Playing to Win

With Menon at the helm, Accenture India is breaking new ground.

Rekha Menon, 57, Chairman, Accenture India (Photo: Nilotpal Baruah) Rekha Menon, 57, Chairman, Accenture India (Photo: Nilotpal Baruah)

On Sunday mornings at 5.30 am, a cyclist in full riding gear sets off for a couple of hours of solitary commune with nature in Bangalore. At 57, Rekha Menon, Chairman and Managing Director, Accenture India, admits that while the rides are not "easy on her knees", it is a time that she cherishes. She is loath to break this routine even though she is on the move on weekdays, travelling across the country and abroad.

It is the kind of discipline and passion that has helped her manage the 140,000 employees of Accenture India and ensure the Indian operations continue to remain core to the global technology major. Accenture had merely 300-odd employees in 2000 in India. However, it was quick to realise the potential the country could offer, not merely in terms of cost advantage but for the scale and capabilities it could tap into. "We are one of the largest MNCs in the country. We may not have been the first movers but we are proud of what we have achieved," says Menon.

Accenture is known worldwide for its consulting prowess, but in recent years has sharpened its focus on 'new' offerings. "Today, 40 per cent of our revenues come from digital, which is interactive, analytics, IoT, cloud and security," she adds.

Globally, Accenture's revenue base is larger than the top three Indian IT players put together. The company has used its large operations in India to primarilyaddress the needs of global clients. However, that changed last year. Menon was elevated as the Chairman of Indian operations and there was greater focus on the domestic market. "While we do not give country-specific revenues, Accenture in the last year has significantly grown the India business," says Rekha.

For example, Raymond Limited, one of the country's leading apparel players, turned to Accenture when it was looking to streamline and cost optimise its supply chain. Says Sanjay Behl, Chief Executive Officer, Lifestyle Business at Raymond: "Accenture put forth a very competent team on this project. It not only provided thought leadership, but also partnered with the Raymond business team in executing and ensuring sustainability of all identified initiatives." Similarly, when the State Bank of India was looking to attract millennial customers, it worked with Accenture to develop a new online, self-service banking solution.

For somebody who spearheaded the HR operations for Accenture in growth markets, including Asia-Pacific, West Asia, Africa, Russia, Turkey and Latin America, before her elevation as chairman of the Indian operations, making its India employees adapt to the 'new' has been something of a focus area, admits Menon. Globally, Accenture spent $841 million in training and development last year. With the average age at 27, Accenture India has been trying to make online courses more easy and appealing and the training more enticing by 'gamifying' it. Menon says that Accenture has set a target of "employing at least 40 per cent women in all our fresh hirings". At present, a third of its Indian workforce is women.

Last year, Accenture also opened a new 'cyber centre for security' in Bangalore, which is the cornerstone of its cybersecurity growth strategy and the largest such facility in its global delivery network. Admitting that Accenture might not have all the answers in all cases, the company says it is working both with clients and start-ups to "co-innovate". It is supplementing the internal innovation process with the open innovation program (OIP), based on the "bridge maker" concept - enabling large corporates and start-ups to work together.

Hyderabad-based business intelligence and big data visualisation company, Infruid Labs, is one such start-up that has been working closely with Accenture. Says Mahesh Yellai, Founder and CEO, Infruid Labs: "Through their OIP, Accenture is helping us get access to some of the large enterprises. Else, it would have been a challenge for a start-up like ours."

While she continues her work with NGOs Pratham Books and the Akshara Foundation, Menon is currently challenging herself at her new hobby - swimming. "I am hyper-competitive. While I have been for long a self-taught swimmer, I hired a coach recently to help me improve. Where is the fun in doing anything without winning, even if it is against yourself?" says Menon.