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Friday February 23rd, 2024

Mangala Rodrigo: Leading a catalyst for transformation

Mangala Rodrigo Chief Executive Sampath Information Technology Solutions

Mangala Rodrigo, Chief Executive at Sampath Information Technology Solutions (SITS), talks about the company’s journey to becoming a catalyst for transformation – bringing together people, processes, and technology – in the banking and financial services industry and other commercial enterprises across Sri Lanka and plans for global expansion.

Can you tell us about SITS, its founding purpose, and the journey thus far?

We launched SITS in 2006 as a fully owned subsidiary of Sampath Bank, initially focusing on the hardware side of technology such as printed circuit boards and distributing and maintaining end-user equipment. We ventured into software development because it is a critical industry in the modern era. By initially developing solutions for the parent company that gave it the edge in the banking and financial services industry, we built a suite of expertise and capabilities that set the platform for us to expand our services to other organisations across diverse industries.

The company has since evolved into an end-to-end systems integration solutions provider for organisations across various industries. Today, SITS is a catalyst for transformation. We have a team of over 200 people committed to serving the technology needs of internal and external clients across the country. We have a great culture that supports technology-based innovations. Together with the backing and strength of the parent company, we are building technology-based solutions to transform the economy, especially in the banking, payments, and fintech space.

What are some of the business problems SITS is trying to solve?

Essentially, we help organisations optimise people, processes, and technology, the three components for an effective and successful enterprise: without the right balance, unlocking the full potential to reach the pinnacle of success is impossible. You can have the best, cutting-edge technology, but without the right people and processes in place, you will not achieve much. Most businesses don’t see themselves in this way, so when clients approach us for consultancy, we take a deep dive to understand the people, process, technology gaps and needs. That’s the first step. Next, we bring consultancy services and technology tools to help enterprises run more productive operations. We have a suite of products developed with AI capabilities that we can then deploy to take any enterprise to the next level. Apart from the productivity and efficiency gains, we believe our solutions improve governance structures and heighten the integrity and credibility of the clients we serve, helping them, in turn, to deepen relationships with their clients and expand the business.

Being part of a bank recognised for pioneering banking technology in the country, can you tell us how SITS fits in with the bank’s objective of driving financial inclusivity and economic growth?

The main objective is convenience and delighting customers. Our purpose and mission are to become the most sought after information and communication technology company with a proven track record of innovation, integrity, and the ability to collaborate with clients for optimal results. We aim to ensure that customers are happy and delighted by the experiences we give them, and this is where innovation comes in. Let me give one example. In our pursuit to improve the convenience factor of Sri Lankan banking services, we pioneered virtual teller machines (VTM) in the country that allow banking customers to access a range of services without having to step into a branch and spend time in queues. Today, almost every banking and financial services institution are following our lead and deploying technology to improve access to financial services and convenience.

What is your vision for the company, and where will growth come from over the next five years?

To be the catalyst of transformation and develop the value chain of enterprises both locally and globally. We aim to build a global brand in technology and have already taken the initial steps.

What was the one leadership lesson you had to learn the hard way?

People Management. Two of the three components I mentioned earlier, people and process, is all about human intervention. Even technology deployment requires human intervention to become successful at some stage. Empathy is crucial to cultivate for successful leadership. You need to understand employees and their aspirations, needs, and fears to create growth opportunities for themselves and the company.

SITS is a results-driven business, so aligning people to a shared vision is a top priority, along with attracting and retaining the best talent. We make sure our employees are rewarded and have every opportunity to upgrade their skills. Importantly, we have given them a purpose which is to transform enterprises and people’s lives.

We have a dynamic people-first strategy that is constantly updated to keep up with technology’s rapid upheavals. More and more startups are entering the market rapidly, threatening to upend traditional business models and competing for the available tech talent. Fintechs are doing the same for banking and financial services. But we don’t see ourselves as competitors because we are building systems to transform the entire ecosystem so that fintechs and banks can work together to create more benefits for consumers. So, there is a higher purpose in what we are doing at SITS.

What is the boldest decision you have ever made?

During the Covid-19 lockdown, when most businesses resorted to cut salaries and allowances to stay afloat, I decided not to go down that road. The pandemic is unprecedented in terms of its global scale and economic repercussions. The last thing I wanted to do was make the employees feel the pressure from all the disruptions around them. I took on the responsibility to manage operations and maintain costs in such a way that the organization maintains momentum and employees remain happy.