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Management Strategies

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Bringing Banking to the People

India is a land of extremes when it comes to technology. On one hand are the modern centers of business; on the other hand is a countryside that largely remains saddled with outdated infrastructures.

With much of its customer base located in rural India, ICICI Bank's (Mumbai; $38.5 billion in assets) Pravir Vohra, who heads the bank's technology management group, is challenged with improving ICICI's technology in a country where access to the pipes is a luxury for some. "Access to rural areas in India poses a challenge even in the physical world," he says. Yet, Vohra is optimistic. "The good news is that the infrastructure in these areas is improving rapidly," he says. "We see rural India more as an opportunity than as a challenge."

According to Vohra, ICICI is helping to fund large-scale infrastructure projects in rural areas. And, "Improving macro indicators like education, income levels and comfort with technology clearly indicate that rural India is in the throes of a massive economic upsurge," he relates. "We are excited to be amongst the front-runners in riding this wave."

Hang 10

At the wave's crest is Vohra. He manages the technology for the retail bank, international bank and the general IT infrastructure across the ICICI bank group. He also is at the helm of a department that architects the bank's enterprisewide technology strategy. According to Vohra, the Technology Management Group (TMG) constantly looks for ways to leverage new technology in each of the bank's business groups.

"TMG plays a pivotal role in defining and scoping projects and selecting appropriate technology for business groups, and is a veritable bridge between the technology function in business groups and the technology service providers," Vohra explains. The group also is responsible for "stewarding enterprisewide technology initiatives" as well as laying down standards and policies in the area of technology, Vohra adds.

Pravir Vohra,

Head, Technology Management Group,
Technology & E-Commerce,
(Mumbai, India; $38.5 billion in assets)

But, Vohra notes, technology is not the finish line. "Our belief at ICICI Bank is that technology should be an integral part of business decision making," he says. "In line with this belief, our technology teams -- as well as budgets -- are embedded within the various business groups."

Small IT teams are dedicated to specific business groups -- such as Internet banking, treasury and cards -- attending strategy and review meetings, implementing process improvements and technology innovations, and providing overall tech support. "This approach has helped us create an IT enterprise that is extremely responsive to business needs both in terms of functionality and scale," Vohra says.

With such tight working relationships among IT and lines of business, it is important for today's technology executives to have good business acumen, Vohra stresses. "The IT executive has to match the entrepreneurial mind-sets existing within the business groups by foreseeing business trends and proactively designing solutions -- sometimes before the business groups have expressed the need for them," he explains.

"To play an active role in recasting business processes at speeds that match business decisions, developing optimum ... solutions at every juncture while not losing sight of the need to leverage existing infrastructures is the real challenge for our teams today," Vohra adds.

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