Bosch IoT: “Diversity and internationalization are the future”
Sridharan Rangarajan on his career as an Indian IT manager with Bosch in Germany and the company’s global digitization strategy.
How was your way to Bosch in Stuttgart?
I come from Bangalore in India and live in Stuttgart for close to 4 years now. I have over 25 years of work experience in the IT industry and across different types of organizations such as product development companies, start-ups and IT Service Providers. I have also worked previously in Singapore and the US besides India. I had led multiple software development teams in the IBM Software Group for about 9 years when I made the change to Bosch in Germany. I was looking for a role (directly at the headquarters of a global MNC) where I can influence the product direction and strategy in the Cloud and IoT topics. With my move to Germany and working with Bosch, this aspiration has been really fulfilled.
What is your designation and job function in Stuttgart?
My designation is Director in the Corporate IT division of Bosch. I have also worked in the Bosch Software Innovations division prior to this role. My job function involves conceptualizing and building software products and platforms in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, thus helping Bosch to transform and grow into a leading IoT company.
It is time to embrace the digitization wave
What was your personal view on building a career in Germany?
The first thing that you need is strong expertise in your chosen field (or) area. The colleagues in Germany respect you, your talent and your intellectual ability. You need to be able to express your ideas, convince your colleagues and apply your expertise in solving real problems that make a business impact. If you are sincere, work hard and are able to demonstrate your problem-solving ability, then your career will progress on its own. Good working conditions, an open work culture and good cooperation will provide the right environment to build up your career in Germany.
What is your viewpoint on role of start-ups in Baden-Wuerttemberg?
Baden-Wuerttemberg has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to the Germany manufacturing industry. Now it is time to embrace the digitization wave and hence it is crucial to encourage freethinking, nimble and fearless start-ups that can make a mark in the digital world of today. There are several initiatives, both from government and private industry, that are already driving this idea forward in Baden-Wuerttemberg, such as, CODE_n, Arena2036, Startup Autobahn etc.
Bosch leads the way in several areas of innovation and in encouraging start-ups. I would like to highlight just two of them – the Stuttgart Connectory and the Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH.
How is this legendary connectory organized?
Bosch established the Connectory in the heart of Stuttgart exactly a year ago in April 2018. The Stuttgart Connectory is a co-creation space, bringing together diverse groups of partners – corporates, startups, civic and university groups – to drive innovation. To foster open collaboration, the Connectory offers a flexible format without physical walls to encourage connection among members and to facilitate various activities such as workshops, design sprints, hackathons, or events. The co-innovation space is focused on three main activities: partner and co-creation, educational experience and corporate projects. Each Connectory has an innovation focus – the Stuttgart Connectory focuses on Internet of Things or IoT in short –and connects with the local tech ecosystem and startup community in that location, expanding on a global network. It is important to note that the Stuttgart Connectory is one of only 5 locations that Bosch has invested in – the others being Chicago, London, Shanghai and Guadalajara in Mexico – thus underscoring the importance of Stuttgart and Baden-Wuerttemberg in the global innovation ranks.
Every innovation needs funding, right?
Bosch also has a dedicated venture capital subsidiary, called the Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH (RBVC). RBVC, one of Europe’s largest corporate investors, specializes in innovative technology startups. Its portfolio includes more than 35 companies active in autonomous driving, AI, the internet of things (IoT), and even distributed ledger technologies such as block chain. It has a global outlook and maintains a presence in technology hotspots around the world through its own locations in Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Sunnyvale, Tel Aviv and Shanghai. RBVC has also recently announced the launch of a fourth fund with 200 million Euros investment. In the words of our Bosch CEO, Dr. Volkmar Denner: “We aim to foster technologies in areas of future relevance and boost our innovative strength”. Beyond the financial investment, the startups within the RBVC portfolio receive access to the vast Bosch global network and commercial collaboration opportunities.
Beyond financial investment startups receive access to the vast Bosch global network
How will IoT influence our future?
In a simple sense, the IoT technology is all about sensors embedded within physical devices/hardware collecting data about the machine’s performance (or) the environment surrounding the devices and passing it back to software applications running remotely (on the Internet, i.e. Cloud). The software applications, in turn, aggregate and process the data to either help make intelligent decisions (or) to control the device remotely by sending commands back to the sensors/hardware. It is also possible to update any software modules running on the device remotely from the Cloud. The ability to do all of this over the Internet leads to many possible use cases across different domains such as consumer electronics, industrial manufacturing, medical and healthcare, building and home automation etc.
