Connect with us

Alumni Speak

‘UAE can be the next attractive education hub for Indian students keen on studying abroad’

Toronto-based AIMETC alumni and Digital Transformation Expert Prashant Marya on working in some of the most challenging markets in the world, the need for CEOs to upskill themselves and why organisations must think beyond technology to embrace true digital transformation

Published

on

AIMETC alumni Prashant Marya is Chief Commercial Officer and Vice President of Operations with Techcloudpro, the core technology vertical of the Vibing World Group, based in Toronto, Canada. With more than 17 years of experience across competitive markets in India, the Middle East and North America in business development, operations, partner management and general management in the IT industry, Prashant is recognised as a dynamic and seasoned tech evangelist and digital transformation expert who has executed several enterprise solution projects such as ERP, CRM, HRMS, Business Analytics, HIS, and AI, with a sharp focus on value-based delivery. Also, Prashant believes in being a consultative seller and is well experienced in acquiring and successfully executing ERP/CRM projects such as NetSuite, Odoo, Oracle EBS, Orion, Microsoft Dynamics, Focus and SAP B1 across the globe. In a wide-ranging interview, he discusses, among other subjects, the need for digital transformation for businesses, the Covid-19 challenge, what makes the UAE market unique and the life lessons that he picked up at the Apeejay Institute of Management and Engineering Technical Campus (AIMETC), Jalandhar. Edited excerpts:

Please tell us about your educational and professional journey, from doing your MCA at AIMETC, to becoming a globally renowned Digital Transformation Expert.

I am from Punjab, India, and hail from a modest family. I was born and nurtured in Pathankot City, Shahpur Kandi Township, and Village Jugial. My mother founded the region’s first English Medium Private School, Little Flower School. My mother, who instilled in me the value of education, and my grandfather, who worked as an Engineer (Sub Divisional Officer) at Ranjit Sagar Dam, had a strong influence on me.

My education was at St. Joseph’s Convent School in Pathankot, which was the best in the area in the 1980s and 1990s. Later, I chose non-medical because of my interest in computers and technology, which was a new trend in India in 1998-99. Subsequently, I earned a BCA from SRPAAB College Pathankot, where we were part of the first batch of this graduate programme.

In 2002, I decided to pursue a Master of Computer Applications (MCA) degree and was fortunate to be accepted into the Apeejay Institute of Management and Engineering Technical Campus (AIMETC), one of the most prestigious colleges in Punjab. While studying here, I was honoured to be chosen for the first campus placement by an IT company from Chandigarh.

This was the time for me to enter the world of information technology, and there was no turning back. Many of my seniors and managers mentored me as I progressed from trainee to manager, then to Head of Department, and finally to a Digital Transformation Expert.

You’ve worked in some of the most challenging markets in the world. What does a digital transformation expert such as you do?

I recall being one of the veterans when it came to enterprise resource planning (ERP) Consultants and Advisors in North-West India. I am referring to 2006, when industries were expanding and there was a strong need for an automated system that could streamline entire business processes. As a result, ERP became a necessary solution, and the market saw the rise of big names such as SAP R3, SAP Business One, SAP BYD, Microsoft Dynamics Navision / Axapta / Great Plains, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle NetSuite, Sage, Epicor, Infor, and many more.

From 2008 to 2019, the practical experience I gained as an early starter enabled me to make a name for myself in similar solutions and technology across the entire Middle East and Africa region (MEA). During this time, I was in charge of the ERP business and operations in nearly every Middle Eastern and African country, either directly with the assistance of my team or through our regional partners in these countries. Our primary markets included the UAE, KSA, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, Jordan, and Lebanon, among others. Working in these areas helped me grow both personally and professionally. I’ve been a part of the ecosystem and successfully implemented more than 200 projects for ERP and CRM solutions such as Oracle EBS, Oracle NetSuite, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Orion, Focus, Odoo, and others.

Since 2019, as I am based in Canada, I have been mostly concentrating on North American market personally.

Now, the scenario has shifted to a more micro-vertical focus. A manufacturer’s digital transformation may include ERP, CRM, BI, AI, RPA, ML, Robotics, and so on, whereas a retailer will focus on ERP, CRM, Customer Engagement, BI, POS, E-commerce, Market Place, Online Sellers Integration, Shipping Partners Integration etc.

My advice to all companies embarking on a digital transformation in 2022 is that businesses are constantly evolving and undergoing digital transformations that improve their efficiency and competitiveness in the marketplace using modern technology. However, digital transformation does not end with the adoption of new technology. To embrace true digital transformation, organisations must think beyond technology. Businesses can only reap the benefits of digitisation by completely overhauling their operations, creating collaboration opportunities, expanding their service offerings, and revolutionising their approach to the customer experience.

