Kyndryl India: the 'startup' with a 100-year legacy and its plans for the future

Video not supported in your device
Kyndryl, IBM's recently spun-off global technology services division, with about 90,000 employees and 4,600 clients, is charting out its own path with a startup mindset.

Startups and corporates have very distinct differences. Everything about corporates is formal, structured, operated with protocols, and in most cases there is resistance to innovations. When it comes to listed corporates, at times, the operating focus is defined and redefined on a quarter-on-quarter basis.

However, startups thrive on innovations and operate with a trouble-spotting and trouble-solving approach, the work culture is informal where ideas are exchanged freely, creativity is valued, and the organisational goals keep shifting to remain in sync with ground realities.

The tales of corporates embracing startup culture in a successful manner, and making demonstrative positive changes would be far and few. But, New York headquartered Kyndryl Holdings, the spun-off Global Technology Services division of IBM, which got listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and started trading from Oct. 22 last year is one such corporate treading the startup way.

In a recent interaction, Lingraju Sawkar, President, Kyndryl India, an IBM-veteran of 13 years, told Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO, YourStory, that role changes from a managerial position to that of an entrepreneur.

For Lingraju, from a leadership perspective, taking the organisation, which has a history of 100-year-old-stabilised organisation, into the flexibility and speed and agility of a startup is exciting.

“We are discovering and building our own culture around the teams and for us to take it through,” said Lingraju.

Globally, Kyndryl Holdings caters to 4,600 clients, across 80 countries, with an employee strength of close to 90,000, offering cloud, data and artificial intelligence (AI), network and edge, advisory and implementation services.

As a separate entity, which provides services and solutions to help the digitisation journey of its clients, which includes 75 of the Fortune 100 companies, Lingraju said that Kyndryl is the custodian of the vital systems of its clients which has an end-user impact.

“We have our own trajectory, our own growth path, and our own freedom of action to choose as we go ahead now,” Lingraju adds.

“It's a great time - having the opportunity to take our clients into a digital transformation journey that's happening right now, which the pandemic accelerated,” he adds.

Interestingly, the “Kyn” in Kyndryl is representative of “kin” and of the bonds and relationship among the people and with the clients. The “dryl” comes from "tendril," signifying new growth and connections, like a small plant.

Employees as ambassadors

On the way customers see Kyndryl, Lingraju emphasises on the importance of employees. “Our employees are the ambassadors of the brand, and they live the brand,” he says.

“How do we align and how do we get the best of them (employees) is where the opportunity lies,” Lingraju adds.

All the people working at the company, first and foremost, need to understand what's the connection to the end point. Understanding how Kyndryl’s customers' use it is crucial - whether it is Mother Dairy that ships out milk, or Dr Lal PathLabsthat delivers medical reports.

“So, establishing that connection between the recipient, which is the end consumer, and what we do is the first connection that empowers people to really think about the brand and what they represent,” says Lingraju.

Fighting the talent war

The recently listed company is hopeful and optimistic about sustaining talent at a time when there is a huge technology hiring frenzy in the industry.

“We come from a $19 billion stable organisation. So, it's like, you've got the stability of a large base, but you also have the flexibility and agility to work as a startup,” Lingraju adds.

He is also hopeful that its large customer base across industries and technologies would be able to pull new talent and retain older ones too.

“It is like a university. You sit in one place, and you can work and build skills, either in the industry or within various domains, and you can learn a lot,” says Lingraju.

In his opinion, the diversified peer group with trained engineers and scientists would also provide a great environment to grow.

Advice to young generation

Speaking about the time he started out in IBM after business school, Lingraju said that the task which he had was to ensure that IBM's prices went out at the same time to everybody, so that there was no distributor undercutting in the market.

He also recalls how he went around loading fax machines at midnight, and running up to press the start button at the same time.

“As a young professional, don't say no to anything that comes your way. Because something good will always come out of it,” says Lingraju.

Staying ahead

For enterprises to stay ahead in the cutting-edge technology space, Lingraju emphasises on the importance of partnerships with other players to satisfy what customers want and what matters to them the most.

“Building an ecosystem as a partner, and finding complementing capabilities that both of them bring will ensure that if you don't have it, you can always partner with someone and then other people are good in that area.”

He agrees enterprises need to bring in diverse talent on board. “With diversity comes a fair degree of differential thinking that can give you a difference,” he says.

Going forward

For the next twelve months, Kyndryl aims to stabilise the organisation from a customer perspective and deliver results. It is also aiming to be the most sought-after place for people to work. Currently, it is getting its offices ready and working on setting up office policies around people and culture.

For Lingraju, what is exciting is thee opportunity to build a brand. "The opportunity to create something in a manner that can leave a lasting impression for everyone.”

Edited by Anju Narayanan


Updates from around the world