In this exclusive interview with the All Things Talent, Mr Kishore Jayaraman, President, Rolls-Royce – India & South Asia reveals the secret to building an agile, motivated and diverse workforce that can help businesses achieve strategic goals. A passionate learner himself, he also sheds light on the importance of all stakeholders – policymakers, academia and industry – to work together to close India’s skill gap and train the workforce in future skills.
Kishore Jayaraman is the President, Rolls-Royce – India & South Asia. Kishore leads all operations and activities of Rolls-Royce in India and South Asia and pursues expanded opportunities for all Rolls-Royce businesses across the region. He came into Rolls-Royce after a long and distinguished 23-year career with GE, as CEO of GE Energy, India region. Kishore has rich multi-faceted experience in Technology, Project Management, Commercial Operations, and Business Leadership. He graduated with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and is an MBA graduate from the University of Georgia in Athens, USA. He is an active member of several boards and committees across the Aerospace and Energy sectors in the South Asia region.
Q. After working at GE for 23 years you joined Rolls-Royce as its President of India & South Asia. Throughout your distinguished career, you must have had a fair share of highs and lows. What has been the most remarkable professional experience that changed the shape of your long vocational journey?
A. All through my career it has been important that I keep learning and growing my capabilities and this quest has enabled me to stay highly motivated in my jobs and to grow the businesses that I operated in multifold. It is very hard to single out any experience through this journey but most of them have been about bringing people together and building a business on a vision. One such endeavour was to build the services business with the Oil and Gas customers globally. It required my leading and obtaining the buy-in from very many stakeholders from multiple businesses whilst actively promoting the concept with external stakeholders. It was a challenge that I was not ready for but one for which I had to roll up my sleeves and work very hard “winning hearts and minds” to achieve the result. We ended up growing this to a multi-billion-dollar backlog business from scratch and positioned it for a very sustainable and profitable future.
Q. Rolls-Royce pioneers cutting- edge technologies and with an increasingly comprehensive range of services, how is Rolls-Royce playing its part in India to help support the country’s future technological aspirations?
A. As India progresses towards a developed economy, it is embracing technology at an increasing pace across all spheres of industry, society, and nation-building.
The vision for the future will not just be about technology transfers and manufacturing but on creating a broader ecosystem which includes co-design, co-development, co- manufacturing, supply chain and support. This entails capability creation and skilling rather than just technology transfer and it is something that Rolls-Royce considers one of its core strengths.
A case in point is IAMPL, which is a successful collaboration between Rolls-Royce and HAL and a great example for the Make in India programme. Rolls-Royce is very committed to building on this existing partnership with HAL. We have also recently formed the JV between Rolls-Royce Power Systems and Force Motors to manufacture reciprocating engines from Pune. We are continuously exploring new areas for collaboration and to leverage each other’s strengths. We have established an excellent platform which is a true testimony of the Make in India initiative and our leadership wants to build on this platform. In addition to strengthening the support in the existing program, we are very keen to get more partnerships and collaborations to leverage the excellent capabilities offered from Indian companies and start-ups.
Rolls-Royce has been steadily building its capabilities in India, across engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, digital and customer support to support local growth. The Aerospace Engineering Centre in Bangalore has more than 600 engineers contributing to our global aerospace engine programmes. Rolls-Royce’s R2 Data Labs, an acceleration hub for data innovation with a facility in Bangalore, develops data applications that unlock design, manufacturing and operational efficiencies and creates new service propositions for customers.
Q. According to you, how advances in digitisation, artificial intelligence, communication, and robotics can help in creating growth opportunities and generating new insights? What changes do you expect in the coming years?
A. An engaged and empowered workforce is critical to an organisation’s success. Digital technologies are making it easier for organisations to build a modern workplace and adopt a culture that empowers employees to do their best work wherever they are. With the growing trend towards remote workspaces, and with millennial who grew up with the technology available at their fingertips joining the workforce, it is important to consider how new and emerging technologies can enable today’s employees to be more productive in the work environment, while also maintaining consistency and security across the enterprise.
At Rolls-Royce, we are embedding a “digital-first” culture across teams. Digital Academy – a structured learning and development programme designed to develop both technical skills and entrepreneurial ideas of all employees, has proven to be a huge success. It is essentially a virtual community that focuses on digital- first skills, culture and mindset and is already helping people engage with others across our different business functions.
Q. An agile, motivated and diverse workforce is the key to achieve strategic goals. How important are the workforce diversity and employee engagement at Rolls- Royce in order to build strategic capabilities and drive performance and growth?
As one of the world’s leading industrial technology companies, we at Rolls-Royce believe that diversity in the workforce and bringing in employees with different backgrounds are essential stimulants to innovation and creativity.
To foster diversity and inclusion it is important to develop a culture that is open to appreciating a problem or a solution coming from different groups, an environment where every employee can reach his or her full potential, by encouraging well-being and development.
