Reinvigorating Cisco’s service provider business

Its service provider business in the region has grown leaps and bounds under the leadership of its APJ President on Service Provider Business Sanjay Kaul.

Tech company Cisco has won the Executive of the Year - Networking Technology award at the SBR Management Excellence Awards 2021 as the company has built a strong regional leadership team in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region headed by its APJ President on Service Provider Business, Sanjay Kaul.

Kaul is an information and communications technology (ICT) professional with three decades of experience in multinational environments across Europe, Asia Pacific, Japan and Africa. He has worked with prestigious multinational companies in the ICT industry and has provided strategic advice to several telco companies, as well as policymakers on various strategic, technology and operational issues in a management consulting capacity.

“I’m thrilled. It’s not a recognition just for me. It’s a recognition for my team,” Kaul said. “What we are achieving here is not possible without having the team that believed in your origin to fall in place and the direction that you set.”

One of his legacy achievements across all his roles is his ability to identify, cultivate and nurture future leaders, equipping them with the skills required to excel in the fast-paced ICT industry.

Ever since he took over as the APJ head of the service provider business for Cisco, Kaul has not only grown the business but also galvanised the team for a number of strategic innovations. He has delivered unique transformational projects for Cisco that have been recognised as industry-first.

“We have our team value system that is basically three things. The first one is, to be bold. The second is to be collaborative. The third is be the best,” Kaul revealed. “When I say be bold, you are allowed to explore new territories. If you fail, it's okay. But fail fast and move to the next one.

“As a result, you are giving your people possibilities to tinker the box. That's important in this very fast-moving business. That way, teams put their strengths to the best use. When you are operating in an organisation where everyone is working on their strengths, good things are going to come.”‘

Cisco’s service provider business in the region has also grown leaps and bounds due to the leadership of Kaul. He has done this through a systematic delegation, ensuring there is a line of sight between his unit’s mission and actions performed by the last level in the organisation. He also worked hand-in-hand with each and every leader in a highly complex matrix organisation where each stakeholder was motivated and inspired to put in their best.

“By being collaborative, it is the team together that creates the outcome. When you have reached the outcome, make sure you celebrate it together as a team. Every time you succeed as a leader, your success becomes contagious…and sustainable. I believe you will have a better culture, better environment, and you are making use strengths of every employee.”

In addition to building a strong regional leadership team, he has ensured that each country and theatre leader is delivering on their respective goals. For Kaul, every situation is a great opportunity. 

“I always hunt for something that has not been done before,” he notes. “You have to always think big if you want to aim for (the) moon and you have to plan for going to (the) sun. Always set up audacious goals. When you do that, make sure you have diverse teams that understand the goal,” Kaul adds.

“Lastly, is the important tool of being emphatic and being vulnerable at the same time. You can’t be a successful leader or manager if you cannot open yourself to your people. By staying open to your people - talking about your own struggles, shortcomings - it gives people possibilities. You breed trust in your people.”

He is currently serving on the Boards of GX Group, Netherlands, AUW Hong Kong, Board Chair for AUW Singapore, and advising a few start-ups. Kaul has also written numerous business and technical papers, spoken at industry forums, and has authored a book on sustainable growth for telcos.

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