Politics is a dirty world, one which not many educated elite would like to enter. But Hilal Khan, head, Corporate IT, Honda Motor India, is a breed apart. Right from his college days, when after seeing the emotional exploitation of the naïve students at the hands of the so-called college leaders, he formed a group of like-minded friends for contesting elections. "It was then that I decided that from being a passive onlooker from the sidelines I would actively participate in college politics," he says. However, he missed the opportunity of contesting elections in his last year at college as the administration banned elections in the campus.
"During my college days itself, I wanted to be a politician and do something for the society and for my country instead of merely complaining about the sorry state of affairs," he says. Hailing from Najibabad, a small town in Bijnor on the Uttar Pradesh-Uttaranchal border, Khan admits he has "come a long way." After completing his schooling from his hometown, he sought admission in the Aligarh Muslim University where he completed his Master of Computer Application (MCA) in 1992.
head, Corporate IT,
Honda Motor India
But soon he realized the importance of earning a livelihood and "started his career in a traditional way like most IT professionals do." He got his first job as an executive trainee in DCM Toyota in 1992 where he worked his way up as an assistant manager until he left DCM Toyota which by then had become Daewoo Motors in 1999. Just like many of his ilk, Khan too dreamt of going to the US and had even acquired the coveted H1B visa. He was supposed to join a US-based organization but it was then that the entrepreneurial bug bit him.
"Just as I was about to leave for the US, the DCM Group who were my previous employers got in touch with me for starting an ERP based company. I immediately took up the challenge as it was an opportunity for me to venture into an uncharted territory of being an entrepreneur." Thus, was born Global IT Options, a DCM Group company.
But Khan soon opted out of the company and joined Honda Siel Cars, one of the leading car manufacturers, in April 2001 as the IT head. He has now moved on as the head Corporate IT in Honda Motor India, formed for handling the IT requirements of all the Honda group companies. "My role as a corporate IT head is more strategic instead of the usual CIO's role," he says.
Walking the Tightrope
Quiz him about who takes precedence in his life; wife or work and Khan philosophically answers, "Wife and work are separate areas and therefore cannot be compared. Work is my intellectual need and wife is the need of the soul."
An avid reader, he has a collection of books on varied topics ranging from palmistry, philosophy, spirituality and books by Keiro and Pandit Vidyadhar Shrimali. "Since my house is a good one hour away from work, I manage to utilize the time for catching up on my reading." Some of his favorites include In the Company of Women by Khushwant Singh, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The World is Not Flat.
If not CIO, then...:
"Would have surely become a politician." Not one to merely complain about the nation's affairs from the sidelines, Hilal jumped into politics during his college days and would have ideally liked to pursue it.Passionate about collecting expensive watches and pens and is fond of reading books on philosophy, spirituality and religion.
But what really makes him stand apart from the rest is his love for collecting pens and expensive watches. Prod him further and pat comes the reply, "No special reason. I just picked up the hobby from my Japanese colleagues at Toyota." Khan has a whopping collection of 100 watches, expensive ones like Rado and Omega collected painstakingly over a period of 5-6 years. "What really pains me is the inability to buy all expensive watches I come across," he says wistfully. He is particularly proud of his collection of pens: 10 Cross and 5 Mont Blanc.
On the Work Front
Realizing that dealers are important as the cars are sold through them, Honda is planning to implement dealer management software which will fulfill the need for an enterprise software expected to take care of all functions and can be integrated in the financial accounting software. "This will be hosted in a centralized manner at a data center," he says.
As one who "believes in respect for any individual", Khan, like any good manager, believes in delegation of work to his colleagues. "I trust people and feel that once you start trusting and educating them, in a way you are making them accountable. Being youngsters they are bound to make mistakes but I let them learn from their mistakes," Khan says.
What Lies Ahead
As one who still nurses a dormant ambition to pursue politics, Khan says that if and when the opportunity arises he would like to work for the IT community by joining some industry organization like Nasscom. For now he is content working as a CIO.His passion for pens and watches is matched by his sincerity for work. As one of the leading car manufacturers Honda needs to constantly innovate.As a firm believer in the philosophy of 'work is worship' Khan worked hard so that he could devote more time to family. And the hard work certainly has borne fruit. Married to a computer engineer wife last year, Khan is balancing his newly married life with the demands of his high-pressure job with ease. "Even with a hectic work and travel schedule, I try to spend time with my parents and wife and have made it a point to have dinner with them and sometimes also manage to sneak out for a family outing on Sundays."