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CIO Of the Fortnight

Name : Zoeb Adenwala
Birthplace : Surat

I was born in Surat, & grew up in a normal middle class family where family size was a sense of protection and sharing rather than a divisor of privileges. My father had six brothers and 2 sisters. I too have a large family. My father and mother came together because their respective spouses had passed away thus I have a total of 14 sisters and 2 brothers. My father had small business of cycles repairs which was very insufficient to maintain such a large family and hence he moved to seek greener pasture abroad and migrated to a place called "Aden" (that's how I have derived my surname) which was then a British colony on the tip of Arabian peninsula. (by the way, it was the same place where Dhirubhai Ambani also started his journey). My father used to work on quarries but always dreamt of having his own business. Due to his sheer hard work and perseverance, he rose to own one of the very successful business houses in Aden. I spent most of my childhood in Surat learning in Gujrati medium school and mostly cared by my sisters as Father and Mom spent most of the time in Aden. We migrated to Mumbai in early 60's . I studied in a Gujarati vernacular school till 6th standard and then moved to English medium from 7th Standard.

Post my early schooling in Surat, I joined Fr. Agnel Technical High School . Here I learned independence, balancing technical & non-technical subjects and engineering thinking.

I joined Parle collage in 1970 for two years, completing my studies up to Inter Science. I then joined COEP – College of Engineering - Pune in 1972 for Bachelor's of Engineering in Electronics & Telecom. The best part of engineering studies is that it exposes one to large volume of subject matter, smaller cycle (every six months) of examinations and variety of subject. I was also fortunate to live in hostel for 4 years & that taught to me co-existence, handling independence, time management and self restrain. We had small exposure to computers and I was fascinated by programming and able to get machines to do what I wanted it to do. The computer field was in infancy then but I developed a huge attraction to it thus I joined I.I.T – Kharagpur in 1976 to do my Masters in Computer Engineering. I passed out in 1978 and was recruited from campus by TCS for whom I worked for 9 fabulous years.

Early part of my life was inspired by my Parents who both had no education beyond 5th standard in vernacular medium but were very successful in their life. My father had no education in English but could carry out all business correspondence in English with beautiful handwriting. Life too was changing to prepare me for larger responsibility. I lost my father when I was just 9 years old and my mother has solely brought us up in difficult times. My mother could mange such a large family with so much love and care that none of felt neglected. She had gone thru many ups and downs and came out with flying colors. I lost my mother in 1996. I am sure all those who have been through this grief would understand when I state that "there is no replacement for care and love of a mother" My parents had given me the best "gift" in life - "education" and I would always remain eternally indebted to them. My father always gave me expensive toys of mechanical in nature which aroused my interest in Engineering. This formed basis of my success whatever I have achieved today.

As for my career graph, I started work with TCS in 1978. The first job in a real world which needed less Engineering and more ability to handle people relationship, manage projects and sometime work in nights. The years I spent at TCS had laid very strong foundation to my career as I got to work in various capacities starting as Trainee and rising to Consultant level. I was exposed to variety of Business challenges and also visited large numbers of foreign countries thereby learning to work with different cultures. My main contribution at TCS was to successfully execute a very large project for a client in USA which was the bench mark to prove TCS's ability to deliver overseas, after which many repeat business came. I left TCS in 1987, a fabulous learning for 9 years to join SKF Bearings India. The main reason of job change was frequent travelling and long period away from family. Since my son was growing up, I decided to move to a job where travelling was less.

SKF gave me a very different view as I moved from consulting to end-user environment where the real life systems were used for conducting business. Here I learnt how user perceive software system thereby I improved my ability to design better systems which are readily acceptable to users. I joined SKF as "EDP Manager" and moved up to be General Manager – I.T. At SKF my major achievement was to successfully implement an ERP for the first time in SKF India. Besides this, first time network (WAN) was set-up to link various SKF locations in India and Abroad. In 2001, SKF world-wide decided to completely outsource IT to EDS thus I moved to EDS along with over 700 I.T. personnel of SKF world-wide. I consider this not as if I changed the job but rather the Job changed me.

