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“By the time the industry woke up to mobility, we were already deploying it”

Sendil Kumar, Vice President – IT, Shriram Value Services Ltd, thinks that an integrated SMAC concept is vital to drive business innovation. By Shweta Gandhi

Sendil Kumar has been associated with the Shriram Group for the last 18 years, and is responsible for heading the IT infrastructure and data centre operations, which include IT security, servers, storage and networking. He is Vice President – IT for Shriram Values Services Ltd, a subsidiary of Shriram Group, formed a decade ago with the intention of bringing uniformity across the parent company. Sendil also manages disaster recovery, and has been instrumental in establishing a virtualised environment across Shriram Group. He was recently recognised as a Transformation Icon at CIO Power List 2016.

Could you tell us about some of the projects you’re working on?
“We handle financial companies, so data plays a major role, which is why we predominantly focus on SMAC (Social media, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud). We initiated this model a couple of years ago by starting to focus on mobility. By doing so, we were ahead of the curve because by the time the industry woke up to mobility, we were already deploying its practices.”

How have you implemented it in your company’s processes?
“Shriram has a huge sales force. The aim of our segment is to serve the un-serviced sector in the country. For 30 years, Shriram Group has been helping people from the rural areas get loans from the bank so that they can start and develop their business. What has changed today is that the loan seeker needn’t come to our offices to pay instalments. Instead, one of our executives can go to his location, collect the payment and send him the receipt via SMS (as against mailing him a printout).

“Earlier, we would give our executives hand-held devices which they have to carry to all locations. Now, we have initiated a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) system and developed an app, which they can install on their mobile phones and pay their data charges.”

BYOD can be a daunting option for some companies as it increases the risk of security. How do you manage that?
“We have ensured that the app does not let any data get stored in the executives’ mobiles. Whenever a transaction is made, the data moves to a data centre. If the executive is unable to complete a transaction because of connectivity, we compress the data. At a particular frequency, we push the encrypted data and decrypt it in the data centre. So, there is no threat to security.”

Coming to cloud, are you believers of using a hybrid model of public and private or prefer to stick to only one?
“We have invested heavily in both public as well as private clouds. In public cloud, we have a tie up with Azure and also with Amazon (AWS). Reason for Azure is we don’t want to store our tested developer data in our data centre because suddenly the volume will become too much to handle, especially when developers ask the servers for data that we will need to provide immediately. So, we use Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). If there is any development or testing to be done, then we get a server space like Azure. We use the Amazon servers to store all our call recordings from our call centres in Mumbai and Chennai, which are too big to be stored on our servers. We have two models for Amazon cloud. We also use Office 365 for emailing.

“Reason to deploy private cloud is that since we handle multiple group companies, investing on infrastructure for each company can be reduced—we felt that we need not invest in separate servers and storage as resources can be shared across the companies. That’s when we created a separate private cloud, in which we have combined all group companies together and the enabled infrastructure as a service. We also have a dashboard and a service portal for the same. This has ensured elasticity in our operations.”

How are you encouraging the use of social media at Shriram Group?
“We have a company called Shriram Automall that engages in vehicle auctioning—everything from pre-owned commercial vehicles to construction equipment to buses, tractors, cars, SUVs, 3 wheelers and 2 wheelers is auctioned. One of the services is online bidding, where customers can bid from their homes or participate in a live bidding event. They can register for bidding or auctioning using their Facebook login. It’s that simple.

“In the next three months we plan to complete our analytics project, which will see the successful implementation of the SMAC model at Sriram Group.”

How do you plan on integrating all these four elements together?
“We have an internal development and integration team that work on this. We also have quite good partners. Since it is a home-grown app, it is based on our requirements but will take time to integrate with other products. We are concentrating on that issue for now.”

Finally, how do you ensure that your data is disaster safe?
“The recent Chennai floods taught us a lot of lessons. Our entire communication got disrupted—everything from mobile networks to data was blocked. Our initial RPO (recovery point objective) was set to two hours, but we couldn’t live up to it because entire links was disturbed. Due to this we could not access our applications. We are now focussing more on our data centre and disaster recovery site. Now, the data of all the group companies we manage is instantly replicated to our disaster recovery site. We are also planning to have a hot site where the data is immediately replicated and we are thinking of making it automatised. We are also planning to host 50 per cent of the data in Chennai and 50 percent in Mumbai. So managing during disaster period could be easy where only 50 per cent of our applications can be moved to either locations.These are key areas that we going to focus on in the next three to six months.” 

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