Conversation between Amita Goyal, Principal & Head of GCoE practice, Zinnov; Vipin Shenoy, Project Lead, Zinnov; Nikitha Shiv, Lead – Business Development, Zinnov; Kurt Svendsen, Vice President, The Toro Company; Gary Podraza, Senior Manager, The Toro Company; and Deepak Deokule, Site Leader, Toro Technology Center India
In today’s connected world, smart devices are constantly putting more control and convenience at our fingertips. The field of smart technology is developing rapidly, and by 2020, it is estimated that over 200 Billion devices will be talking to each other and sending data to the Web.
It is no surprise that even traditional organizations such as The Toro Company (Toro) are leveraging smart technologies to revolutionize their industry. Toro, with its origin dating back to 1914, is now a leading global provider of innovative solutions for the outdoor environment, including turf and landscape maintenance, snow and ice management, underground utility construction, rental and specialty construction, and irrigation and outdoor lighting solutions.
Toro’s advent into connected happened as recently as 2017 and the company took a significant leap in this direction with its product ‘Internet of Turf®.’ To truly create an effective solution, Toro did something unique by utilizing the connected capabilities of five of its products and services to help reduce operating costs, increase efficiency and productivity, and produce quality playing surfaces for its customers.
In order to enable adaptive and fluid innovation, this mid-Western company decided to expand its horizons by expanding its global presence. Toro launched its Technology Center in Pune, India, in June 2019. In India, they decided to have a team of leading engineers and developers who will play a key role in devising next-generation solutions that improve productivity and increase efficiency, thereby providing Toro’s customers better care for their outdoor environments.
Toro partnered with Zinnov to assess the viability of establishing a Global Center of Excellence, and to identify the optimum model for setting up and help scale their new center further.
We recently had a discussion at length with their leaders, Kurt Svendsen, Vice President, The Toro Company; Gary Podraza, Senior Manager, The Toro Company; and, Deepak Deokule, Site Leader, Toro Technology Center India, to understand their vision for the company and their newly launched Global Center of Excellence in India. The following is an excerpt from the discussion.
Amita: What drove Toro to launch its first India Technology Center?
In recent years, Toro has been on a continuous journey to make its product portfolio, smart and connected. It was, therefore, important for us to accelerate technology development in this area.
Based on Zinnov’s assessment of global locations, India (and Pune) stood out primarily because of the availability of a large talent pool, and the vast engineering product development ecosystem. Technically, it is not our first technology center, but we can say that this is the first of its kind.
Pune serves as an ideal location for us to acquire talent that possesses a combination of software and engineering skillsets. Furthermore, India is also local to our distribution partners and our golf course customers in the region, who use Toro’s equipment and Toro’s Fleet Management Software. Adding to what Deepak mentioned, the technology center is the first of its kind focusing primarily on smart-connected products.
Amita: What role does the India Center play in your global operations?
At Toro, we have a long history of developing innovative solutions to address our customers’ challenges. The India center and its employees have a great opportunity to be a part of our global development team and script our success story in India. Our focus at the center will be technology, and we expect significant contributions to the development of Toro’s next-generation products – products that are smart, connected, and a part of today’s digital world.
The workforce that we are hiring from India comes from diverse domains and areas of expertise such as Web and Mobile app development, embedded systems, and industrial engineering. They have worked with some of the best companies in the world, and bring to the table a multitude of perspectives – enabling cross-pollination of ideas across different experience sets and context which Toro is already leveraging. We are deploying these practices, artefacts, and templates across the system to improve our overall innovation and productivity.
Vipin: How do you envision the Technology Center in Pune to drive innovation across The Toro Company?
We now have a strong team in place, which is focused on multiple smart-connected products such as SMARTScape and myTurf®. This team will further grow their skills, capabilities, and competencies to work on additional products that align with our vision, such as Internet of Turf®- where our products work together to bring a whole new level of productivity and innovative solutions to all our customers.
Multiple teams working together in the same location will help us grow faster. There is a range of approaches and innovation strategies that can be implemented across most of the products that we develop. When multiple teams are collocated, newly discovered strategies and procedures can be easily shared and applied across different teams and functions.
Amita: The average tenure of employees at The Toro Company is 17 years. How are you able to keep employees motivated and ensure that the tacit knowledge is shared with the new breed of employees?
The Toro Company’s success is built on a long history of caring relationships, trust, and integrity. These relationships are the foundation on which we grow and lead the market, providing the best innovative products and solutions. This tradition of caring for relationships has been carried forward by the teams and stakeholders, be it a customer, employee, or vendor.
A sense of purpose and a strong culture based on Pride in Excellence (PIE) – a way of life that instils values-driven behaviors, and governs our everyday work. PIE supports our interactions with each other, and encourages people and augments performance values. We also emphasize on the importance of learning experiences, such as Learning from Others, Learning by Doing, and Learning by Teaching. This is also what helps our employees ensure that knowledge is transferred and shared seamlessly within the organization, even the new team that has been established in Pune.
As Toro continues to innovate and accelerate smart-connected products, it presents a lot of exciting opportunities for employees to be a part of, in areas such as software development, and embedded systems. Continuous learning and a dynamic work environment keep our people engaged and committed.
Vipin: Are you focusing on building a talent pool with specific engineering or software development skills, for products and solutions being delivered from the India Technology Center?
Our Pune technology center will primarily assist in accelerating innovation in Toro’s products as they become smarter, more connected, and autonomous. Our Technology Center in India will also play a role in improving operational efficiency by assisting Toro in various new initiatives for global sourcing, manufacturing, and improving supply chain efficiency. Considering that Pune is a key location with skilled engineering talent, the Toro Technology Center will also actively contribute to the development of web and mobile apps, cloud computing, machine learning, analytics, embedded systems, and mechatronics controls, industrial engineering, and quality assurance.
Along with technical skills, Toro is focusing on attracting talent that has the formidable combination of technology, high motivation, drive, and a product development mindset.
Vipin: How unique is the employee experience at Toro, and what are the opportunities that the organization presents to its employees?
The most important, and unique experience about working at Toro is our strong culture – which is a perfect balance of people values encompassing respect, trust, teamwork, empowerment, recognition, communication, and performance values which are customer-centric. Toro also encourages entrepreneurship ideology and innovation.
Given the strategic intent of the center and the strong cohesion in responsibilities between India and the headquarters, it provides our employees across the globe access to world-class technologists and some of the best minds in the business, enabling them to enhance their knowledge and skills and also revolutionize the industry.
To top it all, Toro is also an employee-friendly company and offers a competitive and comprehensive benefits program. Apart from the regular benefits which are par for the course, our benefits also extend to access to club memberships such as gym, yoga, sports clubs, or clubs, with the intent of promoting wellness. Besides, Toro also provides a skill premium allowance to encourage employees to pursue educational courses, upskill themselves, or to enhance their career growth aligned with the overall culture of providing boundless learning opportunities.
What is clear from Toro’s India narrative is, a clear vision, innovation-focused strategy, and a people-first approach are key enablers for success in setting up and scaling a Global Center of Excellence. What is also clear is the fact that India is a viable location for organizations to set up their Global Center of Excellence in, given the interesting diversity of talent, abundance of engineering and software skillsets, and the enormousness of the market.
Is your organization looking to set up an India center remotely? Drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for expert insights on remote Global Center of Excellence setup.
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