Corporate File

‘The Creator Economy has been a big boost’

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on: Mar 13, 2022

Adobe India’s new VP & MD Prativa Mohapatra on what’s driving growth for the tech company

What impresses you after an hour-long conversation with Prativa Mohapatra, the new chief of Adobe India, is how well she has shaped her own destiny, taking firm control of critical decisions affecting her career and life, including finding her own marriage partner!

“The first part of my life was by default — including my engineering studies. After that, I planned everything carefully,” says Mohapatra, whose childhood was spent in Odisha, flitting between the remote mining towns her father, a government servant, was posted in and sleepy Bhubaneswar where she completed her schooling. A life as far removed from the jet-setting job she had in IBM, where she travelled to practically every continent including Latin America. At IBM, she makes no bones about admitting that she evaluated each role, only accepting those that would put her on the trajectory for a leadership position.

With four brothers as siblings and three cousins who stayed with them in the government flat she grew up in, it was a simple life, with Oriya dalma (lentils with vegetables) on the menu every other day and having to share everything.

“Yet it was a very happy life. I cannot remember a single sad moment,” says Mohapatra, who ascribes her sportiness — she played badminton for her college and is still a regular on the court — to growing up with brothers.

When the waiter arrives to take our order (we are meeting at the ITC Maurya coffee shop) Mohapatra decisively orders grilled vegetable sandwiches along with our tea, even though I demur, and admittedly it is a comforting plate laden with sinful French fries, crisped to perfection.

The first time her name appeared in a newspaper was when she was in class ten — she topped the state rankings. Academically brilliant, Mohapatra saw the boys in her class attending coaching classes for engineering entrance exams and decided to give it a shot too. She sailed into the computer engineering programme at REC (now NIT) Rourkela. It was the first time she was away from home.

“The conservative in me was shaken up,” she says. She was one among 30 girls in a batch of 300 – fifteen of the girls were from outside the state, friendships with whom opened her horizons.

Then came the MBA from Xavier Institute of Management at Bhubaneswar where she specialised in systems and finance, and which led to her placement in consulting firm PwC and a challenging assignment in Nepal involving the turnaround of a cement plant.

“The factory was at least 70 miles from Kathmandu and there was no woman’s loo,” she recalls. But the assignment, which involved working out financial and costing solutions, engaged her mind totally.

“You cannot understand unit costing of cement until you understand the manufacturing process. It was a good mix of technology, functional aspects and business — and that’s who I am actually,” says Mohapatra, whose subsequent gigs for PwC took her to oil rigs and as far as Tampa, Florida.

Just before her US trip — faced with an ultimatum from her parents to get married — she chose her life partner, her MBA classmate. “He was as different as I was so I knew we would complement each other perfectly,” she says.

In 2002, IBM acquired PwC’s consulting business and that’s how she found herself with the technology giant. It was a definite pang to leave IBM, says Mohapatra, pointing out that she had never changed jobs.

“I did get three-year itches,” she says. But IBM would always find challenging roles for her. She fondly recalls one particular assignment where she had to help the Asia Pac HR Head hire one hundred executives for the company in six months.

“IBM was in a high growth phase and wanted 100 executives to be hired right up to LatAm. The HR Head wanted a business leader to assist in this drive and I said, what have I got to lose,” she says with a laugh.

The move to Adobe, like everything she has done, was taken after careful evaluation. In 2020, IBM had split its business, hiving off its managed infrastructure services into a new company called Kyndryl. Suddenly, Mohapatra — who was driving sales for the company’s solutions and services in India and South Asia — found the function had shrunk. She was moved into the role of Vice President of Digital Sales for IBM in Asia Pacific, but Adobe’s offer was enticing as it ticked more boxes, especially as it was in India where she had always homed back to.

“Adobe’s products were highly relevant. The three stacks of products it has — document cloud, creative cloud and experience cloud — are in the sweet spot of what the world needs,” she says.

Everyone is doing digital transformation, but what will set companies apart in the future is how different their digital experience is, she explains, describing how banks, hotels, airlines and e-commerce majors, all big clients for Adobe, are asking for hyperpersonalition solutions.

What is inside this experience cloud? Mohapatra explains that the four pillars of the cloud are content and commerce, data and insights, customer journey (used to design loyalty programmes and plan campaigns), and workflow.

The D2C wave and the spurt that e-commerce got during the pandemic has seen a big boost to Adobe’s business as many of these brands are driven by the company’s content and commerce solutions.

On the one hand, she says, incumbents are raising their game digitally. On the other hand, newcomers are coming with innovative strategies. In parallel, the individual creator economy has taken off, boosting Adobe’s creative cloud. And the third growth front is the government’s digital drive and the upheaval in education, leading to increased usage of the company’s document cloud.

What about the tech talent shortage; has it hit Adobe?

“The Great Resignation is a macro phenomenon. No company has escaped that. It’s a topic among CEOs today, as key employees leaving can destabilise a company. But I believe the situation will stabilise,” she says, even though the current situation in Ukraine has led to demand for more developers out of India. “Many macro things hit India talent demand.”

Confident and poised, Mohapatra has a clear-eyed vision for how to do business and negotiate her daily life. She spends time envisioning — when you see ahead, you can plan the journey, she says — and is instilling these concepts in her team as well as her daughter!

With everything mapped on a matrix by Mohapatra, Adobe’s journey looks to be in good hands.

Published on March 13, 2022
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