times a week, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the remaining four days were spent handling projects, reports and meetings. And this went on for many years. The whole time, I did not have to worry about family matters," he says. He also feels that he would not have taken up higher studies had his wife not encouraged him to do so. "At the start, I was not inclined to pursue higher studies, but my wife inspired me to break out of my limits."

While studying technology and business management has helped him immensely in his career, Vig also attributes his success to the advice given to him by his one-time manager. The latter had told Vig that a good manager needed to let go of grass-roots control and take a broader, more comprehensive approach. "Old habits die hard –­ at heart I am still a techie. But I took my manager's advice seriously, and when I moved from a technical work profile to management control, I did let go, though it took me some time. The good part of working in the field is that I have a solid understanding of technology. I first managed business and then developed my capacity to manage people and, in the process, discovered my true strengths. I feel that I have taken the right decision.

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