Disruption Insights: Innovation Is Incomplete Without Thinking About the Customer

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Paulina Burzawa

Jul 22, 2022 • 10 min read
Blog header 2 Disruption Insights Fintech Rohit Kumar
A customer advocate and technology enthusiast, Rohit Kumar, Chief Technology Officer at SGeBIZ, shares his take on embracing innovation, what career decisions and passions brought him to where he is today, and why change is both stimulating and inevitable.

Before joining SGeBIZ, a fintech startup that promotes financial inclusion and offers solutions automating essential business procedures to companies of all sizes, Rohit worked at Mastercard for over seven years. The last position he held at the payment industry giant was Regional Director, Digital Transformation.

He’s a versatile expert with experience gathered in industries such as financial services, payments, and retail. Rohit’s expertise includes practical knowledge of data engineering and software engineering, building technology, and business strategies, as well as platform, product, and architecture practice. He believes that “a good leader needs to have empathy and humility, a compelling vision and courage to implement the vision amid uncertainty.”

In the Disruption Insights series, we discover inspirations and insights from global innovators who shape how we live and do things today. True innovation doesn’t happen as an overnight breakthrough — it’s an ongoing process of constant trial and error done by teams and organizations who strive to solve real human problems. Rohit Kumar is one of the people who push those ideas forward, making things possible.

💼 Corporate innovation

How do you choose one idea out of one hundred?

First of all, I check if it is something which brings out an emotion in me. Do I feel excited? Does my heart beat faster? If I am interested in it, why would somebody else be interested? Is it solving a pain? Or it’s an opportunity?

In my opinion, often, the biggest barrier to success is the fear of taking that first step. Jump straight in, experiment, and see where it leads you. The idea needs to be embedded in your brain like some sort of bug that won’t go away. The idea won’t let you go to sleep, the idea will wake you up in the morning and it won’t leave your side. The best way to bring these ideas or an idea to life is by taking it quickly through the initial check – desirability, feasibility, viability.

How do you convince decision-makers to back innovative ideas?

Start by painting a picture of the future. It is an absolute guarantee that our competitors are investing resources into innovation. Outline what the future might look like if they continue to innovate unchallenged. Thinking about our customers’ needs or pain points and then working backwards.

Maintaining the status quo is a natural state for many people and organizations. To get decision-makers comfortable with your innovation, we need to showcase our persuasion skills by making sure they are tightly linked to our ability to alleviate fear and lay out a positive future state. To do this, you should rethink the content of our business case, how we plead our case and what is the value of the innovation to all stakeholders.

Then, when there is enough data and insights in place, the idea must be methodologically analyzed and presented to decision-makers.

At my organization, we encourage employees to fill out a business model canvas, list customer segments they’re trying to target, what their suggested solution offers to customers, and a value proposition. Obviously, budget-related aspects are also considered: revenue factors and how we can drive them and cost figures. It’s an efficient, template-based process.

Next, the author has to wireframe their idea and present it to the business domain council and stakeholders. The review is based on the Product Management Excellence framework:

  • Desirability: “Is this product a desired one?”, “Is the customer demanding this?”, “Is there a need for that?”
  • Feasibility: “Can we build this?”, “Is it technically possible?”, “Can we do it in-house or do we have to outsource it?”
  • Viability: “How viable is this idea?”, “How sustainable is it?”, “Can we scale it to different regions and customer segments?”

Being a fintech obligates you to allocate resources wisely and define even small processes, but from my experience, most companies follow idea validation processes based on similar foundations.

One thing you’d change about your work

No matter what industry we’re in, unlocking the innovative potential of our people and our business, in most cases, comes down to a mix of management approaches, shared values, strategy, and resources.

I’d like to focus on a staff-driven innovation that keeps people engaged, happy, and motivated. This would help foster the culture of innovation and to build “the organization of our dreams,” where:

  • Individual differences are nurtured
  • The company adds value to employees
  • The organization stands for something meaningful
  • The work itself is intrinsically rewarding

💪 Innovation mindset

One personality trait that helps you at your daily job

Consistency.

What drives you at work?

Passion for technology and impact that helps build future leaders.

Your dream profession when you were 20

When I was 20, my dream was to learn computer skills, including the hardware side of it. Those were the days when we started learning about DOS (disk operating system) or a computer microprocessor called Celeron. I was super excited to see how computers operate; how motherboards, graphic cards, CPU (central processing unit) plays an important role in providing the right speed to applications. Today, I’m exploring blockchain, and the use of AI, so my interests obviously evolved over time but still revolve around similar topics.

The biggest milestone in your career path

I’d say the biggest milestone in my career path was to learn and develop the principles of emotional intelligence. It’s the most important and difficult skill – our ability to perceive, understand, and manage our feelings and the emotions of those around us. This is one of the crucial skills when it comes to leadership.

Developing our emotional intelligence is a critical factor in developing strong relationships with others. When we learn how to handle your feelings, we can communicate more clearly and build rapport, trust, and confidence with our colleagues.

The biggest accomplishment in your career path

One of the top accomplishments in my career was my assignment in Turkey, where I led a Software Engineering team for the Payment Transactions System at Mastercard. The challenge was to deal with a different culture, language, people, technology, and customer.

The idea was to deliver best-in-class experiences to our customers around payment solutions and at the same time refine the business-as-usual processes to bring speed and reduce the number of incidents.

However, the top challenge was to deal with people rather than process, especially people who seem to be a little demotivated and looking for direction or guidance. Hence, the first step for me was to spend time with them – understanding their state of mind, career goals, challenges, etc.

The solution was to form a culture where people are motivated, engaged, and happy. The formation took a couple of months, but I was able to see people engaged, sharing common values and vision. Things started shaping up, and I was able to see better engagement, stakeholder management, ownership, and accountability.

The journey continued with the introduction of an agile framework. It aimed to reduce the workload and still deliver new features every sprint, whiteboard sessions to discuss and design better architecture, and a refined approach to migrate and build disaster recovery sites. The projects which were pending for years were executed within weeks.

The overall accomplishment was to bring people, process, and technology together. This gave birth to a culture where people started to contribute, innovate, and deliver.

It’s worth mentioning that I learned Turkish to melt myself into the local culture, be a part of the society and connect better with my team.

I’m a strong believer of the following idea:

“Persistence is the most powerful force on earth, it can move mountains.” - Albert Einstein

💡 Inspiration corner

Biggest source of daily inspiration

I find inspiration in people and nature I am surrounded by, come across occasionally, or from books. I read autobiographies of influential individuals or books on purpose and way of living, they inspire me a lot. Books like “The Dalai Lama,” “Elon Musk,” “Leaders Eat Last,” and many more.

The other factor which is quite important to me is how I can inspire others and unlock the potential for major personal and professional growth. I cascade my learnings to others, share books’ titles that would benefit them or a particular individual, challenge them, empower them to lead by example.

Books that inspire you

  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey
  • “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
  • “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek
  • “Bank 4.0” by Brett King
  • “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David J. Schwartz
  • “System Design” by Alex Xu

Podcasts you listen to

  • Payments Innovation
  • Blockchain - Spotify and Prime

Movies that inspire you

  • “Troy”
  • “Braveheart”
  • “Steve Jobs”

Want to be a part of the Disruption Insights series? Shoot me an email at paulina.burzawa@netguru.com


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