Acer India: Connecting People and Technology

Mr. Harish Kohli, President & MD, Acer India Bangalore

The word technology comes from the Greek word techne, which means art and craft. Technology started in our world with the invention of the wheel, the first most artistic and crafty of the tech inventions of all times.

Riding on it, we, the Homo Sapiens, came into an era where technology is promising to transform our future daily. But throughout history, common people only used whatever was offered by technology.

Until some of the best technovators came into the picture and understood working modern technologies into the purview of us, the people.

Technovators like Acer India have seamlessly connected people with the technology, and it has been continuously strengthening that bond.

With its regular breakthroughs, innovations and advancement in current products and services, the brand is upping its ante with each passing moment.

Just like the brand, its leader, a veteran in the computer hardware industry with a proven track record in driving sustainable growth for organizations, needs no introduction. Mr Harish Kohli, President & Managing Director at Acer India, is an organized and self-motivated individual with 37 years of experience in sales management, business development, strategic planning, and implementation.

He joined the company when it was just a start-up, and he has the privilege of selling the company’s first computer in India.

In an interview with CIO Look for its brand-new edition of ‘League of Innovators – 2022’, Mr Kohli is talking more about his and his company’s tremendous growth in uniting people and technology. The excerpts of the conversation are given below.

Sir, please describe your professional journey for our audience.

I have been associated with Acer for the past 22 years. I had joined the company as General Manager- Sales in July 1999. In 2011, I was selected as the Managing Director of Acer India, and later in May 2016, I was promoted to President and Managing Director.

We met the long-term vision of breaking barriers between people and technology. Acer has always been the company that tried to adapt innovation with the changing times.

These two-plus decades have been a journey of evolution, laying a solid foundation for commercial and consumer business. In September 2016, I was assigned the responsibility of heading Acer PAP (Pan Asia Pacific) Regional Commercial Task Team for strategic planning and implementation across this region. My journey in the company wouldn’t have been possible without the great team I have had with me.

Who inspires you to wake up every day and keep making a difference in the respective industry you are catering to?

It is the desire to learn something new every day and the willingness to contribute something beautiful to society that is inspiring. I have been associated with Acer for over two decades. And here, we believe in innovation and customer-centricity.

Every day, I think about how Acer can make a difference as an innovative company and work towards customer happiness, employees, and channel partners’ satisfaction and growth while contributing positively to society.

As a leader of Acer India, what challenges have you faced while establishing and running the business?

When we began operation in India, one of the key challenges was growing and establishing Acer as a brand and winning market share across key market segments. Over the years, Acer has been one of the few companies with such a breadth of a portfolio of products and has become the no.1 brand across multiple market segments.

Technology is a space that undergoes constant change. Understanding the consumer and the industry are two ways you can keep up in this space. As a leader, I need to think ahead of my consumer behavior to keep us with the evolving trends in the tech industry.

We’ve observed changing consumer demand and purchase behavior during these past years, and we have been quick to adapt to the change and ensure we play a critical role in their digital transformation. I firmly believe each challenge and crisis poses an opportunity, and we have the best team to ride over this to come out more vital than ever. 

Brief us about the operations of Acer India, its mission, vision, and core values.

The truth is that they are all essential to us. Our vision sets us apart, we are grounded in values, and our mission gives a purpose to what we do. Together, the vision, mission, and values statements provide direction for everything in our organization. It keeps us focused on where we are heading and what we plan to achieve. And it defines the core values of the organization and how people are expected to behave.

All three are not intended to be a constraint that restricts the initiatives and innovations, but they are designed to guide decisions and behaviours to achieve common ends.

How has the current pandemic affected your business, and what steps have you taken to safeguard your employees while catering to your clients?

The pandemic was a learning experience for all of us. I would not say it was a challenge. Still, as a leader, it’s equally important to incorporate plans on how to run the business as usual and at the same time support the emotional and mental well-being of employees, who likely face new concerns and demands brought on by the pandemic.

At Acer, we had introduced the Omni-Channel experience for our customers to provide a seamless path to purchase and serve better across channels. This initiative was created to provide ease of purchase, keep partners and customers safe, and promote business continuity. This future-ready experience allows our users and channel partners in the post-COVID world. To support customers in these difficult times, we developed the ‘Book Now Pay Later’ option on our e-store. People can get priority delivery across a broad portfolio of laptops, accessories, monitors, and projectors. They only pay when the shipment is ready for their location.

