I'm Not Classical CIO In True Sense

Microsoft was kind of my return to define the future of technology whereas Accenture was defining & solving unique, diverse problems.chief information officer is neither a magician nor a pied-piper.


The entry of Ravinder Pal Singh in the shoes of chief information officer (CIO) was a sort of accidental. CIO at Vistara, Singh feels that some part of him was frustrated with cowardice of most Asia based CIOs considering their spine and ability to take bold decisions. Singh told Himani Chandna of business world People that most CIOs in Asia are actually (just) IT Infra Heads but in developed economies, CIOs are on upward trend towards CEO responsibility.

How do you ensure that your products stand out in the market and you deliver the best in our operation space?

Vistara is a unique organization which had courage to make 2 remarkable attributes of thoughtfulness and innovation as its core value. It’s a brave organization which has attempted a unique product-mix in Indian airline space. Hence by nature of its birth and its core DNA, its unique value system - Vistara stands out in market. The fact is that it has rejuvenated the new sense of service in Indian airline domain.

Earlier the industry motto was providing products and services. But today, services is king. Do you agree?

Not really, both are equally important elements for the economy and sustainable democracy of India. I come from a background of technology product companies which today are reinventing themselves and thus fuelling the growth of several services companies. Also for the size and complexity of Indian demography every kind industry and its growth is essential at least from a mid-term perspective whether its agriculture, manufacturing, services or next-generation unicorns. 

How CIO has evolved and is no more a sideline? How you are merging operations at Vistara with IT and aligning businesses with IT? 

I’m not a classical CIO in true sense, it was accidental and part of me was quite frustrated with cowardice of most Asia based CIOs – their thinking and ability to take bold decisions when I was advising them in my past avatar. CIO was as important C-level leadership position if not more (especially in tech driven businesses wherein it was CIO+CTO or CIO had responsibility of innovation too). Asia was and still continues to be different today wherein CIO is mainly responsible for infra portfolio only, though things are changing but not dramatically. Also most CIOs in Asia are actually IT Infra Heads only. But this is analogues to other C-levels too in Asia. Also IT industry and its associated research firms are extremely clever in coining new terms like CDOs etc. for their survival and support their hype cycles and prediction bubbles, which have also harmed the designation of CIO, by creating unwanted ambiguity and erosion of portfolio and budgets. But if you look at global trends CIO position or past IT experience is considered as an advantage for a new CEO, hence globally in developed economies CIOs are on upward trend towards CEO responsibility. 

In future, how do you see the journey of CIO to chief intelligence officer? What does the future look like?

It’s just a norm to create new terms in IT, chief intelligence officer is another one. Look IT will be digital enabler in certain areas while driver in others. But one thing is established that only those organizations irrespective of industry or domains which are using technology to fuel digital differentiation and have increasing revenue portfolio driven by technology will be industry leaders, as most other enabler attributes will remain same as commodity platforms for all. 

What strategies are you adopting at Vistara to stay relevant to the market? 

We are re-inventing travel experience. We are not here to play a catch-up game or survive. We have already taken bold steps in terms of introducing a unique product-mix. From IT perspective, tell me any other airline which is born in cloud, we have brought fresh air, a new thinking to the business of airline. 

What’s your take on bimodal IT and how is it impacting Indian organizations? 

It’s just another sexy word by another research firm for provocation and their own survival. Ignorance of IT leadership and sheer sex-appeal backed by tremendous marketing especially event management has glorified the term. We live in a world where perception becomes pseudo truth for most. It carries no meaning or relevance. IT was always multi-modal, you have to just study the history of applying information technology in corporate. Historical facts don’t lie. 

What are the factors that accelerate an organization’s digitization? 

Just One Factor – Leadership and quality of Board.chief information officer is neither a magician nor a pied-piper, it’s a collective digital thinking of leadership as a whole with Board acting as a catalyst. Just look at most Asian CEOs and their thinking in last decade. It is true that most think twice while investing in new technologies or digital before hiring a new employee. It’s very common to see a generic cowardice in sales or cash controllers to blame lack of digitization whenever their decision making or competence is under threat.

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