Seema Vinocha Narayan

Crafting Success in the IT Procurement Universe

Seema Vinocha Narayan

IT Director - Procurement,

Unilever

The world of IT and procurement is too dynamic, where the convergence of technology and business strategy reigns supreme. This makes the role of an IT and procurement expert multifaceted and demanding, encompassing various challenges. Meeting those challenges requires a unique blend of technical expertise, strategic thinking, and strong leadership skills to drive organisational success. Seema Vinocha Narayan, a visionary leader, steers Unilever’s global operations with over two decades of remarkable career experience. Her unwavering commitment has revolutionised software asset management and procurement. As Unilever’s IT Director, she is instrumental in propelling the company forward while adeptly navigating the intricacies of her role.
Seema’s journey into procurement and IT was not planned but evolved organically from her chemistry background. With an honours degree in chemistry from Delhi University and an MBA in marketing, including an MBA from INSEAD, she transitioned into a buyer role at Nokia, handling telecom equipment and service procurement. This transition naturally led her to embrace the technology side of procurement, shaping her current role. At Nokia, Seema led third-party procurement for prestigious clients like Vodafone, Idea, Tata, Uninor, Aircel, and Reliance. Managing a significant budget of €170 million, her unwavering dedication extended beyond procurement, driving gross-margin improvement initiatives, and charting a path to success.
Seema’s leadership style, characterised by “collaboration, anchorship, and vision,” underscores the importance of teamwork, grounded leadership, and a clear vision in today’s multifaceted business landscape. Among her proudest achievements is her MBA from INSEAD, a dream she nurtured for two decades. Her pursuit of this global business school experience was driven by the desire to immerse herself in a global environment and build a valuable network beyond her professional sphere, a personal and professional milestone she deeply cherishes.
With 21 years of professional growth, Seema continues to illuminate the ever-evolving landscape of IT procurement. As we delve deeper into her remarkable journey, we uncover the unique insights, strategies, and vision that have propelled her to the forefront of the industry. 

How has your journey been at Unilever?

At Unilever, I shoulder the monumental responsibility of overseeing the end-toend lifecycle management of all software assets that underpin every facet of business operations. With a global purview, I deftly manage software demand, orchestrating collaboration across cross-functional teams within the Unilever ecosystem to drive value and, equally important, reduce operating costs. I am not just a leader but a strategic architect, meticulously crafting and nurturing supplier governance and relationships with Unilever’s Tier 1 software suppliers. Leading a formidable team of 6 managers and many consultants, I orchestrate an annual spend of a staggering €210 million. My prowess in financial stewardship is highly appreciated, and my ability to navigate the intricate landscape of IT has consistently yielded tangible results. Perhaps one of my most celebrated achievements in my role are programmes behind the Future Fit Operations programme, game-changing initiatives that have redefined Unilever’s approach to technology expenditure. This visionary programme has not only slashed technology expenses but has also shifted the organisation’s focus towards strategic design and future planning, minimising the drudgery of day-to-day management and accelerating technology delivery.

Can you share one of the most exciting projects you have worked on during your time at Nokia?

Certainly! One project that stands out is the “Bharti” project, where we were racing against the clock with a deadline that felt like it was yesterday. It demanded quick thinking and swift action—everything needed to be rapid and efficient to meet the expectations. This sense of urgency and the constant need to be at the top of our game to deliver for such a challenging client as Bharti were truly exhilarating. I must say that my partnership with the Bharti account throughout my tenure was equally thrilling and rewarding.

How do you balance your personal and professional lives?

I maintain balance by prioritising what matters most in both my personal and professional lives. My passions drive me in both spheres, from my relationships to my career. Despite being a mother and having a demanding job, I make time for my passions, like running marathons and learning Bharatnatyam. On weekends, I dedicate time to extracurricular activities, while weekdays are focused on my professional responsibilities. This balance allows me to fully enjoy both aspects of life.

Can you recall a challenging decision you had to make in your career? What did you learn from that experience, and what was the outcome?

One notable challenge was when I received an offer from Unilever while enjoying my role at Nokia. Accepting it meant relocating from Gurugram to Bengaluru, a tough choice due to its impact on my family. Nonetheless, I embraced the change, and it proved to be a successful career move. This experience emphasised adaptability and openness to new opportunities, leading to personal and professional growth without regrets.

Do you see yourself continuing to explore new avenues in technology or perhaps venturing into entrepreneurship?

Learning has been a constant driving force in my life, and I’m open to new opportunities for growth. Despite not having a technical background initially, I was given the opportunity to delve into technology, which I embraced wholeheartedly. As long as I’m learning and being challenged by new things, I feel engaged and capable of contributing. Pursuing my MBA at this stage of my life is a testament to my commitment to learning.

What key learnings from your career are you sharing with others?

In my career, I have learned that passion drives success. Continuous improvement, effective teamwork, and a positive attitude are essential. Building strong teams is key, as your strength lies in collaboration. Personal passions, like running marathons and learning Bharatnatyam, keep me motivated. Setting new goals, exploring new horizons, and connecting with people excite me.







     







       







         







           







             







               







                 







                   







                     







                       







                         







                           







                             







                               







                                 

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