Diversity and Inclusion bring focus for us to build a culture of boldness or lack of fear of failure.
It is to understand and create a balance between the existing culture while evolving a new one to accelerate innovation and help employees adapt to the change. It requires underlining the importance of collaboration within teams by sharing information and building a high level of transparency regardless of any biases. Lastly, by providing regular opportunities for learning and training to employees we need to ensure that staff feel motivated and inspired to contribute towards the success of the business.
Globally, Rolls-Royce invests millions of pounds every year in learning and development programmes to raise the standards of competitive performance; develop business acumen, management, and leadership skills; promote innovation; help employees realise their potential and contribute to increased customer satisfaction.
In order to move faster and address our customer needs, a diverse workforce is critical – having employees with different perspectives, backgrounds, and problem-solving approaches to come up with unique ideas. The bottom-line is that through a combination of multiple stimulations – collaborative culture, diverse set of ideas, understanding of the right problems to solve and giving people the correct direction, we can encourage diversity and foster inclusiveness, and consequently, meaningful innovation. In this manner, you create the first level of acceptance to move forward in line with the evolving customer demands.
Q. With India’s Aerospace and Defence sector growing steadily over the last few years why according to you there exists a huge skill gap in these sectors and how can this gap be bridged?
A. World over, technological advancements are creating fundamental shifts in STEM-related industries, leading to demand for skills that were previously non- existent. In India, the rising skill gap can be broadly attributed to three reasons. Firstly, apart from the technical skills, there needs to be increased focus on the applicable soft skills so that the talent that can be readily hired to plug and play. For example, critical thinking or problem-solving skills are becoming invaluable for the industry as they help job seekers widen their limited domain knowledge and hone necessary business skills. Secondly, we also need to train engineering talent in global skills that will make them receptive to international standards of safety and quality. Thirdly, with evolving technology, the nature of jobs is becoming more specialised and high-skilled, leading to a mismatch in the current knowledge and required knowledge.
Building a highly skilled workforce that can work with the ever- evolving technologies will enable companies in India to carry out critical research and development (R&D) and bring out innovative products and aftermarket services to the market.
One way of doing this is to upskill the existing workforce. While both training and upskilling are necessary for closing India’s skills gaps, the priority should be for all key stakeholders – policymakers, academia and industry, to work together to prepare young people to enter the workforce with the skills and education the businesses will require in the future.
Q. How can “innovation leadership” revolutionise the modern workplaces to keep up with the rapid pace of digitisation?
A. Digital is relevant to everything – from how a product is designed, developed, manufactured, to how it is monitored and serviced – so there are exponential opportunities for organisations to improve productivity, efficiency, transform processes and business models, empower the workforce and ultimately provide better services to customers.
At Rolls-Royce, there are various stimulants to innovation and creativity. For example, we create diversity in our workforce and bring in employees with different backgrounds. We also strongly believe that creativity involves a lack of fear of failure.
Central to this vision is building an ecosystem of collaboration, which will help support the successful delivery of technology programmes across all our business areas. In India, our partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a leader in IT and digital solutions, is a great example of how we’re looking to accelerate data innovation through collaboration.
CONCEPT OF WORK
Q. What is your work philosophy? Also, the tech revolution is redefining the concept of ‘work’. Any advice you would like to convey how do we find purpose in the work we do?
A. Apart from the basic tenets of work hard, work smart and work ethically and follow the highest levels of integrity, it is very important to be focused on outcomes. Without a clear end goal, it is hard to find the means to that goal. There are always a lot of actions but do all these actions lead to the goal in a timely manner is very important. For that, it is important that the goal is not changing and is well thought out with all constraints and challenges considered. If we can function as an outcome-focused team then results will drive businesses sustainably into the future.
Q. Rolls-Royce emphasizes on pursuing the cleanest, safest and most competitive solutions. How important should it be for any organisation to balance the company’s growth with environmental obligations?
At a time when the world is facing several challenges, innovation and investing in next-generation technologies will help us develop new tools and approaches to tackle major societal challenges as well as grow our current competitiveness. As pioneers, Rolls-Royce will continuously innovate to provide the cutting-edge technologies that deliver the cleanest, safest and most competitive solutions to meet our planet’s vital power needs.
Innovation is at the heart of Rolls- Royce. Throughout its history, Rolls-Royce pursued ever cleaner, safer and more competitive power – developing ground-breaking technologies and providing the world’s most powerful and efficient aero-engines. The transition to a low carbon global economy is spurring us to develop new technologies and capabilities.
Quick Facts About Kishore Jayaraman
Hometown: Chennai, India
Things He Loves Most: Learning and Legacy
Passionate Pursuits: Reading, Hiking/Trekking
Greatest Influence Growing Up: My Dad and Amitabh Bachchan
Sports He Follows: Cricket, Tennis
Favourite Books: Reimagining India & Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani