Sunil Kumar Global Online MBA

Sunil Ramakrishnan is Head of Blockchain for the Oil & Gas Industry at IBM Europe and a member of the Global Online MBA class of 2017-19.

We spoke to Sunil about his career, his time studying on the programme so far, and about Blockchain technology.

What does a Head of Blockchain do?

Sunil is the Head of Blockchain for the UK and Europe for two verticals. Chemicals and Petroleum, involving all the big oil and gas companies across Europe, and Industrial Products, including all the big mining, industrial and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies.

He says that most of their clients are looking at ways to reduce costs in their organisation.

“For example, most CEOs want to see how they can grow their business. Not just 1% but potentially by 20%,” he said.

“Most Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are thinking: currently I am spending a billion dollars on technology. How can I make it more efficient, and possibly reduce this cost by 20-30%? It’s one of the few times in an era where the CEO and the CIO are jointly looking at something transformational.”

These changes can not only help them to massively reduce costs, but also to get into new business areas far more easily, improve trust that exists between different partners and remove intermediation, says Sunil.

“Currently, there are numerous intermediate companies that exist. If I am a big trading organisation, a lot of money has to be paid to brokers for actually doing a trade, and a lot of money to clearing exchanges for clearing transactions.”

A once in a lifetime opportunity

“Blockchain is enabling is the removal of intermediation by numerous entities between a company and the customer.”

It’s an extremely great opportunity, maybe once in a lifetime, where technology is changing something in a massive way for technology groups, and therefore for their suppliers, customers, regulators, auditors and so on.

Sunil’s role also includes helping companies reduce risk, improve their security and protect themselves against cyber-attacks and hacking.

“As a company, we have been working on around 450 Blockchains globally. Out of that I’ve been involved in around 15-20 of them in UK and Europe,” he says.

Why choose a career working in Blockchain?

Sunil previously lead KPMG’s analytics practice in Europe for 11 years, and before consulting he worked for a client organisation in their business function, so he has an understanding of how businesses are run, how processes enable this and how technology adds value.

Blockchain brings it all together in terms of my background in business, Big Four strategy consulting and technology.

“I think I’m in the best place to take advantage of my position in business and processes,” he said. “IBM’s background in technology brings it all together. “Blockchain is one of the technologies that has the potential to make a big change. I personally would like to be in the middle of this transformational technology,” he said.

What are the challenges of working in Blockchain?

“Blockchain is a technology area which not everyone usually understands,” says Sunil.

He says that usually a CEO, MD or Chief Financial Officer (CFO) wouldn’t talk to a lot of consulting companies. But Blockchain has changed things so that the focus is now on the business side.

“It’s a change of mind-set. Where the discussion is normally with the CIO and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), now it is more with the CEO and head of business on how we can bring this technology to enable them,” he says.

Sunil says the main challenge around Blockchain is it not being a solution in isolation, as there is collaboration involved.

Blockchain is bringing about a new mind-set in terms of working with customers and suppliers, but it’s also about collaborating even with competitors, who these big firms have never worked with before. It’s a completely new ecosystem to a certain extent.

He says another challenge is around presenting the value to the business. There needs to be a robust business case and demonstrable positive return on investment.

“Most of these companies have a clear view of what the ROI should be. It’s all led from the business case, so we need to ensure that we have a solid one that can be challenged and can provide benefits despite any stresses that could be put on it,” says Sunil.

Incorporating Blockchain knowledge in the Global Online MBA programme

“Currently I’m focused on getting the course done, as the first year is pretty challenging on the Global Online MBA, especially combined with a full-time role where you’re traveling all over Europe,” says Sunil.

“I’m mainly focusing on my work, but I’m waiting for the Capstone Business Game to see what projects we can develop.”

What advice do you have for someone wanting to work in Cryptocurrency and Blockchain?

“Blockchain gives you a strong view of what new technology is going to impact the world,” says Sunil.

“It really enables you to look at it from a business perspective as well. Anyone who is interested in how technology and business can intersect and offer new value should look into it.”

There are a number of ways to start building a foundational knowledge of Blockchain, says Sunil.

“There are a few online courses that do exist, including at IBM, so that’s one option. It’s good to look into getting a certification as well as getting some practical experience.”