Friday Q&A: Abhinav Kumar – TCS



Abhinav Kumar

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Chief communications & marketing officer – Tata Consultancy Services Europe


What is….?

The last book you read:

Solo by William Boyd. Its the latest James Bond Thriller, handed out at our London reception, which celebrated the best of British  culture. For over six decades Ian Fleming’s iconic spy has shaken and stirred the world’s imagination and this book doesn’t disappoint.

Your favourite waste of time:

I don’t believe in wasting time. I always keep an FT or an Economist magazine handy, even for taxi rides.

The best bit of a trans-Atlantic flight:

Not taking one. Most of my travel rests in the hexagon between London, Paris, Brussels, Zurich, Frankfurt and Amsterdam – with great speed rails services from Eurostar, ICE, Thalys etc. Trans continental flights are great for catching up on in-flight moves though.

The app you cannot do without:

CNN & NDTV news apps. Keeps you hyper-connected to what is happening globally and not just in your bubble.

The best stress buster:

Time spent with children

The best work trip ever:

I spoke once at events in Colombia ( Bogota & Medellin ) – its a lovely country with the warmest people in the world, and the best coffee you can find. Would love to go back and spend more time touring it.

The best day of the week:

Friday. Since so much has been done in the week and less demands come in for your time, its normally the perfect day to take a bite into important but not urgent things like writing your next article.

The one thing you would grab if the office was on fire:

A fire extinguisher

The thing you know now, you wish you had known five years ago:

Never sacrifice a strategic imperative for a tactical priority. Kicking the can down the road only comes back and bites you.

The greatest influence on your career:

So many to count. I try to learn from all the great people I have the privilege to work with. A great source of inspiration for many of us in our company is actually our Chief Executive Chandra, who joined the company as a trainee and worked his way to the top through hard work, passion and incomparable personal drive. He inspires me to not believe in any limits.

The achievement you are most proud of:

One is six years old and the other short of 2 years. My kids are always my first priority and if me and my wife can raise them up well, that would be the most important achievement in our life.

The steepest learning curve you have been through:

I moved to South America to start up our Communications & marketing division there in 2004. We had never had operations there previously. Building a reputation and brand from scratch, while learning Spanish – which was essential to working in the region was a steep challenge. Ultimately I worked it up to a level that I was giving media interviews in Spanish and our company achieved a regional top 3 position in media share and top 10 in Brand in just 3 years.

The one thing you would change about the industry:

The IT industry is playing an increasingly important role in solving the world’s problems. Technology has and will continue to exponentially transform how individuals, companies, governments and entire societies interact with each other and go about their business. The scope for progress is limitless. I was reading a National geographic this morning on how IT enabled genomics could actually help us bring back some species that have been made extinct by human actions. Another story in Time magazine profiled a boy who had been lost on a train when he was 5 years old. He could not find his way home and adopted by another family.  As an adult, he spent hours  on Google maps everyday for years to try and relocate his village from his infant memory of land features. He finally found it and was eventually reunited with his mother at the age of 33. I strongly believe that the IT industry is a strong force for good in the world. However at times, we need to improve how we communicate and use less technical jargon, favouring simple human communications instead.

The best thing about being a Comms director:

You get a great bird’s eye view of our business, competitors, risks and what is happening in the world. Puts you in an exponentially more strategic position to advise your business leadership in keeping your company on course, while protecting and enhancing its reputation. With the advent of social media, and people spending more of their waking hours on those platforms, companies needs to go where their audiences are and there is transformational role for CCOs to play in the new digital era.

The biggest challenge facing brands:

Staying relevant in the digital age. Your brand is no longer the millions you spend on advertising on broadcast media, but the billions of conversations taking place on it on Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. One badly handled crisis can destroy a brand built with care over years. Communications has a crucial role to play here.

MarketingFriday Q&A: Abhinav Kumar – TCS