Please tell us about your responsibilities and routine as Chief Commercial Officer and Vice President – Operations with Techcloudpro.

At Techcloudpro (www.techcloudpro.com), we are proud to be a global company that works tirelessly for the success of our customers. We plan and execute our clients’ ultimate goal – whether it’s implementing ERP, CRM, BI, AI, Cybersecurity, or anything else. At work, the customer comes first! We have offices in the United States, Canada, India, Australia, and China. We will soon be expanding our operations in the United Kingdom.

In the last two years, the world has been moving from conventional ERP or business intelligence to AI and Robotic Process Automation. For that we have launched another brand called zietra.com that focuses on machine learning and RPA. We have also launched an AI-based screening and hiring platform.
I am grateful to each of our team members for the outstanding work they do, and we are proud to call ourselves the Techcloudpro family! Fun fact: Manoj Kumar, my classmate and roommate from MCA days, is our CTO based out of our Bengaluru office.

My primary responsibilities as Chief Commercial Officer and Vice President – Operations include, but are not limited to:

•        Globally driving business strategy, corporate expansion, and revenue growth, which includes managing the opportunity creation team, pre-sales team, sales team, and operations team on a global scale.

•        As a board member, actively participate in key organisational decisions pertaining to all functional divisions, both existing and new. This includes establishing new practices and developing new solutions to expand the product portfolio.

•        Conduct thorough business analysis before proposing, planning, and implementing digital transformation for clients using agile methodology and primarily disruptive technologies to add value to clients as advisors.

•        Develop strong trusting relationships with channel partners, OEMs, and other business contacts to ensure more business opportunities and consistent market penetration.

Since I need to allocate my time for each of our global offices, my usual day will go from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Do not be alarmed! Between 5 pm and 10:30 p.m., I take a break to spend quality time with my family. When I’m not working, I enjoy watching foreign films, reading memoirs, and spending time with my family.

Please explain the concept of ‘digital disruption’, your area of expertise, to the audience of http://www.apeejay.news.

Most people associate the word “disruption” with negative connotations. A downed power line disrupts our power, a noisy neighbour disrupts our sleep, and sunspots disrupt communication. However, not all types of disruption are harmful! Today, digital disruption can be a game changer in our rapidly evolving high-tech world. And, while digital disruption may cause some short-term discomfort, it will be well worth it in the long run.

When new digital technologies and business models alter and modify the value of an industry’s existing services and goods, this is referred to as digital disruption. These new factors affect or upset the status quo, requiring firms to re-evaluate and possibly adjust their current market for goods and services.

The following are three significant advantages of digital disruption:

•        It improves client satisfaction.

•        It aids the expansion of a business.

•        It improves and evolves the workplace.

Each pillar of digital disruption has the potential to revolutionise how firms operate.

•        Technology: This term refers to things like invention, application, and design.

•        Business: This includes marketing, development, and delivery pricing, among other things.

•        Industry: Includes customers, methods, processes, and standards, among other things.

•        Society: Movements, culture, habits, and so on.

In the previous three years, there has been a lot of digital disruption that has found manifestation in the following ways:

•        Online Learning:  Crises encourage innovation, and nothing beats a worldwide pandemic and the resulting lockdown to get people thinking about new methods to learn online. Online education allows students to obtain a degree or certification at a lower cost and in a more convenient manner, bypassing the costly institution system.

•        3D Printing: 3D printing may appear to be something out of a sci-fi film, but the technology is here and gaining pace. Currently, 3D printing is used mostly to assist established industrial processes. However, as the technology improves and becomes more affordable, we may see homes using their 3D printers to create goods rather than obtaining them from retailers.

•        Many of us have heard of Bitcoin and Blockchain technology, but it has yet to take hold in regular trade. In these days of increased cyber-crime and data breaches, consumers and organisations value higher levels of protection, which cryptocurrency provides. Traditional banking and even internet payment systems, the latter of which has already affected traditional bill-paying techniques, could be threatened by digital wallets. I’m not sure how legitimate or long-term this technology is, though.

You have worked in the UAE as well as North America.  How different are the two and what is unique about the UAE market in particular?

The markets in the Middle East and North America are vastly different. North America is more “content-driven” whereas the Middle East is more “relationship-driven.” If you build a relationship with an account and deliver consistently, they will trust you and call you for any technology-related project in the future. However, in North America, we must demonstrate greater value and understanding at all times. Another traditional distinction is the way business is conducted and tasks are completed.

