When a leader has the courage to own failures and shortcomings, it sends a strong signal and the team follows suit
A business is differentiated by the value it creates and that’s what enables it to sustain itself in the long run
Synechron is the largest independent pure-play technology consulting and outsourcing provider for the financial services industry, specializing in the banking & financial services domains. The company has grown on its own without any venture capital funding and is a $300-million firm with 5,500 employees servicing clients from offices in 16 countries across the globe. We talk to the CEO and Co-Founder of Synechron, Faisal Husain on how this journey came about.
Looking back at your early life, what shaped you to become the person you are today? Any interesting anecdotes you would like to share?
Speaking of my early life, I was in Nigeria where my family was based initially. We then migrated to Bhopal in India, wherein I spent most of my childhood. I recollect my father taking me out for walks early in the morning wherein he would tell me “Son, we are simple people from a humble background and I want you to remember one thing, dream big and work hard to make those dreams a reality.” Hard work, passion, love and humility is the recipe to success and this lesson is something that has stuck with me throughout, till today. It was this lesson that helped me realize the dream of Synechron. As a professional, I believe that being humble and grounded is critical and goes a long way in being successful not only as an individual but as a professional too. Being positive and empathetic has enabled me to be clear and confident when it comes to making important business decisions and also be sensitive towards clients and employees.
Tell us about your professional journey. How did you start out and what were the building blocks of your success?
I moved to India from Nigeria with my family, in the 1990s, and then to New York for higher studies. I always dreamt of working on Wall Street and I realized this dream when I got my first job with Magna Software as a junior systems analyst. Post Magna Software, I worked with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Dun and Bradstreet. My time on Wall Street with these financial giants, allowed me to interact and network with some of the best minds and pique their brains on important insights on the complete IT outsourcing and consulting business as a whole. It was precisely, during this period that I observed some glaring gaps in the technology and consulting services space pertaining to the financial services sector. I saw this as an opportunity and this realization led me to take an important decision – of quitting my high paying job and start out my own company with my close friends Zia Bhutta and Tanveer Saulat. We started out from a garage, with a setup of about seven people without venture funding. There were a couple of factors that ensured our success; one was our customer-centric approach, and the second was the idea of always being agile and nimble. In our 14 years as a company, we have managed to remain a fully self-funded company that is profitable till date.
How difficult was it to find the right co-founders and get funding?
After the idea of establishing Synechron germinated, my friends Tanveer Saulat and Zia Bhutta too decided to trade off their highly rewarding careers and join me in realizing my dream. In that sense, it wasn’t difficult to find the right co-founders as we shared a common long-term vision and were aligned in our core values. Realizing the dream of making Synechron a profitable company that was not only customer-centric but also innovative in terms of the solutions and consulting was an idea that resonated with all three of us. Our vision was to form a company that could transform the way IT services were delivered. With bootstrapping being the sole source of our funding, Synechron has grown purely on the basis of its reputation, relationships and references. We started out with our personal capital and today we run a fully self-funded and continually profitable company growing at a rate north of 32 per cent YoY.
How was your journey to your present role as CEO?
My journey to being a CEO is a story of belief, values, friendship, and calculated risks. I have always believed that a business model needs to be built in such a way that it creates value with an eye on profitability. A business is differentiated by the value it creates and that’s what enables it to sustain itself in the long run. Secondly, the levels of profitability may vary, but a focus on profitability is a must; and this is what I always practice at Synechron. My journey to being the Chief Executive at Synechron has been a wholesome learning experience. I have witnessed myself transforming from a software professional solving software bugs to a CEO sitting in a board room and solving complex business challenges. The journey from working with Magna Software, Merrill Lynch and Dun and Bradstreet to Synechron enabled me to understand the dynamics of the business at a micro as well as macro level. The entrepreneurial plunge has made me go through ups and downs. However the setbacks and low periods have always served as learnings, instead of being roadblocks.
What is your leadership mantra?
I personally believe that there are many facets of being successful. To me what appeals the most is the ability of a leader to be accountable and inspire integrity. When a leader has the courage to own failures and shortcomings, it sends a strong signal and the team follows suit. Secondly, it is imperative for any leader to have his co-workers and employees buy into the vision of the business. It takes discipline to achieve and maintain success and the ability to successfully execute an idea is what defines a successful entrepreneur.
What kind of work culture do you promote? How do you go about instilling that culture in your organization?
I believe in a collaborative work culture, which in turn fosters an “Open Door Policy.” Because of the open environment at Synechron, teamwork and collaboration have become the core pinnacle of knowledge sharing. This practice has enabled employees at Synechron to avoid redundancy while accelerating innovation and solving problems. Every employee here gets a chance to express his/her voice to the top management in open forums such as “Town hall meetings”, “Huddle Week” and “Ask the CEO” initiative. I also have face-to-face interactions with new joinees in “Meet the CEO” sessions which takes place once a quarter. I encourage internal networking through our social networking platform Yammer, which also allows our global workforce to connect with one another via a single click. We also have a process where our employees can rate their overall experience by taking internal satisfaction surveys from time to time.
How did you build your core team? What were the key qualities you were looking for?
Having the right team is a major factor in building a successful organization. We are successful today because we work cohesively and share a common vision for Synechron. There are occasions when we extensively debate and brainstorm, but have managed to overcome challenges and find constructive solutions. Ensuring that I personally handpicked the leadership team, combined with the strategic delegation of responsibility, has been pivotal to the success of Synechron. Primarily, our management team consists of technology as well as domain experts who also double up as excellent consultants. We are efficient and successfully provide value because most of our leaders are specialists having vast experience in the business verticals and target geographies under our focus. They are responsible for driving the strategic agenda of business growth in their territories. We are aligned to our values and vision. We have always been balanced risk takers, very measured and calculated. To this end, we believe in the old adage, “Hire someone smarter than yourself and get out of their way.”
How do you perceive the HR technology space in India? What growth do you predict for this sector? What are your expectations?
Driven by the trend of SMAC, Indian companies are increasingly talking about progressive terms like Cloud, Big Data Analytics, mobile and social branding. Almost all business functions are leveraging the power of these innovations and HR is no exception. Cloud has drastically transformed the way HR has been functioning traditionally. The concept of Cloud has made it possible to host HR applications and packages without any worries of maintenance and up-gradation, with low cost. Mobility has made it possible to manage the workforce which is geographically dispersed. Workers are empowered to remain connected with their offices, no matter where they are located on the planet. HR analytics allows employers to drive those trends and patterns of employees which are otherwise not apparent over a longer time span. HR analytics helps organizations make the right decisions about hiring, retention, training and performance appraisals.
Any specific trends you would like to talk about that have really changed the face of HR?
The first half of 2015 has proved to be highly promising for businesses across the globe. But the war for talent seems to be intensifying. Even some of the biggest and most reputed employers of one time are now struggling to retain their talent and create pipeline of future leaders. As more and more organizations are now realizing the importance of maintaining a healthy diversity at workforce, they are focusing on diversifying their teams to get greater access to the talent pool. Today, a high-performing, inclusive workforce is about having the right people in the right positions at the right time, irrespective of their age, race, gender, physical conditions, ethnicity and sexual orientation. For lateral hiring, employers are now seeking to hire professionals who are not only technologically sound, but also have a fair understanding about their domains. Offering products, services and solutions with a consultative approach has become the foremost need for businesses.