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You are an IT person, a corporate head honcho, a cabbie, a grocer, a homemaker, a grad student etc etc. Let our readers walk with you thru an average day in your life. Write to us at contact@NRIPulse.com. Let us pick a day out of your life and make it memorable for you.
NIITís Lalit Dhingra: At Ground Level
ďIf I were the president of a larger or tier 1 player from India, life would have been easier. It is much more challenging to compete and succeed when you are not a recognized top playerÖĒ

A lot of people around me think I have a glamorous lifestyle. As president of NIIT Technologies Inc. (US operations), I travel a lot and deal with the top guys at the clientsí end. I am responsible for nearly 1000 people who report to my organization. But life can be stressful. It is a competitive corporate world, especially here in the US. Sometimes I joke with my people that I would do anything to trade places with them - do programming while they sit in my office and do what I do!

My day starts with a brief exercise routine. From 7 in the morning, I am on emails and calls to India from home. I have tele-conversations during my commute to the office. Around 90% of my time is spent reviewing or giving directions to my people, or speaking to our clients. Some days are light, and I may even spend time flipping through magazines. But some days the transactions could get tough, and we may have a number of meetings to resolve issues. I would say that around 80% of the days are high pressure- conference calls with clients, meetings with people, making proposals and proposing solutions to clients.

More than 50% of my time is spent traveling. I travel around the US at least three days a week. I travel to India once every 6-8 weeks, for a week each time, to have discussions with our people there, or with clients who want to see our facilities there, or want to discuss future business.

I think, apart from hard work and luck, one has to be at the ground level to reach the top. I firmly believe that if the people working in the organization grow, the organization grows. I have always taken care to see that my people grow on the job. I am a down to earth boss. I love spending time with my people. I go to their office and sit with them to discuss problems, rather than call them to my office. A lot of them love me. A lot of them may not love me, but I feel lucky to have a good team. We have an interesting, multicultural work environment here (in the Atlanta headquarters). We learn from each otherís culture. A lot of Indians here had an issue about speaking in Hindi while being with so many Americans. But interestingly, some of the Americans want to learn Hindi! We are like family in the Atlanta office. We celebrate Diwali and Christmas together. The Americans here like it that there are additional festivals. They look forward to my Diwali party. We even have a Halloween party in the office.

Multi-cultural melting pot: Dhingra (center) with his Atlanta office staff.

We are a close-knit team, and that is a great success in itself. I believe that even if people leave us, they should remember their stint here as a memorable one. There are people who have left us, but consider their time spent here as the best experience theyíve ever had. This gives me great satisfaction.

I am with NIIT since 1990. The single most important thing Iíve learnt on the job is to deal with people. In 1995-96, I dealt simultaneously with clients from Japan, UK and the US. I remember having meetings with three different groups in one day, which meant adapting to three different cultures. You are not supposed to address Japanese clients by their first names or bow in front of US clients. I am in a peopleís business, not product business. The business teaches you everything else. But the art of understanding people, and make them understand you is by far the biggest learning experience Iíve had.

The last three years have been tough for the company. But our hard work has paid off. There have been stressful times. At such times, it pays to have an integrated team that is well adapted to your leadership. Also, Iím lucky to have a very supportive family. My wife Ranjana, daughter Shobika whoís at Georgia Tech and son Siddharth who is in middle school have been my support system. I wouldnít be here if not for my family. The day after we landed in the US in 1997, I was off for an outstation clientís meeting. My wife hadnít even learnt to drive then. But they have never once complained about my absence. 

I love spending time with my family whenever I can. I love to eat home cooked food. My daughter Shobika comes home every weekend. So I make it a point to be home during the weekends. It is the time spent traveling that hurts. 

I am a movie buff. I love to watch both Bollywood and Hollywood flicks. I watch cricket, and take some time off over the weekend to play tennis or golf. 

I donít think my attitude or style has changed after I became president of NIIT Technologies Inc. I am still the same guy. I still go to my peopleís homes, and have them over. Yes, sometimes, I am reminded that I am president when they get formal when they invite me over, or I get very informal when they come over. 

Is it lonely at the top? Generally speaking, it does get a little lonely in this country when you donít have anybody in the organization that you can talk to. I would say it gets lonesome around 10% of the time. The rest of the time, I donít feel that way at all. I enjoy being with my people and our clients. I enjoy what I do.

I always wanted to be known as a Technical wiz kid or a Technocrat. I never dreamed of being in this position. I was born and raised in Delhi. After graduating from IIT Delhi, I had stints with HCL and C-DOT before joining NIIT in 1990.I was the first person in the organization to start the software business. NIIT was known as an educational institution until then. My real journey started with the setting up of software development labs in India. We then started business development outside the India market in Singapore, Europe and the US. I traveled here very often, until it was decided that the US market needed more focus. So I was sent here in 1997 to head the software business in the US. Then I was vice president of software business. A couple of years back, I was elevated to the position of president. 

If I have to change one thing about my job, it would be to minimize travel, and be seen more in industry and community forums. My traveling takes away most of my time, which makes it difficult for me to attend community and technology events. If you are not a regular at such events, people wonder who you are! I had to balance my priorities, and my priority was to make NIIT grow. I donít know whether one has to be popular in the city to take your organization forward. When you are out traveling four days out of five, you want to spend time with your family the fifth day, and not be out attending a community event. But now, I do look forward to spending more time at such events. We have done very well in the past two years. We have acquired a couple of companies and integrated them well. I have a couple of senior VPs reporting to me. So I should have more time to attend community forums. I love technology and attending technology forums. I am on the board of Georgia techís technology oriented events. 

I wish we were much bigger than what we are in the software business today. It is much more challenging to take it to the top. If I were the president of a larger or tier 1 player from India, life would have been easier. It is much more challenging to compete and succeed when you are not a recognized top player.

Five years from now, NIIT Technologies Inc. will probably not be a billion dollar corporation. But I visualize a fairly decent group of 5000-6000 people. The base is set for this growth. The market is good, the values are good and the overall leadership is good.

Nothing can stop our growth.

(As told to Veena Rao)


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December 1st issue: MAMTA JISKO KUCH NAHIN JAMTA

November 1st issue: A PLACE LIKE HOME

August 1st issue:I AM A TELEMARKETER

May 1st issue: HOME SCHOOL MOMMY, SAIRAH MATTACKAL

February 1st issue: MIHIR PATEL, THE ORGANIZER OF INDIA MELA

January 1st issue: VENKAT SANJEEV RUNS AN ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY

December 1st issue: LIGHTS, CAMERA...ACTION. ACTRESS MRINALINI SHARMA

November 1st issue: HINDU TEMPLE OF ATLANTA PRIEST P K PHANI KUMAR: MEDIATOR TO THE DIVINE

October 1st issue: THE MAKING OF SHIVADAS

September 1st issue: IN THE PURSUIT OF USELESS HOBBIES

August 1st issue: WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER KISHAN  MAHESHWARY

July 1st issue: NEW YORK REPORTER HITHA PRABHAKAR

June 1st issue: ATLANTA PROMOTER MUSTAFA AJMERI

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