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Scoring a goal

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DQW Bureau
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India would be participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Football in South

Africa as well as in the 2014 edition in Brazil. It would also be a part of two

FIFA Confederations Cups that fall within the 2007-2014 period. And the major

representation would not come from Bengal or Goa (the Meccas of Indian

football), but from Hyderabad (once a nursery of Indian football, but now more

renowned for its IT prowess).

Lest we are accused of daydreaming, it would be prudent to make it clear that

it's this IT prowess, rather than any footballing skills of the Bhaichung

Bhutias, that would ensure India's presence in the ultimate footballing arenas.

Don't know how much succor it would give to the numerous soccer aficionados

across the country, but every Indian should be proud of the fact that

Hyderabad-based Satyam becomes the first Indian IT services company to ink a

deal with FIFA to become the official IT service provider for its flagship

event.

The agreement was endorsed in a joint signing ceremony recently between

Joseph S Blatter, President, FIFA, and B Ramalinga Raju, Chairman and Founder,

Satyam in Durban. While this was a major feather in the cap of not just Satyam,

but the entire IT services sector in India, it was typical of the company and

its head, Raju, to not make a big splash about it.

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But why has such a low-profile company taken such a high-profile event

sponsorship? Does it mean a change of Satyam's branding strategy? Does it mean

it will now resort to the high decibel marketing similar to that of a company

that it is often compared with-HCL?

Far from that, Satyam's FIFA sponsorship is less about high-pitch marketing

and more about targeting the new white space of media and entertainment. White

space from the point of view of the Indian IT services industry. A secondary

reason is to reach its name out to as many as possible without making too much

noise.

A change in strategy?



For some time, Satyam has been working on its 'differentiation', Shailesh

Shah, Chief Strategy Officer, Satyam though was quick to explain that

differentiaition for Satyam does not mean differentiation in terms of projecting

one ability or the other, unlike, say, HCL does.

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Satyam Chairman Ramalinga Raju

is creating value by taking derisking to new levels, even while retaining

his and the company's low profile

“We believe that the markets we are serving are much larger than the

traditional view our peers take in defining them-we say we are in the business

of offering knowledge and technology enabled services while our peers call

themselves IT and BPO companies,” said Shah.

The definition of a 'market' is where Satyam is trying to position itself

away from the top three Indian IT services providers. Catering to multiple

verticals, under what is called a verticalization strategy, was started by the

likes of Infosys and TCS and followed even by the tier-2 players like Patni,

Hexaware, and MphasiS among others. While this strategy has been quite

successful for most companies, there remains the possibility of all verticals

not receiving the same focus across multiple geographies.

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What Satyam has done is an intelligent mapping of both geographies and

verticals to determine smaller niche areas where it can more easily attain

critical mass. “When the strength of a company is knowledge and technology-led

services, the markets it serves cannot be confined to specific geographies

and/or industries. This creates a large market, and to ensure choices are made

and focused on, the need is to look at it in smaller constituents,” said Shah.

Some examples would reiterate the point better-while auto companies from

around the world are clearly pursuing larger markets, the way in which issues

arise and get addressed are distinctly different when one views auto companies

in Japan, France, Germany, or in the US. “One way of looking at the industry is,

said Shah, we think of all auto companies as being similar and pursue solutions

thereof. However, there is clear distinctness in the needs of our clients in

each of these geographies, arising out of local economic conditions, policies,

and competitive pressures. Accordingly, it is very important for us to look at

the world of auto as several distinct markets.”

Similarly, there are clusters of companies in oil and gas, chemicals,

pharmaceuticals, metals, financial services, discrete manufacturing, travel and

logistics, retail, public services, telecoms, technology infrastructure, media

and entertainment, and in consumer durables and non-durables. And Satyam has

been active in taking advantage of these clusters rather than going for the

full-fledged verticals.

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Consequently, it is sharper for Satyam to focus on financial services in

India as a market, pursuing metals in Europe, and pharmaceuticals in

North-eastern US. By doing so, it looks at the world of about 150 distinct

markets, and the way it serves its 600 clients in each of these markets becomes

that much sharper. It impacts the company's economics from both a build

perspective and a focus perspective and also helps in building a solid derisking

strategy.

Obviously, this has also helped the company in increasing the profitability

of contracts. And, thanks to its 'markets', Satyam has continued to bring in new

customers and retain existing business. Ramalinga Raju, CEO, Satyam recently

confirmed that the company was working toward eight new engineering deals, worth

$20-25 million. Satyam also added 29 new customers in the last quarter with the

$5 million-plus customers increasing to sixty-five clients in total. Its

approach also helped Satyam to leverage on its offshore mix and to more

favorable terms for operations, helping negate a $25 million currency loss in

the first quarter of 2007.

If this redefinition of 'markets into clusters' and the de-risking it enables

have helped Satyam to differentiate itself, the third USP has been the way it

managed its white spaces. Unlike most of its peers who have gone for much

high-profile M&As, Satyam has made smaller acquisitions, but most of them have

been critically mapped to these white spaces it has determined.

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Growth through acquisition



Therefore, in the last four years, Satyam acquired four times: in asset

management consulting, business intelligence, infrastructure management, and now

in management consulting. “We will continue to do so to fulfill our growth

strategies, and will take cognizance of both geographic and competency

requirements in determining what next!” In fact, the next 'big white space'

could be animation and entertainment where the company is moving, strategically,

the inorganic way to build critical mass for itself.

Said Shah, “It has become critical for us to ensure that we deliver

exceedingly well in providing counsel to our clients and services. Each area has

a different resourcing approach and, while our client managers ensure we fulfill

SLAs and have measures in place to track performance proactively, our delivery

teams are focused on balancing competency with distinctively superior projects,

continuous streams of work, and shared services.”

“Increasingly, we are noticing that our ability to reuse components, be more

process-oriented, move closer to zero defects (not unlike manufacturing), ensure

we have greater bandwidth to create exciting teams, and manage career

expectations of our team members, are rapidly improving to create new

standards,” he added.

In the ultimate analysis, it's clear that Satyam has not just differentiated

itself from other top IT vendors, but has succeeded in building a solid platform

for itself out of these differentiations. Long regarded by analysts as the

'conservative' entity of Indian IT, Satyam might just prove that even simple

guys could win the race. And might just inspire the real Indian football team to

also qualify for the FIFA World Cup one day.

RAJNEESH DE



rajneeshd@cybermedia.co.in

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