Sandeep Chatterjee — Expert Story
Sandeep Chatterjee is an experienced Supply Chain Professional and an Associate Director at KPMG
Right on the heels of our Conversation with Sandeep Chatterjee on the Pros and Cons of pursuing an MBA, here is a brief history of time-esque saga of his winding career path. From spending time in the dusty workshops for his Mechanical Engineering degree to multiple switches across various domains like sales, operations and tech. Read on to know the story of Sandeep Chatterjee, an Industry veteran, currently an Associate Director at KPMG.
Hi Sandeep! To start off, can you tell us where your professional journey began?
Sandeep: Well I am a Mechanical Engineer by education. From campus, I joined TATA Motors. I really wanted to work in the field of my study and TATA Motors gave me that opportunity. I was working on automotives like buses, trucks and cars where I could use the core concepts of my engineering. Having spent three years with TATA Motors, I felt I was getting slightly stagnated. I was working on the assembly line which was a more execution based task and felt like making a contribution at a larger scale. That is when I decided to do an MBA.
Can you expound on your time spent at IIM Kozhikode?
Sandeep: I pursued my MBA degree from IIM Kozhikode. Unlike today, we did have the concept of a major then, I majored in Finance and Marketing. Largely, because we did not have any other option at the time. My campus placements then were during an year of recession and we didn’t have a lot of options.
Where did you head from placements at IIM Kozhikode?
Sandeep: I was recruited by Lafarge during Campus Placements. I was with them for a little over a year. My role was mainly sales and operations based. Once again, I was taking care of execution at multiple levels. The thing about the cement industry is that even then, it was extremely mature. The sales functions are mainly through a CNF and the operations functions are technology-intensive. To manage the process, you would need someone with a specialization in Cement Manufacturing. I felt there was not a lot that I could add to here as a B-school graduate. At the time, Infosys was hiring big-time for their Consultant roles and that’s when I applied for the profile.
Why the switch to Infosys?
Sandeep: Infosys is an IT services company and making a switch with no background in IT is not usually easy. In fact, in my interview, I was extremely frank and told them that I had no background in IT. From there, my interviews were just about my understanding of business processes. I also had some experience in operations and sales because of which, I was recruited as a consultant in the same space. The key reason for making the switch was that Infosys was an MNC and I felt that the exposure that I could get as a consequence would be different.
As someone from a completely different background, how was it settling into your role at Infosys?
Sandeep: The workforce then at Infosys comprised of fresh graduates who had joined and stayed for about 8 to 10 years. They were excellent with the technology aspect. However, a recurring client feedback was that while the technology was excellent, there was a lack of business perspective. About 80 of us joined as a batch, from various B-schools across the country. The induction was very smooth because of the training process that they had designed and in consequence, the technology professionals got to understand the business side and vice versa.
Can you please walk us through a day in your life in Infosys?
Sandeep: As a newly joined employee in Infosys, you do not expect to be sent overseas for projects right off the bat. And most of the clients were offshore. We usually began by getting on call with the on-site team where we would understand their requirements to develop a Point of View. Post that we would have discussions internally, in India, to come up with one and send it across when we finally agreed. Most of these discussions were driven by client requirements.
We also participated in the pre-sales cycle. Our sales team on-site would sometimes require us to chalk out a story and we created Point of Views for them.
I did get to work with clients in the United States, Europe and Singapore myself. However, I wanted to work on a more client facing role and to work with clients from India and at the point, Oracle seemed like the most logical choice to me.
While a lot of others would have chosen to stay in the US or Europe, what made you decide to come back to India?
Sandeep: There is a common notion, that countries like the US and Singapore being first world countries are better places to live in, with a higher standard of living. However, being first world countries, any impact you make will be incremental.
In India, there are multiple opportunities to start from scratch and set something up in place. That was one of the key motivations for me to return.
In addition, whatever one may say, India is our country and wherever else you may go, that is not home.
How easy or difficult was the switch to Oracle?
Sandeep: Oracle typically has a more stringent and technology oriented process. One has to go through multiple rounds with different managers and a few are technology based interviews. For me it was simpler because I was already aware of the Oracle process and also now had a background in technology because of the time spent with Infosys in addition to an understanding of the business processes.
However, for someone not exposed to technology at all, making a switch to Oracle would be difficult because they expected that you understood technology.
Could you elaborate on your responsibilities at Oracle?
Sandeep: My role at Oracle was completely client facing and I was handling the client engagement end-to-end starting from sales to execution. The key difference that I felt in Oracle though, was that the project lifecycles were much shorter. In a span of a year, we would complete anywhere between eight and ten projects. Hence, the exposure was tremendous and the learning curve, steep.
What inspired the move to KPMG?
Sandeep: I spent about three years at Oracle and post that wanted a shift of domain as I had been in technology consulting for quite sometime now. The move to KPMG was more inspired my interest in my education and past experience. I thought I could do more justice to both with this move.
This switch was relatively easy for me. Even though I had worked mostly in the technology consulting domain, I had a key understanding of the business processes because of my MBA and the time I had invested in understanding those. I also had a background in operations that helped me make this switch.
At KPMG, I take care of the Supply Chain Management side. Although this is not deeply related to core mechanical engineering, it is something that I had always been interested in. However, when you speak of a time like 2000–2001, there were no opportunities in India in this domain. Today with the growth of companies in the e-commerce and logistics domains, the scope of Supply Chain Management has grown exponentially.
Can you tell us a bit about your responsibilities as an Associate Director at KPMG?
Sandeep: As an Associate Director, my job is 50% sales and 50% execution. We, at KPMG, strongly believe that strategy on its own is not sufficient and one must understand how to execute. We do not have separate divisions for strategy and execution because we strongly believe that the strategy must be made keeping in mind the feasibility of the execution. I have a regional revenue target, ensure that the client demands are met and must also see that the amount has been received from the client side. The buck stops for me at any kind of consumer complaint.
Sandeep’s winding career path serves to prove the maxim that no career goal is out of reach as long as you have the zeal for it. Even after being exposed to multitudes of positions and companies, Sandeep stresses on the importance of career mentoring. He says,
“I believe mentoring was relevant and is relevant today as well, in fact, I have a career mentor of my own, even after years of being in the game.”
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