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  Som Mittal, Digital India Meeting Point (2000)  

Som MittalHe reflects all the essential qualities and characteristics of the perfect manager. Doesn't matter whether managers are born or made. All one needs to pep up sagging spirits is just an encounter with this "Josh Machine", who incidentally, came from the automotive industry to the IT sector. Widely regarded, as a person with excellent interpersonal skills his perpetual smile never seems to go on holiday. "We spend a larger part of our time in the office and we'd rather do it with a smile," says Som Mittal, President & CEO of Digital India, one of the largest listed multinational software services companies in the country.

A strategic business alliance agreement is in place between Compaq and Digital India, enabling Digital to work with Compaq's customers worldwide. "Compaq mainly focuses on domestic business, like any other Compaq subsidiary in the world, whereas Digital India is a purely, independent software services company," explains Som on the uniqueness of this merger between these two companies. This enables Compaq to leverage on Digital India's software services expertise, and in turn enhance their own deliverables for their customers. "We can create our own dreams," chuckles Som.

With the Internet making major headway into the country and with IDC's recent report indicating that by the year-end India will have one million Internet users, there is much excitement around the companies. "One area where you need total freedom is the Internet. India maybe a late starter, but we are catching on pretty fast. The awareness to the Internet is good for the country," says Som, a metallurgical engineer from IIT, Kanpur and an MBA from the prestigious IIM, Ahmedabad.

Som Mittal's upbringing has been one of upholding value systems of humility, high levels of integrity and ethics. Once these basics are within you, "the rest of it automatically comes", and herein lies the secret of Som's success. It's an open environment out there and no hierarchy. And it's his ability to reach out to his colleagues not, just out of artificial concern, but also with love and affection that makes people respond to him. It's not about ESOPs. It's not about making money. The challenges are what make it all so exciting.

Eleven years in Bangalore, he was head of CII, Karnataka and now a member of the Task Force that's designated to take Bangalore Forward. His opinion is that the Chief Minister is sincere in what he is doing and in fact, challenges his own colleagues in the bureaucracy to perform. "Bangalore is still a better place to live in. Maybe Bangalore will not emerge as a Singapore-like city of today. Maybe a Singapore of say, 10 years back, and that's good enough," he says. And according to him, it's about time we stopped this comparison of Bangalore and Hyderabad, especially after the American President's visit. "If Bangalore had all the software companies, it would be a problem, too. I think it's good to have more centers being developed. If our infrastructure, roads and power can be improved because of competition, it's good," an answer that perhaps, reflects Som's philosophy - live and let live.

Interestingly, Som's childhood memories are of Langford town as a 5-year old kid and his first school was Baldwin Boys. Yes, he remembers the Elgin flourmill, a prominent landmark of the area, now razed to the ground to accommodate residential apartments. From Bangalore to Calcutta, Rohtak, and Jallandhar - Som's family kept moving since his father was in government service. Som's seen it all. And now? "We can't make location as a constraint," implying that if he has to leave Bangalore to move up the ladder, so be it. "Time" is something that Som doesn't have enough. Work, family, traveling - all need time. His reply makes sense, "It's all by choice and one learns to maximize time."

And all the while that he sat through the interview, he never stopped smiling - even once.

 
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