Mohan Kumar K L - A Substance With Style Is a Potent MIX (CEO - Modus Information Systems)



I am a firm believer in the ‘Delegate and Empower’ style of management. While I am always available to the team, I encourage them to operate independently. I seldom micromanage issues unless in exceptional situations.


Tell us about your background, journey, and upbringing.

I was born and brought up in Bangalore. I come from a typical lower-middle-class family, where honesty, hard work, and human relations were held in good values.
My primary education took place in a local Kannada medium school. 

Based on my academics in the 7th standard Public Exams, I could get into a premier School, which was then considered as the most coveted school. I was counted as an average student amongst my otherwise brilliant peers. Though I did reasonably well, I do not have claims to glory in terms of academic achievements.

I wanted to stand out from the crowd and hence consciously chose to pursue graduation in Science, much to the chagrin of my parents, rather than following my elder brother into an engineering college. 

My aim was to get into civil services, but by chance, I appeared for a Banking Recruitment Board exam and got selected as a Probationary Officer in a public sector bank. The pay scale and privilege associated with the Bank officer’s job proved irresistible and thus my career in Banking began. 

I was the youngest officer of the bank, the distinction which I held for nearly three years. During the initial years, I worked in branches of different sizes and profiles and got thorough exposure to branch banking, lending, Trade Finance, etc. Soon I got tired of the routine nature of the job and opted to move into the IT setup of the Bank as a programmer. 

The banking technology was in its infancy in those days, and I was given an option to lead the branch automation projects of the bank. This experience got me into Infosys, in the Banking Business Unit. The leading Core Banking Product, Finacle, was under development then and I got an opportunity to play a small part in that endeavor. 

I spent the next 19 years with Infosys, donning multiple roles in Product development, Quality Assurance, Product Implementation, Business, and Technology Consulting, and client engagement, etc. 

This is the most defining period of my career. Around 2015, RBI gave licenses to new Payment Banks and Small Finance Banks. FIS was at the forefront of providing technology solutions to these segments. I joined FIS as a Vice President and Head of Banking practice. 

This gave me a thorough exposure to build the end-to-end technology landscape for the Banks in terms of Infrastructure, Applications, Operations, and Production Support.

I was also responsible for the P&  L of the Group and thus gained rounded experience of managing the entire Business. Once the implementations were done and I slipped into a routine, restlessness overtook me and I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug.

My old friends from the Banking days, the founders of my current organization, Modus, asked me to take a small stake and lead the Company. Modus started from scratch, had made a niche for itself in the services segment. 

The conservative and ethical style of Management had ensured a good reputation and financial strength for the Company. Now I have taken the mantle from the founders to lead Modus into the next orbit - with big plans and audacious ambitions.


When and how did you get clarity on what you wanted to do?

I think the seeds of ambition were latent in me right from the beginning. Even as a young Probationary Officer I used to dream of advancing in my career and reaching the top job in the bank. But my thoughts got crystallized when I was selected for the Leadership Development Program of Infosys called the ‘Tiered Leadership Program’. 

It was an initiative to groom leadership from within the ranks and as a tiered leader, I was placed under mentoring by the Business Head of Banking Group. He took a keen interest in my Leadership journey. He used to take me to critical meetings with clients, each of which was a practical demonstration of the art of Leadership. 

I could learn first-hand the art of managing client relations, positioning the organization, messaging, and the subtle art of negotiation. As I got advanced through the tiers of leadership, I got access to multiple senior business leaders of Infosys, allowing me to see them in action, have a peek into their thought
processes and learn from their management styles. 

That experience gave me a rounded perspective of business leadership. I guess this is the period when my career goals and purpose in life got much clarity.


                                           

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What does your typical workday look like?

I am a firm believer in the ‘Delegate and Empower’ style of management. While I am always available to the team, I encourage them to operate independently. I seldom micromanage issues unless in exceptional situations.

The typical time wasters are meetings and emails. I am not a fan of long winding meetings and I prefer to keep my meetings brief and focused. While I keep watching my emails regularly, I resist the temptation to respond to every mail cced to me.

This allows me enough bandwidth to focus on strategic and long-term initiatives.
Typically, I prefer to keep the first couple of hours of the working day free for my planning and thinking. The rest of the day is for connecting with people, customers and staying in touch with the trends in my business domain.

I have a mandatory connection with my leadership team on Mondays where I get complete headline updates of all the projects and operational matters.


Several global companies have come out and thrown their support behind not needing a formal education. What is your opinion about this?

