In Conversation with Mr. Prakash Sharma (CFO – NSDC)
As Chief Financial Officer, Prakash Sharma leads NSDC’s financial functions and strategies, including all accounting, treasury, budgeting and taxation. In addition to the financial functions, Audit, Legal, Procurement, IT, WorldSkills, Accreditation & Affiliation and Administration functions among others also come under his purview. .
He has over 25+ years of progressive experience in finance management, He has held senior executive positions in some of India’s leading corporates, where he led scaling up systems and processes in implementing financial controls, productivity improvements and change management. In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious ‘CFO of the Year Award’ for Excellence in Finance in a Start Up and has received ‘CFO-100 Roll of Honour’ for the years – 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018 & 2019. In 2019, he was also awarded with ‘Top Rankers Excellence Award’ for Strategic Finance Leadership.
Here’s a peek into his thoughts based on a couple of questions we asked.
1. The CFO has become a co-pilot to the CEO on a strategic front. How exactly have you adapted to this evolution in role?
Now-a-days , CFO role has been in limelight due to multiple statutory and regulatory reforms, changes in structures and fast changing environment. Such changes has put CFOs in ever learning mode and such adaptability has helped CFOs in becoming Co-pilot to the CEO on strategic front. CFOs are now not only leading the finance team which is busy in number crunching, but also advising CEOs on strategic front. There has been significant shift in the role of CFO from monitoring a company’s financial health to guide organisation on future path as strategic partner to CEO and this is true for me also. In my case, Technology has played a very important role, looking at implementation of large size & scale government schemes we are increasingly adopting new technologies for Skill Development Management System (SDMS), ERP and other tools like monitoring Apps through mobile devices, BI tools and similar analytics applications. Such tools and other innovation helps me to manage risk in better ways. Technology has helped me in smooth transition into new strategic front. I also help the organisation to find new areas of expansion including international expansion by exploring demand of Indian young workforce.
2. What is the most challenging thing you faced in your current role? What is your biggest learning in these VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguous) times?
Organisation like National Skill Development Corporation play a role of Catalyst in Skill Development Ecosystem. We have to be in a position to understand market dynamics and understand the need of growing businesses. We need to know the levers to pull and how much to pull to maintain pace of growth for the skill development sector.
CFO of such development sector organisation needs to be adaptive to new changes as well as reactive and innovative to maintaining sustainability of the entities depending on such organisation. These times make it imperative for me to identify key things that matters most to the organisation and its one of my key responsibility to create policies and procedures to adapt such changes for the right reasons. It is also important to a strategic CFO to strike a balance between being hands-on and focusing on strategic orientation approach. I’m passionate about knowing more and more and understanding the story behind numbers. These times force us to be well-informed, grounded and have updated practical views which can be shared with all stakeholder for right decision-making.
3. What would you say is the most over rated financial advice
I get lot of queries/ requests from different organisations to help them for becoming partners to my organisation and one of the main reasons they quote is about availing tax benefits. An entity gets some indirect tax benefits if they become our training providers. Many proposal owners put their proposal only to get such benefits. Businesses are run on great ideas and not on tax benefits. Taxes are secondary, and I advise organisations that avoidance of taxes is a worthy endeavour, but “don’t let the tax tail wag the dog.” It may be a sales pitch for an investor by a financial advisor but business decisions should not be taken on some tax exemptions.
4. CFOs should act as powerful digital stewards and help lead workforce transformation. Your thoughts?
In this new world where technology is bringing changes that were never thought of, organisations everywhere and in all sectors are working out on the best ways to leverage technology to improve productivity and reduce cost. In today’s ever connected world, CFO increasingly works in an advisory capacity to solve problems and sets objectives across the enterprise. CEOs have high expectations from CFOs to add strategic value, using their view not only on cost and revenue drivers but also on workforce transformation. In such scenario, CFOs have no option but to act as powerful digital stewards and help lead workforce transformation. CFOs are in most suitable position to act as digital stewards as they sits at the intersection of strategy, technology, operations, and financial management. In my example, Government of India’s large scale scheme implementation is only possible in a digital way to maintain speed, scale and sustainability. We use technologies at large, to deliver different schemes. Any fall out or failure on such part impacts me the most, as the CFO, therefore, we have to take a lead in becoming a digital steward. The finance function is no more administrative function or to just focus on cash flow, capturing numbers, and reporting to stakeholders, it has grown to strategic development areas taking help of new technologies.