The Middle East is a more “face-to-face” market, with clients preferring to have teams on-site, often in their workplace, while installing. With the rise of cloud technologies and pandemics, though, this trend is changing now. North American initiatives, on the other hand, have been in the works since.

Another significant distinction is that the Middle East prefers local language execution and data storage within the country, whereas North America operates mostly in English/French and data hosting is not an issue. However, I must commend the Middle East’s government firms for being high-tech in comparison to many interim government companies in North America.

Finally, the Middle East is a beautiful market both for professionals and those seeking a good education. I have spent 11 years in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. There is a strong need for a good education hub in the UAE. For Indian students who want to study abroad, the UAE is a very attractive alternative with places such as the Dubai International Academic City coming up and it deserves to have colleges such as those promoted by formidable and dynamic brands such as Apeejay Education.

How important is it for a business leader to upskill oneself and how have you done it at the personal level?

While I cannot speak for all organisations, as a leader in a technology company, you must keep up to date on IT trends, emerging technologies and recent disruptions, as well as be a trendsetter by being an early adopter. As an example, I’ve updated from Embedded to ERP to BI to AI to Cybersecurity.

Indeed, over the last two months, I’ve completed a number of courses and certifications, primarily in the areas of Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence, Planful (Planning, Budgeting, and Consolidation Solution), Leading Teams, Sales Management, Business Analysis, Selling to the C-Suite, Social Selling, Virtual Selling, and Technical Selling, to name a few. I’m also taking PMI’s Project Management course.

How did the pandemic affect you and your sector?

I have to say, 2019 was a difficult year, especially in March, when the world was rocked by unforeseen events. We were all in a state of apprehension. Since January 2020, businesses have adapted to changing circumstances, and several players of the industry, such as Cloud companies, remote learning, online sellers, mobility, and others, have seen a surge. Because we are technology enablers and industries require our services, business is now as usual for us. Indeed, our cybersecurity department was founded and grew rapidly as Cyber Security became more in demand as employees began working remotely and accessing firms’ systems from all over the world. The same is the case with our AI department, in which we are ready to launch our AI Solutions under the brand name Zietra. For more details, please visit: www.zietra.com and www.zyre.ai

What are your memories of the time you spent at AIMETC, Jalandhar?

I have wonderful recollections of college and miss nearly all the professors. I always commend the non-teaching staff for maintaining the college’s high standards. But, in addition to becoming a part of the Apeejay Education family, I must state that the 9:30 a.m. personality development class helped me enormously. Despite numerous invitations, I have not returned to my college since 2005. But I’m hoping to pay a visit to my adorable alma mater during my next trip to India. My wife Sonia and children Devyansh and Delisha would also like to visit my college.

Did you pick up any life lessons in AIMETC that have helped you later in your career?

AIMETC taught me to be a generalist and to stay current in my field. We were also told that we should focus on our personalities and communication abilities, and that we should be “smart workers” rather than “hard workers.” Indeed, I believe AIMETC is the only college in Punjab that is forward-thinking and focused on the complete development of its students. I am the Joint Secretary of the International Chapter – IT of the AIMETC Alumni Association and wish my institute all the very best!

What is your advice for young entrepreneurs and students who want to follow a similar career trajectory on the lines that you’ve pursued?

To young entrepreneurs I want to say, shows like Shark Tank India may have made it fashionable to become an entrepreneur. But before you go into a business you must work in a company for a couple of years. Failures teach you more than success. So, I would recommend they must work in a company for a few years and see how one department functions and then grow a little and understand how an IT company works. Once you have worked for a few years and you launch a start-up, it makes more sense.

For students, I have a really simple advice: I left India in 2007 and there are many college options today. There could be many students who score between 70 per cent and 80 per cent and feel that they are not good enough. No, if you are a smart worker, an all-rounder and quick adapter of technology, you can be really successful. But you must have good communication skills, know how to adapt and know how to speak well. So, even if you score in the 70 per cent range, you must not get demoralised even before crafting your skills. In my case, I did not study in a conventional manner and tried to learn what the market wanted from IT.  I always wanted to be a smart student.  You have to understand that books on technology were not getting updated on a yearly basis. For instance, we just had a 4-page chapter on ERP in our textbooks, but ERP was a vast field. Academics and books are just a pathway for your career. Then you have to comprehend what is going on in the market and upgrade yourself on a daily basis. Even now, when I am vice president and chief commercial officer and head business operations of a group of companies with more than 150 employees, I make sure to regularly update and upskill myself.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74

Trending