Jehan is a fellow member of ACCA, CIMA, CMA and a member of CA Sri Lanka. He counts 26 years’ experience in the John Keells Group and serves as CEO of Infomate Pvt Limited and Senior Vice President of John Keells. Jehan serves the industry as Chairman of ACCA Sri Lanka, Chairman of SLASSCOM and President of Sri Lanka Nordic Business Council. Jehan was responsible for pioneering the country’s first rural BPOs and is passionate about championing Sri Lanka’s IT / BPM industry.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Jehan shared his insights on the future of outsourcing work, his professional journey, what sets Infomate apart from other market competitors, personal role model, future plans, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
According to you, how has the past of outsourcing and offshoring become the future of post-pandemic remote work?
A survey I conducted amongst CFOs showed that 90% expected outsourcing to increase or at least remain the same. Post pandemic companies and leaders have become much more comfortable with the idea of remote work. They have seen, firsthand, that remote work can be done with great results and great effectiveness, whilst maintaining strong information security and work protocols. I expect global outsourcing to increase, and this will give rise to new and exciting opportunities for ourselves and indeed the IT / BPM industry in Sri Lanka.
Jehan, please tell us about your past work experiences, career growth journey, and your long-term vision.
I joined John Keells 26 years ago as a young executive and worked in a team which conducted some very futuristic and exciting projects in different subsidiaries and industries including transport sector and hotels. I then had the privilege of working for Group finance during which I had the opportunity to work as core team member of project “Excalibur” which was tasked with implementing one of the largest SAP projects in the region at the time. Later in 2005 I was given the opportunity to be a part of the leadership team of Infomate, Sri Lanka’s first shared services set up to serve the JKH Group and have continued in Infomate for 18 years seeing infomate progress from a shared services to one of the largest BPM exporters in Sri Lanka. I have been in involved in SLASSCOM and ACCA for many years and I am very honored to have the opportunity to serve as Chairman. My vision is to make a difference, to my company, to our employees, to the community, the industry and to the country. Sri Lanka has so much potential, a land so richly blessed. Our country needs us at this moment to stand up and fight for our motherland, to ensure that Mother Lanka achieves her full potential.
What sets Infomate apart from other market competitors?
I must say firstly that we believe the global outsourcing market is vast and there is more than enough for all to grow. Hence for us it is collaboration, and complementary services, not necessarily competition. Some aspects which are unique in Infomate’s offering are focus on simplicity, excellence and trust. These three words form our tagline and capture the essence of what we are passionate about. Also unique is our values. Our focus on equal opportunity – over 60% of our workforce are women; we pioneered rural BPM and developed thousands of fledgling careers in our 18 years. Our processes and methodologies and aspiration to help our clients achieve world class standards through KPIs and our unique system of measuring all aspects of performance, through automation, ERP best practices and rigorous focus on continuous improvement.
As the CEO at Infomate, what type of challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?
Whilst Infomate has made tremendous progress and growth, there is still considerable growth potential internationally. Herein lies the challenge of international visibility and international marketing. How to establish our brand internationally, connect with the right people overseas and close deals. We have grown through our strong online presence, through our partner network, through direct marketing and referrals. We will be redoubling our international efforts in the coming months with aggressive expansion in target markets. Whilst Sri Lanka has an abundance of world class talent, particularly in the finance and accounting area, which is a core strength of infomate, having access to a world class talent pool to fuel our growth is a growing challenge. We have overcome this in the past by developing new talent pools, including our rural BPM initiatives and we find new and innovative ways including our “infomate university” training programme and expansion in second cities.
You are also the Chairman of SLASSCOM. In what ways does SLASSCOM act as a catalyst of the growth for the IT and BPM industry in Sri Lanka?
SLASSCOM is an amazing organization, with wonderful people, passionately committed to building Sri Lanka’s IT / BPM industry. It’s truly amazing to see the commitment, the vision, the hard work of the past Chairs and the volunteers. They have given so much of themselves, their time and energy to building the industry. I am truly inspired by the founders and colleagues of SLASSCOM. There are 5 main impact areas, global trade and investment, which aims to build global visibility, encourage FDIs and interest in Sri Lanka’s IT / BPM industry; talent, which aims through a series of interventions, programmes and partnerships, to build a future ready workforce; entrepreneurship and innovation, which has as a goal a 1000 startups and aims to inspire and nurture the next unicorns; policy, wherein we work with government and our partners to advocate for favorable policies to fuel industry growth; finally ESG, where we aim to build the world’s first green IT / BPM destination. The work of SLASSCOM happens through 10 different forums and spans initiatives across Sri Lanka in partnership with a wide variety of stakeholders and partners. The work is done through a dedicated corporate office consisting of a team of 20 and over 400 volunteers.
What has been the driving force to get you where you are today?
A sense of purpose. That we are not here by accident and there is something much bigger than a role or a job, that I, and indeed each of us, have a much larger purpose. Even in tough times, we have something to give, something to contribute, a life we can positively impact and a country to serve. I sincerely believe in a purpose and in the Good Lord above. So many circumstances and situations, some good and others difficult, inexplicably directing out paths and opening the right doors. Of course, each of us has to do our part. Hard work, common sense, humility to listen, keep learning. It’s been a blessing to have had good bosses, great teammates, mentors and the support of family and friends.
What is anything you wish you knew when you first went into this career?
Don’t be afraid to fail or try things; think big; take risks and speak up and be heard.
Who is your modern-day hero and why?
My late father. A doctor who served in hospitals across Sri Lanka, often in tough and dangerous times, whilst prioritizing service over personal success. He chose to stay and serve in Sri Lanka and never left our shoes.
What is your biggest goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I would like to see Sri Lanka realize its potential in the IT / BPM industry of USD 5 billion in exports and a workforce of 200,000 and to be know as the world’s first green IT / BPM destination and I would like to see my company Infomate Pvt Limited one of the largest BPM players in the region and also to play a role in shaping thousands of burgeoning careers of young professionals across Sri Lanka
What are your recommendations to professionals who want to build a career like yours, what are the best practices to adopt, where should they start, and what should they practice?
Getting a good qualification is a great starting point. One must be a lifelong student and equip yourself with some key skills. Sound desktop skill is a must. Today there is every opportunity to master the Microsoft Office suite, including advanced excel, power BI, learn the principles of AI, RPA and maybe a little coding. Good communication skill is a must, whatever career you pursue. I highly recommend Toastmasters and investing in mastering the English language. Having a good boss and mentors, particularly in the early part of your career will help you immensely. Being a professional with principles is a must. Never compromise on values. I also urge each of you to think about your purpose and aim to be a professional with a purpose. Beyond this, there is no substitute for hard work, commitment, teamwork, being pleasant and likeable. Don’t forget to think big, take some risks and enjoy the journey!