50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2019

Leveraging Technology to Deliver Market Beating Solutions: Mastek


Technology has improved businesses as well as people’s lives manifold in the last twenty-five years. In addition to companies involved in manufacturing and services, there are numerous corporations that capitalize on this to provide a wide range of innovative solutions to improves business and productivity.

Mastek is one of the companies that improve corporate operations through IT services, data analytics, business intelligence, application development, etc. It has established its position as one of the world’s leading providers of solutions to optimize and consolidate business operations to bolster productivity and revenue.

In conversation with the CEO of Mastek, John Owen

Q. Why was the company set up? How did you select the business vertical for the company?

Mastek was founded in the dormitories of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad by Ashank Desai, Ketan Mehta, and R. Sundar, all of whom were classmates in the batch of 1979. They were later joined by Sudhakar Ram. With their impressive backgrounds, the ambitious founders were in a unique position to be a bridge between business and technology – architecting, designing and delivering solutions that transformed the way organizations worked.

Serving the Indian market in the ’80s and early ’90s helped Mastek engage with many first-generation, IT applications for multinationals and domestic corporations across a wide range of industry verticals. The aim was to create a solution which would enable a working collaboration with demanding first-time users. With this aim in mind, applications on several generations of technology platforms and tools were designed, delivered and deployed. The market was extremely price-sensitive and demanded fixed-price projects even though the requirements were fairly open and evolving. The estimation models were built leveraging data over hundreds of projects and delivery of projects was done under stringent time and cost constraints.

Mastek’s very first engagement was for the Indian operation of a US multinational corporation that was building a decision support system to help them generate an optimum production plan for a highly seasonal product – Vicks Vaporub.

Q. How has your company expanded its offerings over the years?

We had our IPO in 1992, generating more than 20 times return to our venture capitalist. Although we decided to exit the products business in India in the mid-90’s – due to lack of scale and international competition – this capability served us well in building a successful insurance products business, over the last 10 years. Some of the key instances where this has been demonstrated include our work on the London Congestion Charge Scheme and the National Health Service Programme.

Q. The specifics of our participation in the two projects are appended herewith –

London Congestion Charge - The turning point for us was in 2001. Capita, a large UK based BPO firm we worked with since 1995, engaged us in the bid process for the London Congestion Charging scheme (LCC). We successfully demonstrated a working prototype of the software during the bake-off with another competitor, eventually winning the bid. Stringent penalties were in place for delays. But, Mastek delivered the project on time, over a period of 18 months. The scheme went live as planned, on the 17th of February, 2003 with hardly any glitches. This programme tested us on all fronts – new technology, new application domain, strict deadlines – as a result, we grew significantly, in capability and confidence.

BT Global Services planned to bid for the huge National Health Service programme in 2003. It needed application development partners for building some key systems. Impressed by our success with the LCC, BT invited us to join their consortium, for the Spine. A central messaging and data warehousing system, the Spine would hold the summary health records of all UK citizens. The BT consortium won this bid and Mastek was involved in delivering and maintaining several applications for the NHS Spine over the next decade – involving over 130 deliveries during the project phase – each delivered on time and within budget.

We have also expanded through acquisition and growth over the course of the following years.

We have transformed from acting as a sub-contractor to the likes of Capita and BT to becoming a prime contractor as we established a world-class reputation in delivering mission-critical applications to the financial services, retail, government, and healthcare sectors. We’ve also acquired organizations to supplement our core capabilities: (Indigoblue and TAISTech) and organic growth and have a clear strategy and roadmap that will see us become a $1B -10,000 Mastekeer strong organization in the next 5 years.

Q. How well do your employees know their role in contributing to the company’s success?

Mastek as an organization firmly believes in the principle of listening to what employees want to do. It ties into all aspects of our engagement philosophy and makes us stronger. We take every effort to ensure that the goals at an organizational level are cascaded and understood across all levels of the organization. All avenues of communication are utilized. Our goal setting framework is also structured in such a way that individual goals are directly intertwined with the organizational objectives so that every single Mastekeer’s contribution has a bearing on the organization’s success and vice versa. We empower people and teams through our company wide philosophy, which has reduced hierarchy and sees teams self-manage rather than form part of a command and control culture. This autonomy helps drive customer innovation.

Q. Is Mastek involved in CSR activities?

Doing the right thing’ whether it’s by our employees, customers, investors or society at large is key to Mastek.

  • We contribute 2% of our corporate profits to the Mastek Foundation and 84% of our employees voluntarily support the Foundation through payroll giving
  • We conduct blood donation camps in conjunction with local blood banks
  • We organize an entire week where Mastekeers can donate to the underprivileged and needy sections of the society. The week is internally branded as “Joy of Giving”

Meet the brains behind Mastek’s rapid growth, John Owen

John Owen leads the growth strategy at Mastek and has over two decades of sales and marketing experience. He has previously held senior leadership roles in global blue-chip organizations such as HP, Nortel, and Serco, as well as successful start-ups such as Sycamore Networks. Prior to Mastek, John was the Sales and Marketing Director for Serco where his responsibilities included handling Serco’s largest customer, the UK Government.

"Our customers trust us to deliver technology solutions that improve the lives of millions.”