About Kanishka Misal

In this edition of The GC People Leader Series Dr GC, Chief Psychologist at The GC Index, talks to Kanishka Misal, Managing Director at Infinity Global IO, about his career to date, what it means to be a creative problem solver and what has underpinned his huge career successes to date.

Kanishka you have a very strong Game Changer Strategist Profile in GC Index terms – a creative problem solver - let’s dip in to some of your career history. Before you joined Infinity Global you had a successful 14 years with Tata. Did they know what they were getting when they took you on as a young man with this Game Changer Strategist profile?

I had a phenomenal experience with Tata group.  I don’t think they had any clue as to what they were getting when they brought me in. I was supposed to join them as a part of an 18 person team that was brought in from different universities around the world as a part of a management training program for shaping the future of the business. We were all earmarked to go in to very specific technology projects and I was allocated to a tech account. My response to that allocation was no. I didn’t want to do the role I had been allocated. The reason I didn’t want to take that role was because it was a very traditional technology role which was implementation heavy that just wouldn’t fascinate me. So I went back to the head of the business to ask them if they had any other opportunities that would stimulate me as a creative strategic thinker. They came back with a position as an exec assistant to one of the company presidents in Mumbai.

My entire team was looking for international assignments and I was looking for a role as an Exec asst. My colleagues, I think, felt I was essentially downgrading myself, from a career perspective. For me it was a very clear trajectory because I could see the oppourtunity that I would get from being an EA. I wasn’t bothered about the job title or status. This made sense to me. I believed I would have access to information and that I would learn from somebody who would have that real-world experience.

The company president had built a business and then replicated it in to 6 different geographies!!

When did you sense that you might think differently to the rest of the world?

This trait was in me from Junior School. I’m very lucky because my parents travelled around the world. Over my childhood I grew up in 14 different countries and therefore when I went back to them with ideas and I asked if I could do things differently or can I do something that everybody else isn’t doing at the moment I wasn’t locked down or pigeon holed. They told me to go ahead and try it, give it a shot.

In the Tata world there seems to be some openness to that talent of seeing things differently. How did it work? What did you get involved with that made the most of that talent?

Tata has approximately 1 million employees across their ecosystem. They were able to identify people who had a way of thinking differently and put them in to what they called T40’s.

T40’s are groups of people looking at innovative ideas, different ways of doing things and we would get involved in almost everything from commercial bids to events, doing deals, negotiations and new projects.

We had the freedom and, from a financial perspective, the budgets to fund innovation. The departments we were put in to were allocated budgets for teams that were designing the future.

Thinking of the talent population that were nurtured for these innovative teams and projects what was the gender split?

In my cohort it was approximately 60% women and 40% men.

What skills did you learn to make the best of your impact and contribution? What would be on your skills list?

There are two I have learned and two I still need to learn. The first I learned is understanding that technology facilitates innovation, this is a huge reassurance to your ideas and beliefs as it enables the delivery of those creative musings. The second is empathy and understanding people.

The first of two I need to get better at is networking. Game Changers need to be able to build a network to help get buy in for our ideas and to help us to translate the message and ideas out in to the wider world. The second is to be able to resource other areas that we may now be aware of that can help us deliver on ideas to a greater standard.

The move to Infinity Global after 14 years with Tata… give us a sense of why you made that decision and what that business is about.

In the early part of my career having freedom and budget was great now I want to go and do things without any boundaries, operate in different continents with different businesses and not have any corporate restrictions in those initiatives and that’s why I decided to step out of Tata.

Infinity Global is a very interesting business model that we have evolved. It’s a combination of my experience at Tata and other things that I’ve learned in the tech space.

From a business perspective we use technology to level the playing field. If anybody is willing to learn or has the inclination to upskill themselves, they can take part in our digital ecosystem and we would help them firstly identify their hidden potential and then fit them in to the right organisation and upskill them.

So your role is to broker the idea that everyone has an impact and contribution to make and you achieve that by matching the individual to the organisation?

In our business model we work with organisations to identify talent for them. One of the most recent engagements was with a telecoms operator in the UK and we supported their talent acquisition programme where they asked us to identify 100 people with a certain tech skill.  The conventional method would have been to use CV’s and shortlist people. We threw all of that in the bin and used a transparent tech assessment and allowed people from any background to come and take the assessment to see where they stand. A member of that team was a key cutter at Timpsons, he had applied for about 40 jobs and did not get a single call because they all wanted people with tech experience for their respective roles.

This young man had been learning in his own free time and we were able to identify that skill by using the assessment that we would not have been able to identify had we used CV’s and shortlisting. He is now the first individual to graduate from the programme we supported in filling.

It’s obvious to me that you get a great sense of fulfilment from this, finding individuals and facilitating them in living to their full potential.

One of the learnings for me is that, as a game changer, I create ideas. It’s no good creating ideas if you can’t deploy them and be realistic in terms of your vision. So sometimes, even for those who are thinking five to ten years ahead of the curve, we need to be realistic and start by executing small things that can start making a difference today.

In these strange times, what are you seeing for us over the next year or two?

We can change and set a new normal based on what’s reasonable and what’s practical for the first time in a long time. So it’s about not doing an activity because of inertia. This interview, for example, would originally have been face-to-face but now we are using a tech medium to facilitate it.