Saraswathi Ramachandra, Director at Citi

Saraswathi Ramachandra, Director at Citi on crucial elements to lead in Post Covid World

In an exclusive interaction with SCIKEY, Saraswathi shared crucial elements of leadership she worked on during these uncertain times, what would be the new cost-effective captive model be like, impact on hiring while setting up captives more. Read the full article here.

Saraswathi, with more than 2 decades of experience in managing various teams with varied experience in different processes across the globe, what part of your work has been most impacted and needed strategic rethinking to navigate/lead in post covid world, and how did you manage

Working with multiple organizations, people, geography has taught me many things. Resilience being one of the important lessons.


if we have simple rules that can be easily understood and followed by everyone, allow small innovations to take place and let people take risks. This will instil a sense of security and comfort which in turn allows 'inter' preneurship at all levels in the organization. For me having worked across multiple locations, managing it remotely and at scale came naturally; this is something I've also seen at Citi - being encouraged and encouraging others to think out-of-the-box is very important to us here.

A strategic leader with strong people management skills, what were the crucial elements of leadership that require you to work creatively to manage your teams in these uncertain times better?

  • In times like this, everyone looks up to leader who can “Orchestrate the Change” and simplify things using first principle thinking and by articulating vision effectively. Thinking differently, and yet strategically, becomes key.


  • While work can be 'managed', in times such as these, where everyone is working remotely, one has to retain organization culture and values. Ensuring everyone is engaged and motivated is as important as providing one with the tools to continue to learn and skill themselves which are the activities we have focused on here at Citi. 
  • Last but not least, one has to be available to people. Difficult times don’t last forever but the experience the employees have had during these times with managers last lifetime in building strong working relationships and satisfaction.


Having years of experience setting up a center of excellence IT project management in an Onsite-Offshore model with a strong focus on delivery and cost-benefit, what do you foresee the future of India’s captive space? What would be the new cost-effective captive model be like, if so?

Last 20+ years has seen significant evolution of GIC’s in India. India has seen the evolution from the set up that existed in early 1990’s as captive centers that operated like offshore centers performing designated functions for large organizations to now, where there are about 1200 GIC’s have been set up in India. GIC’s are employing more than 800,000 individuals and generating approximately $23 billion in revenue. (Source:NASSCOM) 

India has clearly emerged as an attractive destination for global firms to set up GIC’s. Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that there is minimum disruption during the transition to work from home in India without a loss in productivity. There may be more opportunities in the post COVID-19 world as datacentre and service center requirements, due to privacy and regulatory changes within India.

Technology and digital transformation provides more opportunities where right talent and skill sets are available and we see this as driving future work.

To be the leaders in future of GIC’s, GIC’s must invest in high quality leadership and become world class talent hub with deep domain expertise, become analytics centre of excellence and create competitive advantage for enterprises, adopt agile ways of working and use DevOps to fast track value creation and continue to be center of efficiency by enhancing productivity through automation, AI, IOT, cognitive technologies etc along with highest standards of cybersecurity.

Future of any organization journey is unlikely to be business as usual.

What are the sectors that can expect, more global firms to set up captive centres in India post COVID why?

Digital adoption and transformation are going to touch every segment of business. From brick and mortar shop to e-commerce, from corner boutique shop to online sales, from a kitchen at one place to delivery of food, there will be no business that’s not going to be transformed digitally in future.

Setting up right policies in terms of data and governance, cyber security is very important.


Key now is to grab on to these opportunities by looking at this holistically.

With right focus from GICs’ to build automation capabilities, Core research and product innovation, digital talent and domain knowledge along with right leadership quality, there is no reason in the long term to not see many more captives being set up across all business sectors.

Will hiring be impacted while setting up captives? Is there any new trend you foresee in recruiting talent for captives?

Covid-19 pandemic has proven that world can change faster than we imagined or ready for. Outlook in the short term looks uncertain. It is a very difficult phase economically worldwide. Many companies have said they will retain their employees, and will honour outstanding job offers.

On the positive side though, in long term, with more digital transformation that is going to take place irrespective of industry, future growth is going to be around digital and new technologies. Anyone with right skill will be employable. If your current work involves too much of manual work, it’s time to reflect and reskill. Automation is going to be key enabler and sought after skills in market.

Reskilling upskilling is key to be flexibility and career growth in job markets. Technology is changing at a very rapid pace and will impact every single function.


Digital skills like data science, Cloud, AI, IoT, VR, robotics, Nano technology will be in huge surge of demand and will be amongst the most sought-after skills.

Also, on soft skills, curiosity, problem solving capabilities, managing teams effectively, collaboration, communication continue to be in demand as always.

In the current scenario, organizations are spending and allocating higher budgets on IT than before. This shift necessitates a relentless focus on optimizing traditional IT costs, developing high-skilled talent, self-funding digital initiatives and making IT Agile, adaptive and resilient. These changing priorities require that we are constantly be able to add value through newer skills and remain competitive in the market.


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