Leadership Talk

Built to last: Five lessons from the IBS journey

Built to last: Five lessons from the IBS journey

40% of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years

John Chambers, Chairman, Cisco
This grim prediction was made two years ago before a 25,000 strong audience. Chambers blamed ineffective digitization efforts, but statistics surrounding corporate longevity isn't generally compelling. The United States, an icon of capitalism for the world, scores a net negative when it comes to business survival – around 400,000 new businesses start every year and 470,000 close down as per small business information resource Success HarborThis doesn't mean entrepreneurship is passé. Rather, it's survival of the fittest. No entrepreneur sets out to start an ordinary company, hence statistics about the average company shouldn't matter. The challenge of staying above the ordinary involves clearly defining the competitive advantage that will drive your success in the market, as well as the core values to guide the choices you make.

Inc.com reports that 96% of companies don't last beyond their 10th year. The 20th anniversary of IBS statistically places us among the cream – the odd one or two companies that survive that long for every 100 that ever opens for business. Launching at a time of great unpredictability in the markets meant it was essential to have a firm grip on our core values while taking tough decisions. Today, we jot down a few lessons learnt about building a sustainable enterprise – a road map worth emulating.
A fine example of innovation: The IBS team which won the IATA NDC Hackathon at Dublin this year

1. Flexibility for resilience

Post 9/11, commercial aviation took a major hit. Several airlines declared bankruptcy. As a fledgling IT services company at the time, our primary source of business shut down without warning, thereby wiping out our entire revenue stream. However, we took cognizance of the fact that our technology capability and acquired domain expertise could be repurposed to a new business model. We shifted our focus to building IT products that went on to be game changers in multiple industries. Our flexibility enabled us to bounce back from oblivion, to where we stand today!  

2. Confidence to break the mold

A pure services model for an IT company is a relatively direct (and shorter) path to instant revenues, while developing products is a longer term strategy with more risk (think upfront R&D and long development cycles). For a fledgling company like IBS, choosing a product development model is evidence of the immense amount of confidence our founder and investors had in our knowledge base and capacity for innovation to build a marketable product. The strategy has since then paid rich dividends, as our award winning product range shows.

3. Build lasting relationships

 A customer CIO explains in this video why they chose IBS for a critical project with low risk appetite. Unlike ad hoc service engagements, our mature product line gives us a clear edge. An environment of trust is cultivated from the very beginning. Customers understand that our priority is to enable accomplishment of their business goals and that we have what it takes to achieve mutual success.

4. Demonstrate a clear focus on values

The core values of IBS are non-negotiable guiding principles for the organization. More importantly, they help set accurate expectations with the customer about the kind of company they are doing business with. At IBS, we place precision, passion, commitment, integrity and respect for the individual well above the lesser motives of profit and short term gains – but these are meaningful only when they are actively demonstrated in every aspect of our engagement with the customer. 

5. Innovate to stay ahead of the curve

A company that fails to innovate continuously converges to mediocrity at an alarming rate. The travel industry is always a prime candidate for disruption thanks to its complexities (a globally dispersed supply chain lies at its very core) and the booming demand provides ample incentive for daring new business models. Companies like IBS, which have a key enabling role on the value chain, must sustain the edge by anticipating and adapting transformations in the business models they support. 

An entrepreneur who starts out with clarity of vision and a relevant purpose is already a step ahead in the right direction. Today, we partner with the world's best airlines, busiest airports, leading cruise lines, major travel distributors and the top oil and gas companies enabling them to effectively meet their business goals. Tomorrow, business models may evolve, and new challenges may arise. Adapting to these new realities will spell the difference between a successful company and one that is lost in the pages of history.

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Sunday, 14 July 2024

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