Hero Honda Motors is not only India's number one bike maker, it's world
number one too. In 2004, Hero Honda sold a staggering 2,528,699 motorcycles,
retaining its position of 'world's number one' two-wheeler company for the
fourth consecutive year. In India, with over five million customers, Hero Honda's
products command a market share of 48 percent, making it a veritable giant in
the industry. Balasubramanian spoke with VOICE&DATA on a wide range of
telecom and networking related issues. Excerpts:
The preeminence of telecom in any business is a forgone conclusion.
Though, CIOs often talk about issues and challenges related to managing IT
within their enterprise, telecom is rarely discussed. Is telecommunication
outside the domain of CIOs in most enterprises?
The world has changed a lot. We are not only internally connected, we are
externally connected too with all our stakeholders. So telecom is very much part
of IT planning.
In 1998 Hero Honda came up with its information systems (IS) policy. The
first objective of the policy was to improve internal efficiency. Once that was
achieved, we started getting connected to the outside world. The role of network
infrastructure has grown over the years.
Communication and networking technologies are changing very fast. Many a
time new technologies are not just advancements over existing ones-they are
disruptive too. What is the best strategy an enterprise can deploy to cope?
Assessment of any technology is important before it is deployed. Often there
is a lot of hype around a technology. The hype must not carry one away. We
thoroughly evaluate a technology. We prefer a step-by-step evolutionary approach
when it comes to deploying a new technology. All this ensures that there is no
wastage of existing resources.
What role does wireless play in your enterprise? What kinds of benefits
has it brought to you?
We first evaluated wireless two years ago. However at that time the
technology was not very mature and regulations were also not clear.
We have now deployed Wi-Fi in the main administrative building. We get lots
of visitors who often want to access Internet or e-mail while they are here-wireless
has made it very convenient for them. We are now evaluating wireless for our new
offices and our third plant.
Today wireless is mostly complimentary to wired enterprise networks. Do
you believe that will change soon with wireless emerging as the primary means of
It would not be all wireless. There are still problems with the technology.
Businesses need dedicated networks whereas wireless networks are shared.
I can give you an analogy here. Air travel is more convenient and faster than
traveling by road but still no one can wish away road transport. You can keep
expanding your road networks, but the air corridor is limited and cannot take
air traffic beyond a point. It's the same with wireless spectrum.
So for the next few years, cables would be the primary mode of communication.
However, as wireless is very convenient, we believe it will play a significant
secondary role. It will become more and more pervasive.
Getting the best value from a communication service provider is often a
challenge. What all should a CIO keep in mind while dealing with a service
provider? What do you think are the key elements of a good SLA?
Today SLAs are mostly on paper. Both users and service providers are
learning. SLAs act more like a background and what is really important is that
both users and service providers should collectively work towards making things
better. We have had situations where our service providers failed to deliver on
their commitments. However we have never penalized them for that. We keep
warning them that they must improve things. And things have improved. So, as
long as the attitude of service providers is right, and they are ready to learn
and improve, we don't have any issues.
Are there still regulatory issues that hamper deployment of new
communication technologies in India?
Things have changed a lot now but still there are a few areas that need
attention. One is that we would like the government to deregulate the 5 GHz
Today, we cannot have true voice and data convergence on one network. This is
because private exchanges (PBX) are not allowed to connect to public networks.
We believe there should be a single network for voice and data instead of two,
as is the case today. For that, regulations must allow PBXs to integrated with
Also, even after so much growth in telecommunications, availability of
networks is still an issue in many areas in the country. Many of our partners
are not able to connect with us, as they don't have access to a network.
Do CEOs understand IT?
Today we have a mix of CEOs. Majority still belong to the old school and don't
understand the importance of IT. Then there is a category which knows what IT
means for a business, but is not sure what to do with it. They follow a middle
There are very few CEOs who really understand what IT means for business and
what competitive advantages it offers. On the other hand, I must say that it is
the CIOs who have to understand the needs of business and management.
Which are the communication or networking technologies that an enterprise
must keep a tab on?
Various wireless technologies, MPLS, voice and data convergence,
IP-telephony, and 10G over copper are some of the technologies that I think
enterprises must watch out for.
What challenges does 2005 hold for you as a CIO?
I think managing technology within the organization, aligning it rightly
with the business processes, and carrying people along are going to be the
biggest challenges for a CIO.
Getting the right kind of people on board is a challenge. However that
challenge can be neutralized a large extent by effectively using specialized
assistance from expert agencies.