It is an extreme view to take. For specialized roles like Technology, Architecture, Finance, legal, etc., formal education is very much essential. But from the perspective of entrepreneurship and leadership, it may hold water. 

There are many who have been successful in their career or life without fancy degrees, but no one has been successful without common sense, the right attitude, aptitude, and learnability. These are the basic building blocks. 

However, formal education does impart one with the skills of articulation, structured approach, and confidence. Formal education brings the style while the innate qualities lend the substance. A substance with style is a potent mix.


How do you handle someone who has lied on their resume?

My experience has been that every resume is spruced up to some extent with hyperboles about one’s achievements and accolades. I tend to indulge candidates for small inaccuracies in their resumes. 

However, if someone is lying about the basic skills and experience needed for a role, a seasoned interviewer will see through that within the initial few minutes of the interview. 

Recruitment error at middle and senior levels can prove extremely costly. It will setback the organization substantially. Hence at senior levels, I am extremely intolerant of such candidates.


What are some of your typical challenges and how have they evolved over time?

The challenges one has to face depends on the role being performed. Since I am blessed with an excellent functional leadership team, I do not have to deal with operational and tactical challenges very often.

My current challenges are all about scaling up Modus to take it to the next orbit. We are well entrenched in our current orbit, but our vision is to breach into the higher orbits, where we face competition from the global Goliaths. 

At the same time, we must strengthen our moats to protect our wallet share in the existing accounts. While we have clearly laid out strategies, balancing the
short-term vs. long-term priorities is the biggest challenge. Very often long-term priorities get sacrificed at the altar of short-term exigencies.


                           


What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or those eyeing the top job?

I have three mantras for success:
  • Be passionate
  • Build trust
  • Aim high.

Success is not a short sprint. It is a marathon. Whether on personal or on the organizational front, three things are very essential to reach the top: Passion, Potential, and Perseverance. When one has a high passion, perseverance follows naturally. The good part about potential is it can be developed with the right attitude and aptitude.

Building a personal brand, delivering on promises, and learning from the failures will build one’s credibility and reputation. One must aim high, which means one should mentally operate at a couple of levels above one’s current level. 

This allows one to have a big picture and fit into the broader goals of the organization. Also, when one does get the opportunity to move to higher levels, the transition will be smooth and effortless as one is already operating at that level mentally.


Which is your favorite book and why?

My thoughts have been shaped by many books. I read a lot across the genres and categories. My favorite category is biographies. It is an opportunity to learn from the life experiences of other successful people. 

I have a collection of books by great business leaders like Jack Welch, Michael Dell, Akio Morita, etc. I have learned something from all these books. From the organizational perspective, I recommend two books: Built to Last and Good to Great by Jim Collins, for these books abstract out the basic ingredients of building great franchises from the scratch.


Bio-

Mr. Mohan Kumar K L, is a Software professional with more than 25 years of
Industry experience. He had held the position of Associate Vice President at Infosys and Vice President at FIS. 

He has vast experience in Software Product Development, Implementation and Client engagement. He was the Head of Product Delivery for Finacle in South Asia and Head of Banking Practice in FIS where he oversaw the implementation of Core Banking and Digital channel products across many large banks and Small-Finance-Banks in India and other South Asian Countries. 

He is currently CEO & Managing Director of Modus Information Systems, a niche Software Services company focusing on delivering solutions and services around global products in Banking and Digital transformation.

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5 Comments

  1. Mohan Kumar in this interview has very well articulated his approach & values which he has leveraged in achieving "Objectives" rather than just managing teams. In my view, he has inherently implied that the family background & upbringing has a higher influence in shaping the thought process over the professional orientation. Great to see such grounded leader has achieved what he has through sheer Passion, Trust & Perseverance !

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  2. A true leader who walks the talk and always leads from the front.
    KLM is the one who instilled in me the passion to design great products about 17 years back and continues to do so even today.
    On the personal front too, a man of great credibility, very cultured and grounded, which reflect in his leadership approach as well and absolutely privileged to be groomed by him.
    Thanks KLM.

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  4. Dear Mohan, very thoughtful,precise message, instilling confidence and trust. With all checks and balances in place a very open idea for all those working with you . With your zeal and clear vision, to excel and with your 3 mantras, you will conquer mountains.
    As a well known song says
    " Take your Candle, Go Light the world". May all that you touch turn to Gold , is our wish for you. Have blessed times ahead.
    Heri Lily and Vivek

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