Also, we noticed that students are embracing the ‘learning anywhere, anytime’ concept of digital education in a range of formats. We provided e-learning tools to support local schools, teachers, and students amid the COVID-19 crisis as part of our BTS campaign in 2020, along with exclusive discounts for teachers and students, special affordability programs, and an extended warranty through our e-store. Thereby enabling both teachers and students to teach better and learn smarter.

Also, we took utmost care about the safety concerns of our employees. We are constantly looking at workplace safety issues and ensuring that we provide proper safety operation procedures and standard operating procedures for the manufacturing industry to ensure people are safe.

What creative ways have you employed to make your company’ vibrant?

At Acer, we have created a culture where all employees are actively encouraged to forward ideas. Following through on good ideas is a powerful way of encouraging staff to stay creative and come up with more new ideas to improve the business.

According to you, what are the essentials of being an innovative business leader?

Leadership is a lot more than just having great ideas; it’s being able to take those forward-looking thoughts and turn them into action and push results across the business. Then it’s the ability to build and foster a committed base of followers to help them reproduce and scale those ideas to deliver significant results to the business. Here are five vital qualities that every innovative leader should possess.

  • Adaptability: Whether they focus on modernization, leadership, strategy, leaders can apply their proficiency to what’s happening in the world today.
  • Curiosity: Leaders are naturally intriguing and endeavors to solve problems. They aren’t looking simply to join the conversation; they pursue transforming it.
  • Responsiveness: It’s not enough to have an idea. Effective and successful leaders can communicate their vision to any audience relevantly.
  • Enthusiasm: If you aren’t enthusiastic enough about your idea, why should anyone else be? Top leaders are fascinating storytellers who can efficiently balance their idealistic ideas with everyday applications.
  • Verdict: Leaders and their ideas are continually questioned. To rise above the noise, leaders need to have the audacity to see them through while being open-minded enough to see that their method probably isn’t the only one.

What would you like to share with the young generation of entrepreneurs who are looking to step foot in a leadership role in their respective businesses?

One piece of advice which I would like to share for aspiring leaders is that good leadership takes strength of character and a firm commitment to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.

Leaders should lead by example. When you put yourself to a high standard, your team will look up to gain support by doing the same. They will work towards meeting your expectations of excellence and integrity when you provide them with the opportunity and respect in return. A leader must provide his employees with access to the right tools and training and give them directions to succeed in their roles.

This is crucial because a leader is successful only when the team is successful. While a leader always sees that his employees are enablers to success stories, at the same time, they also need to think about their professional growth in the company. These collectively help an organization to succeed.

In terms of future growth, where do you see yourself and Acer India?

Acer is very confident about the Indian market, and we are committed to expanding our retail presence in the country each year. Acer has partnerships with over 2500 multi-brand outlets where our range of products is sold. In 2020, we opened our e-store, which serves over 20000+ pin codes and helps in the omnichannel experience.

Apart from retail expansion, the pandemic has changed people’s lifestyles and perspectives towards digital communication. The current situation has pushed companies across different sectors to adopt technology in enabling new business models.

Acer has been at the forefront in providing a superior experience to its customers through tech-enabled lifestyle enhancement products. In 2021 Acer started to manufacture laptops in India under the PLI scheme. We are bringing global processes to manufacture high-tech electronic products in the laptops category, implemented through Dixon’s facilities.

We had launched a new brand called the Acerpure under which we have launched air purifiers. The new line of products from Acer indicates an extension of Acer’s smart air quality solution business and follows the brand’s corporate mission to promote a safer living.

Also, to keep up with the urgent need to be connected, Acer has gone the extra mile to bring the best of our technology through our True Wireless Audio earbuds under Gateway and Acer brands. We want to remain inspiring, guiding, and motivating people to further contribute to their needs and the changing consumer’s way of life and put lifestyle firmly at the center stage.

Acer is also bringing 5G tech-enabled laptops to the market that offers much faster data download and upload speed. For AI-based technology, Acer is bringing tailored solutions across sectors. For example, smart wearable devices, smart parking, smart water meter, and air quality monitor.

We believe digital communication tools for mobile working might become the preferred form of communication in the coming future. AI and IoT will also play a significant role in assisting enterprises or individuals in engaging in communication more efficiently and effectively.

That’s also what Acer is focusing on at the moment. Through Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, Acer is determined to offer people an innovative, efficient, and convenient lifestyle.