Why Manoj Biswas is betting high on disruption in HR

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The CEO of Salveo Healthcare credits his long innings in the HR industry to his learning from the armed forces and believes that the companies should be brave enough to hire different people— and not their mirror images.

They say, to achieve things that you have never achieved, you will have to do things that you have never done, and Manoj Biswas—a firm believer of innovation, digitisation and technology— vouches for this thought as he talks about his new healthcare venture, Salveo Healthcare. He provides insights into the ways in which HR processes have to be revamped to be relevant in an ever-evolving corporate scenario.

“HR needs to break its typical ‘structured’ approach that worked for us in the past. It has to be more strategic and more predictive than reactive. It obviously would have to be more technology friendly and innovative. To put it simply, all the structured work that HR does today in abundance would get digitised, and AI will take over and do a ‘better job’ of it. However, the human elements would require greater skills, insights and strategic intent. The HR of the future, would be more ‘humane’ strategic and intelligent,” says Biswas, who has been at the centre of HR processes at Accenture India and South Asia, IBM and Wipro. He is credited with pioneering large-scale hiring at these firms and infusing HR processes with transparency, swiftness, efficiency and dependability.

“In India we have seen HR go through big transformations. We have evolved from personnel management to business HR to centre of expertise, to HR consulting and advising. HR in the country is now set for the biggest disruption,” says Biswas.

He feels that every juncture in his life taught him something. He calls himself a learner. While his stint in the army taught him that everything is possible, his business role in the IT industry gave him the confidence to succeed in different parts of the world. Similarly, his HR career gave him the confidence to lead transformations, to grow large organisations, succeed in different geographies and to lead a successful IPO as the CHRO. His role as the CEO, gave him an opportunity to return to Bangalore and also understand the ecosystem of new-age tech companies. And finally, his father’s illness and eventual death lead to the genesis of Salveo Healthcare.

“I have learnt from many stalwarts and so called novices in the industry. My inspirations have been from different walks of life. I have been inspired by many soldiers in the army who were responsible for the foundational competencies I developed, and also some great business leaders, who taught me to pursue the passion of building your dream. A few creative colleagues fuelled my desire to be curious, and foolish and thus be constantly innovative,” he reflects.

A lot of his key foundational learning has been from the army. “The Indian army is the largest human resources organisation that runs 24×7. Therefore, it is but obvious that many of the best practices that we know in HR today, existed in the army long ago— the importance of teams; how training is key for successful projects; the significance of a plan and a counter plan; and most importantly, how to remain unflinchingly calm in crisis situations, and handle them aptly. I learnt numerous lessons from my seven-year stint in the armed forces. I could go on and on about it,” he reminisces.

Biswas recently turned entrepreneur with the launch of Salveo Healthcare, which provides health care services in the comfort of your home or at the nearest Salveo centre. The idea behind Salveo germinated after his father went through two major operations in 2015 and 2016. “After the operation I realised that the post-operative care, that one needs to go through is very painful, and tedious as that part of the healthcare industry is extremely disintegrated. To get the right physiotherapist or nursing assistant at home, one has to rely on a ‘hit and trial’ method unless one is lucky to get one through word of mouth. These are small-time vendors, but are vital.”

The second instance that further strengthened his determination to give it a shot was with a very dear friend of his. This friend and family were vacationing in the United Kingdom, where the son who had an accident about five years back and had to undergo a surgery and prolonged care, suddenly complained of problems, that probably were a reoccurrence of some symptoms of the accident. The family was on vacation, and obviously they had no records of the earlier history with them. They had to spend a huge sum just to get all the tests done, before the medical treatment could be started in the UK.

“That was the genesis of my interest to research more on the healthcare needs and gaps in the country, and thus was born Salveo Healthcare Solutions. Salveo is a Latin term for ‘good health’. We aim to bridge the need of healthcare, using innovation and disruptive technology. Our platform, MySalveo (My Good Health), aims to bring cost-effective healthcare, within reach of everyone. And that’s why our business plans are to expand to tier 2 and tier 3 locations,” he asserts.

In the first year, he intends to expand the reach to the tri-cities of Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. And the long-term plan is to have a presence in 25–30 cities, he shares. To achieve this, Salveo looks at collaborating with the right people and companies. “The key to success for any business today is to collaborate with others. We believe that leveraging the strengths of this industry and building upon the strength of the healthcare providers would be our key differentiators. We aim to move from reactive healthcare to preventive and holistic healthcare, with a focus on a great end- user experience. After all, getting appropriate healthcare should not be a painful experience,” believes Biswas.

Biswas has been in the corporate world for more than 20 years, in various roles in the IT industry and HR fraternity. Prior to that, he was with the Indian Army for seven years as a short service commissioned officer.

Biswas has never been a typical HR professional. After graduating with marketing as his major, he started looking for marketing opportunities (after his stint in the armed forces). He holds a dual degree in MBA from IIM Kolkata and the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.

“I always thought I was a great ‘business guy’. I would go to these interviews, where on realising that I was an ex-army officer, the interviewers would promptly offer me a security officer or administrative officer role. I went to 37 such interviews and did not make it,” he recalls.

Then one evening, while discussing the situation with a very senior marketing industry expert, he discovered that this was the ‘social perception’ in India. “Young army officers are great security and administrative managers and many of my friends were doing well in such roles. But I did not want to do it, and wanted to fight this social perception. The expert left me with a great advice— that I should fight the system from within and not from the outside as I was trying to do. And that’s how I took up a personnel manager role, trained myself and then moved on to be a business analyst and a successful product manager,” he adds.

After an effective business stint, he got an opportunity to use his business knowledge and HR skills to create the first resource management function, and he grabbed it. Thus began a fruitful recruitment and HR career for him.

He believes that sharing knowledge is very important and that is the reason why he immensely enjoys networking and speaking at various events. “It keeps the ‘learner’ in me alive,” he adds. He also runs The Unsung Heroes Foundation, which aims to help ex-servicemen and their families.

His word of advice to the youngsters and mid-level executives is to never stop dreaming and be passionate about your dreams. He encourages everyone to “..be brave enough to hire different people, and not your mirror images.”

When not working, Biswas loves to travel with friends and family, spending quality time with loved ones. Biswas and Shibani are doting parents to their daughter Ipshita.

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