The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique crisis for businesses and business leaders as well. Redistributing disrupted supply chains, enabling a remote workforce, safeguarding essential employees, and breaking bad news to them, as well as maintaining their energy so that they can continue to inspire and motivate, the crisis is bringing out the best in the leaders. Believing that a leader can’t have just one style of leadership with everyone they are working with, Anees K. M. , CTO, iD Fresh Food (India) Pvt. Ltd., treats every individual in his organization differently based on their capabilities and style of working, as he feels the best approach for any leader is to understand the individual and lead them accordingly. A leader should also encourage its team to be up-to-date with the technology. He says, “People do magic with the right guidance and I have experienced this throughout my career. I believe that technology can be taught if we have the right people with a good attitude and logical skills”.
Having completed his Masters in Computer Application, Anees completed his MS Degree from BITS-Pilani and PMP while he was working. “I keep updating myself with knowledge and I keep joining courses so that my learning is systematic. I continue my learning journey and this time it’s an MBA from IIM-K. I am a strong believer that we should allocate at least 5% of our earnings for learning”. A double graduate, Anees completed his masters in 1999, during the recession, which was quite a setback for him. He reminisces, “It was challenging to get an academic project in any company. I got an offer of employment even before the academic project, but the company couldn’t take me and others on-board due to recession”.
Deciding to do his project with no shortcuts, Anees went from company to company in its search. Even after having better academics and logical skills, he struggled to get a project of his choice. When he finally did get an option of his choice in a start-up, there were a lot more obstacles he had to power through. He recalls, “It was a time when the internet was a luxury and we had to wait for a term with the technical director to download any material from dialup internet, which was in speed of bytes per second. Systems-level programming was challenging in those times as we need to memorize the syntax as no search/IntelliSense was available. I used this opportunity, put extra effort, and learned the core of system programming. My voice communication project impressed the employer and they absorbed me. The knowledge I gained in this start-up helped me throughout my career”.
During his time in the core software industry, Anees ensured that he was never in his comfort zone, by updating himself with the right mix of technology and management skills, build and lead a center of excellence team, changing the architectural/technology stack, and moving from conventional to agile development model with distributed teams across geographies. “I also had to take multiple roles of product management, program management, coach and trainer, etc. alongside my regular work,” adds Anees.
Throughout his career, Anees ensured that he focused on the unknown and delegated the rest of the knowns to his team members accordingly. He is actively involved in leadership meetings across functions and helps them in making their day-to-day functions easier and faster with his alternative technology solutions. Despite it being a major shift in his career, when Anees was offered the role of CTO fromiD Fresh Food (India) Pvt. Ltd., a very unique FMCG company, he joined them and took it as a challenge. He remarks, “It was an opening for me to associate closely and learn about each function and their activities. I even took up the additional responsibility of HR head role for about a year”.
Triumphing Despite all Odds
With perks and perils, the initial phase of remote working was quite productive and people loved it as they didn’t have to travel. As time passed, the extended remote working norm started going down the spiral as everyone started to miss working from the office. Anees points out, “The impact of being together that is developed in teamwork is diminishing as people started to have to work as an individual contributor with lesser collaborated and low team spirit”.
Having seen the WFH set up in the previous organizations he worked in as a regular practice with VPNs and other technologies placed for the very purpose, Anees adds, “As we had geographically distributed teams, we are used to having CD/CI, static code scan and automated Integration Testing. These help us to check productivity and quality of the code getting checked in by remote working employees”.
Anees ensured the servers aren’t vulnerable to data theft, data loss, and data manipulation, by ensuring penetration testing and secure code scan. With cyber-attacks being possible even in the most sophisticated cybersecurity in place, Anees points out, “We work with our partners for Mean Time To Recover (MTTR) with the restoration of most appropriate data based on
Currently working for a start-up in the manufacturing business of fresh food that is natural and made without any chemicals or preservatives, Anees helps in meeting consumer needs while minimizing wastage. He informs, “We have a technology in place that predicts the number of products- SKU wise to be placed at every single store every day based on past data. This is a unique kind of technology which was custom made. Initially, the use of data was just being used for financial purposes. Now there is not just prediction of product placement, but also for raw material procurement and production”.
Taking an unprecedented change that is already starting to show up, the tech industry has been greatly influenced by the ‘new normal’. Though Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will continue to lead the business segment it was being used in, the way they were using the technology is set out to change. Technologies like AI-based NLP, Blockchain technologies and IoT has been quite prevailing and growing in the fresh food industry. Adapting to what a business needs rather than forcefully fitting the business to the technology, Anees’ interest in AI/ML tech space uncovered a lot of information that others did not know much about and helped business leaders to take the right decision at the right time.