JK Industries has its operations spread all over India. Sharma discusses the
challenges he faces in providing an effective, good-quality communications
network between various factories, procurement centers, and distributors. He
explains why he would take some more time to deploy wireless applications
throughout his organization. Excerpts:
As an enterprise user, do you see the integrated telecom operators
providing one-stop, cost-effective solutions as a good thing for your
Couple of years back there was no company giving all services on its own;
there was nothing as single-window shopping. For enterprises like us it made
sense to buy services from different vendors and negotiate accordingly.
Now we have an infrastructure in place, the backhaul is there, and a lot of
investment has been made in all this. The concept of integrated players is good
news but it doesn't make sense for us to knock down the existing
infrastructure and put in money for services from one vendor. For those who are
renovating or starting afresh, buying services from one operator across India
would ensure consistency in services.
Do you see any regulatory issues hampering your communication network
Directly, there is no regulatory roadblock. But as regulatory constraints
affect the operator's offerings, it is reflected in our planning too.
What role does wireless play within your enterprise? What kind of benefits
has it brought to you? Has there been any move to integrate any mobile
application within your organization?
Wireless is an integral part of any communication network. Though we have
lots of plans to implement wireless applications across our organization, it
would take a couple of years before they are fully deployed.
We have implemented an SMS-based application with which our field employees
know what product has left the factory, at what time, and also determine when it
would reach the destination.
There is one application through which we push similar information to the
target audience. We are also trying put e-mail on the mobile devices.
Wireless access technologies like Wi-Fi hold good promise. I am trying to
introduce wireless access in the office premises but the process would take
time. Already all our laptops are Wi-Fi enabled. If wireless gives us the
desired bandwidth then connecting our wide area network over it would be
possible and easy.
Are you open to sharing your company network with your partners and
suppliers? What are the concerns while doing so?
We are contemplating giving restricted access to our suppliers. They would
be able to logon to our network and vice versa. This would give information such
as dispatch and delivery schedules. On the sales side, our dealers would be able
to share information on money outstanding, delivery status, and inventory.
The main concern here is security. We would have a network on which client
software would reside and give access to outsiders who can retrieve what they
want. The entry would be restricted.
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?
Branding and past record of the service provider matters a lot. The history
of services and the market feedback gives an insight into the level of
offerings. Based on these, one can at least evaluate the various service
Having technological know-how and support systems for these technologies is
also important. A small company might have good offerings but if it cannot give
support, the whole exercise falls flat.
Couple of years back, service level agreements (SLA) were absent. There was a
contract where we had uptime guarantees, there were penalty clauses, and all the
other obligations. This contract has been given a name-SLA. But the clauses
have become more stringent.
We are contemplating SLAs but have not singed one yet as it puts many
obligations on both the parties and it is not always possible to fulfill them.
What challenges do you foresee in the coming days?
The main challenge for me is to ensure dedicated bandwidth across my wide
area network connecting all my centers. Not only in the last mile, I would like
similar bandwidth across my network so that there are no bottlenecks and data
does not get lost in between. At the moment I get around 48 kbps on my VPN,
which has a combination of dial up and leased line. With this speed I cannot
even send reports. Couple of months back we tested bandwidth over wireless
networks. The test was successful but till now no service provider has been able
to guarantee dedicated bandwidth and that project is still hanging on fire.
The fast changing technologies are another problem. It is difficult to keep
pace and by the time one decides on one technology, it changes and something
better comes out. It is a viscous cycle and if I am spending money then would
like the best in breed for myself.
Reining in cost of service is another challenge. Things like shortage of
funds have delayed the Wi-Fi deployment. And, more importantly, management wants
any technology to be weighed in terms of
return on investment and total cost of ownership.