At EDS it was very exciting to understand from Service Provider's point of view. This tremendously improved my understanding of Customer Service and SLA's. My achievement at EDS was to successfully transition the IT operations and system to EDS w/o any break in services. Since this was not the job of my choice, I decided to move back to in-house IT environment and joined Pidilite Industries in 2003. At Pidilite, it was very different challenge as I moved from Engineering Industry (SKF) to Chemical and Retail. It was a great learning for me as Pidilite has many business and some very strong brands like Fevicol. I learnt the art of business management from the M.D Mr. M.B.Parekh who has a unique style of running business which may vary from standard teachings at B School but he is hugely successful. His penchant for details and control was top class and his reviews meeting an experience to cherish. At Pidilite, I would consider my main contribution was to streamline the ERP & various I.T. operations and set-up and reliable WAN and Data Center. I also introduce various security and mobility solutions. I left Pidilite in 2007 to join Essel Propack. My main reasons for this job change were two. 1. I always wanted work on SAP which Essel wanted to implement. 2. Work for true Indian multinational.

Currently I work at Essel Propack as CIO - Global. Essel Propack is a Global leader in Laminated Tubes used by all leading FMCG companies world-wide, enjoying a global market share of over 32%. At Essel my main contribution was to draw up a 5 year I.T. road map. I have achieved all miles stones set out so far including rolling out SAP successfully world-wide in 21 Plants spread across 10 countries.

Since 1978 as part of my job, I had to travel for variety of reasons to various part of the world. My travels taught me lot to be sensitive to various culture, way of living and way of conducting ourselves with different people. There are many countries which are different and some time "difficult" because of our social & religious upbringing but all these countries accepts us if we are able to adopt with sensitivity. Except of few countries I had the privilege of traveling almost all part of the world. Similarly I have been fortunate to be at most part of our country. Traveling is a great teacher and most of the time can make you a humble person.

My major achievement as a professional is successful deployment of I.T. system to solve Business problems. I.T. enables Business growth and improves end user productivity. Besides this, I have always coached and mentored my second line to advance their careers. I love working with people and always spend lots of time with users and my team and derive pleasure in resolving their issues.

Any challenge motivates me. I would like to resolve challenge and see a smile on the face of persons whom I helped.

My dream would be to have an IT system which users can learn and implement it themselves without any involvement of I.T. persons and training.

My working style is hands on with enough delegation. I believe in continuous learning process and building processes for eliminating human intervention (as much as possible). Whenever there is a major project completion OR successful activity, it's time for enjoying the success and acknowledging those who have done well. Keep the team happy and they would keep you happy. I always ask my team to THINK BIG but start small.

In later part of my career I also got involved as guest speaker in educational institutes. (in my spare time). It gives me great pleasure to interact with young minds. It makes you feel younger and provides you, a perspective of the new generation and their aspirations.

Besides work and family responsibilities, I am fond of all sporting activities. I used to actively participate during my school and college days in Cricket, Table Tennis, Carrom and Chess. I have won many a titles in the indoor games. Besides this I read a lot and listen to music. I also spend some time watching T.V. mostly Sports / News / Knowledge channels like National Geographic.

I got married in 1984 and had always received great moral support from my extended family. In Yasmin I have a caring, loving and practical partner to balance emotional and temperament. I am blessed with a son Zaheer and a daughter Shakera. Zaheer is now 25 years old and has completed his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University USA. Shakera is 21 and in final year (B.E. – I.T.)

I have a very regular schedule. The day begins early (05:30 am) with Exercise (Yoga or Treadmill) followed by Prayers and off to work by 8 am. Return by 7-8 pm and then spend time on reading & with family.

After dinner at 08:30 pm, Watch TV or interact with family upto 10 pm and sleep by 10:30 pm. On weekend, I enjoy doing all the house work (Outdoor) shopping, banks, bill payments etc. etc. Spend quality time with family and have very active social life too.

There is a long way ahead but I am thankful to GOD for my journey. I would not trade anything for what opportunities came my ways. There were many threats and challenges but each such event is a hidden opportunity. I am grateful to my life companion Yasmin for providing me the freedom and space to be what I am. My children have given me sense of joy and provided me impetus to give my best to them.

I strongly believe that if any human being, once educated and given opportunity, would change successfully our community in particular and society in general. I have also been greatly influenced and by many women including my mother, my elder sisters.

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