Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Wipro: 10 business and leadership lessons from a company with a big heart

Wipro kept its main campuses open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the Wipro kitchens, it served over two million meals. The president of Wipro talks about how companies can navigate safely in a post-pandemic world.

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Wipro is a leading global information technology, consulting, and business process services company. Wipro harness the power of cognitive computing, hyper-automation, robotics, cloud, analytics and emerging technologies to help companies adapt to the digital world and make them successful. A company recognized globally for its comprehensive portfolio of services, strong commitment to sustainability, and good corporate citizenship, Wipro has over 185,000 dedicated employees serving clients across six continents.

I visited the Wipro headquarters in 2019 and I was extremely impressed by the innovation, spirit, and soul of this company. I met with several of their key engineering executives. I also had my first ever ride in an autonomous vehicle that was completely designed by Wipro. I also experimented with state-of-the-art augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) industrial, manufacturing, and retail solutions, as well as machine learning and voice-enabled chatbots using Salesforce's Einstein artificial intelligence (AI) powered CRM applications. 

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Milan Rao, president and global head at Wipro.

To better understand how Wipro was managing their business and helping their global customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ray Wang, CEO and founder of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research, and I invited Wipro's president to join us on our weekly video podcast DisrupTV. Please watch the conversation between Rao, Wang, and I to be inspired and motivated, knowing that businesses can be the greatest platform for change and that values do create value. 

Milan Rao is president and global head at Wipro. Rao heads Wipro's core transformation office -- MIT, or Marketing, Innovation, and Technology -- that is driving Wipro's business transformation and has the charter to develop transformative technology solutions. Rao oversees the CTO Office, which is Wipro's Innovation and R&D hub, and defines the company's technology vision and strategy. Rao also heads up two of Wipro's businesses globally -- Manufacturing and Communications, driving digital transformation across the value chain for all customers in Process & Industrial Manufacturing businesses, Automotive, Aerospace, Defense, and Telecom sectors. Rao is part of Wipro's Group Executive Council, which is the apex decision-making council for Wipro group companies. Previously, Rao was President and CEO of GE Healthcare for India and South Asia, where he managed a billion-dollar business.

Here are my 10 big takeaways from speaking with Milan Rao, president at Wipro: 

  1. Managing a crisis starts with caring about and enabling your stakeholders -- employees, customers, partners, and communities. Rao talked about the enormous effort of mobilizing the Wipro employees. The safety of Wipro employees was priority number one. Food supplies and medical equipment needed to be available for their employees. Wipro shipped over 40,000 desktops to their employees, more laptops, and 30,000 Wi-Fi access points. 93% of the Wipro workforce was enabled for remote business continuity. Rao talked about helping airports manage the responsibilities by enabling their workforce to work from home. 
  2. Resilience built into an organization is key to change management - Rao talked about the importance of culture and core values in terms of shaping a company's resiliency, grit, and giving spirit. 
  3. Values create values. Wipro has four core values and guiding principles: 1. Be passionate about client's success, 2. Be global and responsible, 3. Treat each person with respect, and 4. Underlying integrity in everything we do. These core values shaped Wipro's response during the COVID-19 pandemic in an empathetic and holistic way. 
  4. Knowing your customers means knowing their feelings about now and the next norm. Rao spoke about three phases of responding to the pandemic: 1. react and respond to safety and continuity, 2. businesses coming back and reopening safely, and 3. as business changes, how do you come out stronger for enablement and growth. As you start thinking about customers, you have to think about the normal of today. What are your customers feeling? People are scared today. Companies need to think about safety, accessibility, and a new way to customer engagement. Rao talked about digital commerce as an example. What are customers doing next? Will digital commerce simply become commerce, asked Rao. How can technology like AI and machine learning enable consumers and companies to engage.
  5. Companies must re-image the customer user journeys in the next norm. Business can be the greatest platform for change. We've seen a need for new business models to support contact-less commerce, an acceleration of digital, automation, cloud and AI. What does that mean for clients? How can they be more prepared? Rao said that digital transformation initiatives must include re-imagining the customer user journeys. How can the customer's experiences be digitally enabled. "Everything is about enablement," said Rao. 
  6. Welcome to the world of digital primacy - the digital transformation glass ceiling was shattered. Rao believes that more things will go virtual in the future. He spoke about digital primacy - people need to look at everything from a digital perspective. The digital transformation glass ceiling has been broken. Do digital transformation or be disrupted. 
  7. Trust as a company's core value is at an all-time high. Social interaction with empathy and trust is key in how we engage with stakeholders. Trust is a verb. Your beliefs, words, and actions must be aligned - authenticity matters. 
  8. Business is the greatest platform for change. Rao talked about the Wipro Chairman, Rishad Premji, and the Azim Premji Foundation. I first met Rishad Premji at Nasscom in 2019 and he made a very lasting positive impression with me. Rao talked about Wipro pledging $150 million dollars to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation is focused on education and now safety of humanity. Wipro repurposed their campus canteens to serve over two million meals to people. The foundation also fed over 6.8 million people. Wipro converted their campus in Pune to a 450-bed hospital. The social element of Wpro's response to the pandemic is incredible. Rao talked about technology as a method of building resilience, but society's resilience is all about a culture of giving and empathy. 
  9. Leadership is about protecting and supporting your people. You are not a team because you work together, you are a team because you trust, respect, and care for each other. Rao believes in servant leadership. It's all about the people. Communication is very important. Strong leaders are humble, accessible, and optimistic. 
  10. A positive outlook for the future and resiliency will always enable you to manage through uncertainty. Rao shared a story of a Wipro employee who rode a milk van for several hours to complete his 10-hour shift and rode back another several hours to get home. This one particular Wipro employee-inspired the entire company based on his tireless efforts to serve his customers. Rao reminded us that all of us are able to work hard and to inspire others by our actions. 

Rao reminds us that you can find inspiration and innovation possibilities all around you. We just have to look, we have to feel, and if we are open to it, we can be inspired to create value and make difference. Please watch our conversation with Milan Rao of Wipro for incredible inspiration and new learning about how your company can make a big difference during these difficult times of uncertainty and change.