Appal Chintapalli became Vice-President and General Manager of integrated rack systems at Vertiv EMEA nearly three years ago, and during this short time, he has managed to transform the business.
After obtaining a master’s in Chemical Engineering, Appal’s career began with a start-up company in Silicon Valley before he moved on to become a software sales specialist at IBM.
There, he learned a lot about the sales profession and customer management and was inspired to attend Harvard Business School.
With increased business knowledge under his belt, Appal joined automation solutions company Emerson, where he could “be closer to the engineering field but also work in management”.
The role was perfect for what would come, for as Appal tells The CEO Magazine, he “spent a lot of time on customer research; understanding what they want from products and how they make decisions”.
After almost seven years and several roles within the company, Appal became Vice-President Marketing EMEA at Emerson Network Power at a time when the company was integrating a number of acquisitions, including IT rack solutions specialist Knürr.
A global Vertiv idea
When Emerson Network Power was spun off as Vertiv, Knürr was retained as a product brand and a new line of business, Integrated Rack Systems, was created.
Appal was then appointed as the Vice-President and General Manager for this business.
“The first task was to get the economics of the business right,” Appal explains.
“Having done that, we also felt it was important to transform the company to become part of one, global Vertiv idea.
So essentially, we rebranded from Knürr to Vertiv. Knürr gave us only the rack/metal side of things, but as Vertiv, with Knürr as a product line, we have added multiple businesses to the portfolio.”
The company’s range includes power distribution systems, heat dissipation systems and KVMs (kernel-based virtual machines), and its growth is something Appal is proud to be part of.
Taking a brand from just a rack company to one that provides critical power, cooling and IT infrastructure at the rack level, is a transformation Appal says is still underway, but one that he and the Vertiv team have made significant strides in.
“I’ve been here two and a half years and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the new energy we’ve infused into the product development,” he adds.
Strengthen the company’s structure
When the brand change was underway, Appal knew it was important to strengthen the company’s structure.
“Every culture goes through phases, and openness and honesty are what I value and strive for; just general candour about the good and bad,” he says.
“A few main things that we focus on – not only to instil in new people but also what we demand of our experienced people – are exuding positive intent, being optimistic about the future, being candid and realistic about opportunities, and respecting others.”
Understanding what customer needs
Now, with a more diversified business in place, the next step for Appal is to increase Vertiv’s foothold in the market.
“We serve the customers but they can be static,” he says. “We have to continuously innovate, be competitive and drive non-traditional dimensions of innovation to bring us into the modern age.”
We have to continuously innovate, be competitive and drive non-traditional dimensions of innovation.
An integral part of the business is understanding what customers need and the future direction they may be going in.
“We get a lot of that as we evolve with their needs,” Appal says. “At the same time, we spend a lot of effort undertaking fundamental market research, whether qualitative or quantitative.”
“Engineers have many ideas but only a few of them are viable in terms of what the customer is willing to pay. Balancing those is an important task.”
Vertiv also employs customer advisory boards to get a better sense of how products are being received. “We invite them to come and talk to us,” Appal says.
“We’re gratified by them coming over and telling us exactly what they think. Even if they don’t exactly extol our virtues, we would still like their feedback.”
“This is so we can make the adjustments necessary to meet their expectations.”
Adapt to a broader change
Simultaneously, the company has to ensure it adapts to the broader changes in technology.
“It’s undeniable that the world is going through a dramatic evolution in terms of what people expect from devices,” Appal says.
“My toddler was trying to swipe a magazine because that’s what you’re used to on the iPad… I think customers expect interfaces to be of a certain nature, given those expectations are being set by other consumer devices.”
“We have to keep up with this trend whether it is in the human-centred design, usability or user-experience design.
Focus on the value-added solutions
“It’s not just a product anymore; it is all the other things that are around it that we are concerned with. And that may mean building competencies that we traditionally may not have had, whether it is user experience, design or software.”
Looking ahead, Appal will focus on two main areas: product innovation and revenue growth.
“We have to continue to keep up with the dramatic pace of IT and the IT infrastructure evolution. It’s a multi-year journey and, clearly, we are on track innovation-wise.
“The other thing is that we are making a big push into the IT channel market. Traditionally, we have been using resource-intensive, highly customised, direct-selling business models.”
“We’ll continue to do that but with more of a focus on the value-added solutions instead.”
“Further, we’ll also put more effort into being effective in the IT channel, on fast lead time, quick replenishment and stock-keeping. Ultimately, we want to continue doing business in a more transactional but highly efficient way.”
How to increase productivity
Appal Chintapalli shares his top 3 tips on increasing work productivity.
- Appropriate delegation of tasks. “If you delegate to the wrong person you may have to do it again.”
- Have short meetings with clear objectives.
- Don’t procrastinate on making decisions. “It really improves productivity if you can make that call today, with 70 to 80 % of the information, rather than waiting for 95%.”