The best endorsement of a leader is in the number of leaders he grooms

Strategic thinker, author, financial leader, academician?  M P Vijay Kumar refuses to be bracketed as any - perhaps why Chairman of Sify Technologies, Mr. Raju Vegesna leaned on him to chart the financial and strategic roadmap when he bought intp Sify in late 2004.

 

The appointment perhaps had to do with the fact that India’s pioneering ICT company has never believed in doing things by the book. It has quite often been a case of writing the book in the first place. As Chief Financial Officer of Sify Technologies, MPV, as he is popularly known, subscribes to that view. 

 

MPV had all the credentials to guide Sify through the emerging financial reporting landscape given his stellar track record of being an authority on International Financial Reporting Standards, the current default reporting standards in India. His legion of students, many of whom have gone on to occupy management roles, are testimony to his reputation, not just as a teacher, but also an authority on the subject. 

As one of them fondly recalls, “With Vijay, there is never a short-term goalpost. You are constantly pushed to see over the horizon.  His impatience at the status quo has time and again led to a final output far better than the one envisaged. His elephantine memory ensures that the smaller steps are dealt with as detailed as the final output. His perseverance and ability to deal with multiple constraints, both man and methods, are remarkable. And his energy levels…sometimes, you wished you had that.”

 

An outstanding student himself through his formative years, Vijay is a unique blend of practical astuteness and theoretical thoroughness. A rank holder in Chartered Accountancy, a Cost Accountant and Company Secretary, Vijay brought to the table a much-needed mix of pragmatism and foresight, traits that Sify needed in equal measure. 

 

In the early 2000s, Sify was at an inflection point. Its area of operation, retail broadband, was at the receiving end of muddled governance. But Vijay was made of sterner stuff. He did not hesitate to recommend closing the cash and carry business of Retail and focus on the long-term credit driven business of Enterprise. In hindsight, it worked, as Sify is today a recognised leader in the ICT ecosystem, offering a one-of-a-kind MPLS network, a broad spread of top-tiered Data Centers, a growing Cloud and Applications Integration business that boasts alliances with almost all the industry grade players and a growing reputation as a Digital Transformation specialist.

The risks taken early on have paid off handsomely. Sify has clocked growing revenues and net profits 6 years in a row with a CAGR regularly above industry average. And that’s not all. In a clear endorsement that Sify as an Enterprise player, is coming of age, they are now being actively courted by the best-of-breed for partnerships. Its bouquet of services now consists of both home-grown IP licensed services and industry grade services offered through alliances. The growth in business has also led to a growth in the share-of-voice with Vijay as their advocate, being called upon to represent Sify, and the industry in general, at several industry forums.

When Vijay took charge of the financial function, he saw it as an opportunity to go beyond mere reportage of the numbers. Over time, he charted clear directions for Business Finance, Operational efficiencies, Financial audits, Compliances and Reporting. He led from the front with Sify’s first Integrated Report and Sustainability report (now in its fourth year), starting a precedent that peers have started emulating. As his team affirms, with him, it is not about a top-down approach, but giving a broad-spectrum brief and refining the inputs that follow. Quite often, these inputs have led to a product far exceeding those for a new initiative …. the Integrated Report 2018 being one.  Neither is he cautious of letting his team take charge. The result has been a collage of leaders of different calibre leading individual disciplines. The advantage of such freedom has been that his leaders have been able to take on multi-disciplinary roles across the company, both horizontal and vertical.

 

His face-time with the industry has had another rub-off. He has had invitees come in for interactions with his team for an unfiltered exchange of ideas, while the teacher in him gladly took a back seat. The recent introduction of GST is a case in point. By sending the team out to learn from the best and also by inviting them in to address, he ensured that all bases were covered. Through the entire process, handpicked leaders played mentors. The end result was that by end 2017, Sify was one of the first companies to file the GSTN for a majority of States.

 

Quite naturally, such credentials are very much in demand. Very recently, he was voted in as Member, IFRS Advisory Council 2019-21 and also serves as Council Member of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India since 2016 and as Member on the SEBI Committee on Disclosures in Accounting. 

 

His leadership roles include heading the Accounting Standards Board, Financial Reporting Review Board and Committee on Accounting Standards for Local Bodies as Vice Chairman and the Digital Accounting & Assurance Board and Valuation Standards Board as Chairman.

 

His industry associations have seen him being part of the CFO Forum, the National Committee on Financial Reporting and the Accounting Standards Board of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

National and International awards have come his way, among them being recognised as among the 100 most influential CFO’s in India by CIMA, making the Roll of Honour of the Top 100 CFOs in India and very recently, the National Award for contribution to Financial Accounting by Capital Foundation Society.

 

He also dons other hats; as a speaker on the professional circuit in India and the Middle East & South East Asia on IFRS, Accounting Standards, Audit, Corporate Laws and Capital Market and as an Author of over 8 popular titles on Accounting, Accounting Standards, Audit Standards and Company Law that are in continuous reprints.


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