Ajay Sharma

CIO 2023

A Dynamic Leader Pioneering Next-Gen Payment Solutions

Ajay Sharma

CIO, Head of Payments/Operations

Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services

Working with the best companies has been the dream of many. However, for Ajay Sharma, it is a reality he has lived over the past two and a half decades of his professional experience. During these times, he has worked with bigwigs like Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Capgemini, and Sodexo.
As the Vice President, CIO, and Head of Payments at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services (BRS), Ajay has played a pivotal role in driving digital transformation and innovation.
With his expertise in technology and business development, Ajay has been instrumental in developing and implementing cuttingedge solutions that have improved customer satisfaction and driven business growth. His passion for technology and commitment to delivering value to customers has resulted in the consistent development of powerful business strategies supported by costeffective, high-performance, and next-gen technologies.
Ajay’s leadership skills are particularly noteworthy, as he has excelled in fostering and strengthening client relationships, driving geographically distributed teams, and managing cross-cultural resources to deliver organisational objectives. His dedication to building and leading high-performance teams has enabled Sodexo BRS to achieve significant success in the payments industry. Ajay’s professional journey is a testament to his expertise, vision, and commitment to driving innovation and delivering value to customers. His contributions to the IT industry have earned him a reputation as a dynamic and sought-after thought leader in the payments industry. Speaking with TradeFlock, he revealed some interesting facts about his journey and his roles and responsibilities.

Kindly brief about your roles and responsibilities today and shed some light on the biggest obstacles you face.

As the CIO & Head of Payments at Sodexo BRS India, my role involves leading the overall tech, digital, and security strategy for the organisation, with a specific focus on developing and managing digital payment solutions. In this capacity, I oversee the endto-end technology stack for our payment systems, including design, development, deployment, and maintenance. Overall, my role is critical to driving innovation and delivering exceptional customer experiences.
One of the major challenges is the fastevolving regulatory landscape in the payments industry. Ensuring compliance with various regulatory requirements while delivering seamless customer experiences keeps us agile!
Cybersecurity has grown into a big challenge. With the increasing use of new tech, AI, and ML by cybercriminals, these threats are becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. It is imperative to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity trends and take conscious steps to protect our networks and data.

With a consistently growing demand for cloud infrastructure, how are you planning to ensure data security and protection?

As someone who has worked extensively in cloud infrastructure, I understand the importance of ensuring data security and how important is to stay ahead of potential security threats. To this end, I believe in taking a multi-faceted approach to data security and protection. This includes implementing strong access controls and authentication mechanisms, as well as regularly monitoring for unusual activity and potential breaches. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that all data is encrypted both in transit and at rest, to prevent unauthorised access.
To ensure that we protect card data during processing, handling, storage, and transmission, we got ourselves PCIDSS certified. This helps us keep our data secure, avoid costly data breaches, and protect our employees and our customers. In addition, some of the other initiatives that we successfully implemented were mobile device management and data leak protection. We have also deployed a high-end EDR (endpoint detection & response) behavioural machine learning model to detect malware and protect user machines from harmful infections.

As Sodexo BRS India aims to target schools and MSMEs to expand its footprints, how are you implementing your previous learnings to make it successful?

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the importance of understanding the unique needs and preferences of each target market. By conducting thorough market research and gathering feedback from key stakeholders, we can develop tailored solutions that meet the specific needs of each target market.
In addition, I am leveraging my experience in programme management to ensure that our expansion efforts are executed efficiently and effectively. This includes developing detailed project plans, monitoring progress, and adjusting as needed to ensure that we are meeting our goals and delivering value to our customers. Overall, I am confident that my learnings, combined with Sodexo’s expertise and resources, will enable us to successfully expand our footprint in schools and MSMEs and remain a trusted partner for all our stakeholders.

Can you share some examples of sustainable technology initiatives implemented under your leadership that align with the company’s sustainability goals?

Prioritising sustainability in business operations is crucial for creating long-term value for stakeholders, including clients, consumers, employees, partners, and the environment. Our sustainable technology initiatives, such as digital contracting and Green PIN, have helped us reduce our carbon footprint, optimise operations, and save time, cost, and resources. Through Green PIN (implemented in 2021), we have already transitioned to digital issuance of PINs for more than half of our consumers, significantly reducing our environmental impact.

What are your further plans, and how are you approaching them?

Given today’s ever-evolving markets and fast advancements in technology, it is imperative to leverage the latest technologies to enhance the quality and efficiency of our services. It is always better to take a holistic view of the technology landscape, identify areas for improvement, and implement solutions that align with our business objectives.
One of my primary goals is to implement AI-based solutions across our business operations, including customer service, backoffice operations, and employee engagement. In addition to AI, I’m also exploring the potential of data analytics to gain insights into our business performance, customer behaviour, and market trends.
Another critical area of focus is cyber security. With the increasing frequency of cyberattacks, we take proactive measures to secure our systems and data. I’m working closely with the team to ensure that we have robust security measures in place to protect against potential threats. Finally, I’m looking at ways to leverage cloud computing to optimise our infrastructure and operations. By moving our systems and applications to the cloud, we can improve scalability, reduce costs, and enhance our ability to deliver services to our users.
















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