November 20, 2017
World Market

Interview with Mr. S.V. Sriram, Senior Vice President (BSG Operations), Tech Mahindra Ltd.

S.V Sriram (or SVS as he is popularly known) is the Senior Vice President Ė BSG at Tech Mahindra. SVS is an accomplished and mission-oriented leader with an impressive experience of over 30 years in directing operations, projects, and setting up new initiatives and ventures. SVS has proven dexterity in leading huge teams and managing global customers. At Tech Mahindra, SVS heads Sales, Marketing and delivery of domestic BSG programs. He also leads strategic engagement in Africa and their BPM and Solutioning portfolios. He also set up BSG delivery centres in African sites at Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, Congo DRC, Congo B and Gabon.

Interview for publication: Indo-African Business Magazine www.indoafricanbusiness.com Interview conducted by Rachana Chowdhary, Executive Editor, Indo-African Business: rachanacv@gmail.com AFRICA - EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES, EMERGING GROWTH

Q. Being an industry insider could you share your insights and views on the current investment climate in Africa?
A. At the onset let me say that in a country like Africa, the political landscape is intricately linked to investment. Currently the picture is rosy so we are sanguine about investment prospects. In the last 18 months of Tech Mahindra's operations in Africa we have had a satisfactory growth within the territory.

Q. What sort of growth plan in percentage terms do you foresee for your African Business in the next three financial years up to 2015?
A. We are fairly ambitious and hence looking at double digit growth from Africa.

Q. And what are the growth indices you foresee of your businesses in other regions for the similar period up to 2015?
A. Other regions are definitely showing lower growth patterns in comparison with Africa. Africa is a growth destination for us today and in the foreseeable future.

Q. We have often heard and known that there are quite a few favourable funds available for doing businesses in Africa. We would like to get a lowdown from you on how effective is the current funding scenario? Is it really operationally wise to look at Africa as the next big investment destination?
A. The African business environment the funds available are of two types, govt aided and private banks. The Mahindra group has opted for private funding. Also, the subsidies offered varies from region to region in Africa, intra state transactions within Africa do not show case higher returns.

Q. Which, according to you are the favourable markets for Indian Business Houses to operate within the widespread continent?
A. Currently we are operating in 7 countries which include four of Anglo English states and 3 Franco-fone nations. Generalizing a favourable market for all businesses will be difficult to comment, but western Africa seemingly looks favourable due to the factors mentioned earlier.

Q. How would you define the Technology landscape in Africa today? Will technological advancements in Africa follow almost the same route as we saw in India in the last decade?
A. Technology in Africa is at a progressive stage today as regards the BPO sector. Africa is catering to some of the leading banks, telecom players, Utility service providers, consulting services etc., It's difficult to comment whether it will take the India route as there is a varied Taxation law and several other legal and cultural differences. So only time will tell.

Q. How are the African regulatory norms different for India vis-a-vis other developed economies like that of US & UK? Do you observe a trend of lot of investments in Africa from other developed economies like US, UK?
A. While the portion of the Franco-fone nations are able to connect better with the French economy, majority English speaking nations are almost at par with investments from other developed economies. -- There are several other challenges like: -- Getting to the key data points for banking customers -- Client servicing cultural mindset -- Unemployment -- Corruption -- Availability of funds and aids

Q. Is Tech Mahindra handling only Indian Clients - Airtel out of Africa or are you also serving other African Clients?
A. We are in talks with several other banking and telecom companies. We do have an office set up and infrastructure that can help us expand on our customer reach. So we are keeping our fingers crossed and hope to grow in time.

Q. What is your take on the Taxation Policies in Africa? Could you help elaborate on what are the tax laws to operate within the continent? Have you observed any changes in tax laws over the years inducing the business climate or vice-versa?
A. I have to say that the policies are pretty inward looking steep service taxes are an issue, intra state taxation laws curbs business expansion to other African countries, as the tax percentage touches a whopping 20 % to carry out intra state businesses.

Q. Lastly, on a lighter note some rapid fire questions for your top of mind, one word answers -
A. - Your favourite African City -- Nairobi
- Your favourite time to visit Africa - winter season
- Safety - Be careful
- Poverty - poorer than India
- Corruption - exists
- Education - Very Good
- Employment - emerging opportunities
- Entertainment - Regular weekend entertainment as elsewhere.

Interview S Sriram