Where does the world see its future with IoT?
Most of the predictions about the world in the future – autonomous cars, intelligent home appliances, smart cities everywhere, inter-connected smart transportation systems, shared urban mobility and so on – have a strong basis on IoT technology. All of the technology advances that are predicted to become reality in the 2030 or 2050 timeframe depend on Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technologies as the foundation elements. However, there are concerns about privacy and security that need to be addressed by the device manufacturers and solution providers. Also the business models that would drive future revenues for the companies that are investing in IoT technologies are yet to be well-defined and established. In any case, it is the end-consumer who will finally get the benefit from the IoT and other technology trends of the future.
Germany is in the middle of an important transformation
What are the major differences between India and Germany with respect to working style, office culture, hierarchy etc.?
The working style in Germany tends to be more long-term focused and takes a planned approach towards all tasks. The companies here have a clear, well-structured roadmap for their products & services and are quite clear in focusing on their strengths, even if it means addressing only a narrow segment of the overall market.
On the other hand, many companies in India typically tend to focus more on short-term results, achieving speed and scale quickly, while being broad in their scope and targets.
However, once you get past such differences, there are many similarities between German and Indian work culture, especially in the software and IT industry. Germany is quite open and flexible when it comes to software and digitization projects, as it is transforming itself for the future. In this regard, it is ready to welcome talents from all over the world, and the natural instincts of Indians being quite hard-working, results-focused and flexible, helps this transformation path very nicely – thus resulting in a win-win for both.
What was your biggest and most challenging project that you managed to date?
I would like to talk about a project from one of my earlier jobs in India, about 15 years back. The customer was a major telecommunication vendor in the US and our company was entering into that domain for the first time, bidding for the project against strong competitors. I was leading the entire initiative, right from consulting with the customer prior to the RFP, winning the deal and subsequently heading the delivery for the project, while also handling the key account management responsibility. The project was to redesign and build a new software system from scratch using open standards and J2EE technologies to replace the legacy mainframe system of the customer. Moreover, all this had to be achieved within a short time frame of 18 months. We won the deal amidst stiff competition and had lot of challenges to meet the delivery targets. Nevertheless, we also had lots of fun in building up the team, working together towards a common purpose, understanding the customer needs and satisfying them. The project was worth several million dollars and was a cornerstone around which the company could build up a new telecom domain service line.
How do you deal with conflicts or underperforming project team members?
It is important to understand the root cause of a conflict. Many a time, we focus on the manifestation of the conflict or only on the impact but fail to observe the real reasons behind the origin of the conflict in the first place. Once the root cause is well understood, it is easier to address it. It is always better to discuss about the conflict situation openly in a trustful environment.
The same is the case with under-performing project team members. I would first spend time with them to understand the background for their under-performance and be empathetic towards them if they are going through certain challenges (maybe in their personal lives, for example). As a manager, I would try to support them in whatever way I can. If the person requires additional skills/training in order to improve his/her performance, then it is in the company’s best interests to get that organized so that each and every employee could achieve their maximum potential while contributing to the organizational goals.
Germany is ready to welcome talents from all over the world
Your message to the youth who are enthusiastic about building a career here in Germany?
As I said before, Germany is in the middle of an important transformation towards the digital economy. The future is going to be defined by new technology trends, such as shared mobility, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0, and so on, that are quite critical for the German industry and the “Mittelstand” companies. There is clearly high demand for talents from all over the world. Diversity and Internationalization are part of every major German company’s future business strategy.
Hence, this is a great time for the international youth to build a career in Germany and shape its future. The strong German economy, its influential position in the EU and the advanced infrastructure, combined with a safe society makes it quite an attractive destination. Last but not the least, there are various avenues for life outside of work, such as, travel, sports, music etc. that gives the added edge to life in Germany.
On a lighter note, what do you do in your free time here in Baden-Württemberg?
We also love to travel whenever we get a longer weekend or could take some time off from work and school. Stuttgart, being in a very central location in south-west Germany, helps us to visit many beautiful places within BW on a short drive. We have also traveled to many beautiful places in Austria, Switzerland and France for short breaks. We, as a family, love the possibilities of travel that we get just by living in Stuttgart.