— Brian Pereira
Mumbai, Feb 10 2016 – The 24th edition of the Nasscom India Leadership Forum (NILF) kicked off here today with some noticeable differences in the setup and conference formats. With the theme ‘The Smart Enterprise – Transformative to Disruptive’ there were numerous discussions on disruption, disrupters, innovation and how business needs to collaborate with startups. The air was filled with optimism notwithstanding the gloomy global economic scenario. Everyone wanted to believe that it’s the right time to be in India, which is the fastest growing economy in the world. In fact, the government’s Make in India event that showcases India’s manufacturing prowess, will be held not far from this venue, and on the 13th of Feb, immediately after NILF 2016. A must visit for international visitors attending NILF 2016.
NIlf 2016 kicked off with a show of glitz, technology and a performance by the dance group Illuminari. The dancers with their neon lit performance enthralled the audience, and they danced to a foot stopping medley of Michael Jackson hits. So untypical of Nasscom, which was erstwhile considered to be a staid business conference. But since last year, when the IT services lobby group celebrated it’s 25th anniversary, there have been many noteworthy changes to the show.
When Nasscom President R Chandrasekhar came on stage to deliver the welcome address, he found no lectern. On asking for one, he was told there is a remote controller in his jacket pocket – which activated a motorised lectern on scissor legs that popped up from under the stage, right before him. Nasscom is going hi-tech!
Three giant LED screens ran along the width of the Grand Ballroom at the Grand Hyatt hotel where the conference is being held. And there were LED screens on the sides of the ballroom too, that displayed speaker profiles, Twitter feeds and audience questions. An LED arch was installed at the entrance of the pre-function area, with digital branding. These replaced the old vinyl standees and panels.
NILF even had its own mascot named ‘Nascii’ albeit a digital one, that took the form of a cheeky robot. Nascii zipped across the giant LED screens between sessions. This digital mascot reminds us of today’s virtual digital assistants Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now.
The emcee kicked off the event with a conversation with Nascii, asking it what else it could do apart from making intelligent conversation. And Nascii responded with an impromptu song and dance to a foot-tapping Bollywood song. With artificial intelligence, virtual assistants can be human!
We also observed new conference formats with labels such as Quick Grab, Leaders Speak, hash tag, round table and Executive Overview.
Quick Grabs is a moderated session where two or three speakers make short presentations and then sit down to chat with the the session Chairperson. Leader Speak has visionaries speeches by corporate leaders. And hash tag is an on-demand session probably put together at the last moment, considering a request for that session from delegates. Executive Overview and Round Table are exclusive sessions; admission is by invitation only.
Post lunch session are perceived to be “heavy” and “difficult” to absorb. But Nasscom brought in musician Clinton Cerejo, who composed a song in 5 minutes flat. The lyrics were created by the conference delegates! He used an app called Staff Pad on his Microsoft Surface Pro tablet-laptop.
As usual, the last session of the day was lighter, entertaining yet insightful. On day one CNBC-TV Managing Editor Shereen Bhan moderated a panel titled ‘Surviving Success: Breaking the next growth barrier’. The panellists were Ravi Venkatesan, Chairman, Bank of Baraoda, Rishad Premji, Chief Strategy Officer & Board Member, Wipro and Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & MD Nestle India.
Ms Bhan steered the panel in all directions and digressed a lot. But it was Ravi Venkatesan and Suresh Narayanan who saved the panel and steered it back on course.
The panel agreed that good leadership was lacking today, and that today’s leaders need courage, vision, learning agility. It is also important to be collaborative, to communicate, and to be contemporary.
Wipro’s Premji summed up the session with a punchline: “It is important to be a disrupted. But don’t be disruptive” he said.