" “I see myself as an extension of the organisation in every job that I do. It becomes an identity for me. I give it my all!”

By Olivia Wing, Customer Success Manager, GENCFO

Sandhya Sriram

Group CFO

Narayana Health

Sandhya Sriram brings her A-game to every role.

“I see myself as an extension of the organisation in every job that I do. It becomes an identity for me. I give it my all!”

We sat down with her to see first-hand how she’s putting her passion for digital finance transformation into practice, and the strategic action CFOs must take to be the change they want to see in the digital finance world.

The modern finance mindset

Mindless automation and digitisation without answering  “why?” is the reason why finance transformations fail, according to Sandhya:

“Digital transformation is not about taking a process and just slapping automation or cognification over the top of it to make it more efficient.”

“It’s about changing the mindset of an organisation to a different level of thinking, to move to a different plane in terms of organisation agility and response.”

It’s an approach Sandhya hails as the mark of a true Chief Future Officer, and switching gears from bookkeeper or governance custodian to business value creator and partner has delivered invaluable impact in all her roles, including her current role at Narayana Health:

“Finance professionals are on a journey of moving from information to insight to immersion. In my current company, we have an advanced, home-developed AI platform called Medha Analytics delivering real-time information for the business, so everything is self-service - it’s energising not to have to use Excel anymore!”

The result has been more time spent asking the important questions, and less time making sure everyone’s on the same page (a key culprit for long, arduous meetings with no tangible outcomes):

“The next step in the journey for us is to replace the time spent asking questions with collaborating on actions. It’s like being given the question paper before the exam! 

Typically, even where there is sufficient information maturity through BI tools, leadership review time is inevitably spent asking questions.

“Now we're working on a project to use AI to ask these questions beforehand, freeing us up on what actions to take instead of wondering what's gone wrong.”

Reimagining your role as CFO in the AI revolution

Have you ever asked yourself “how can I make myself redundant in my current role?”

Probably not! But Sandhya suggests flipping the script on the fear of technology taking over, advocating for finance professionals to take control of their career paths instead:

“Everyone wonders if they’ll still have a job after digital transformation in finance. What people don’t seem to realise is that one way or another, digitisation is going to happen!”

“Get ahead of the curve and ask how you can make yourself redundant from your current job by coming up with new ideas and innovations to help the digital finance function to evolve. If you do that, your own role will evolve with it and you’ll grow in your career.”

In other words, if you can’t beat the turning tide of the AI revolution in finance, you’re better off enthusiastically joining in. In fact, building resilience and taking pleasure in the fast pace of technological change could be the best strategy for long-term career stability and success:

“Your biggest asset is the ‘unique you’, irrespective of the cards you’re dealt in life. In today’s time, there is no definitive list of technologies, which once learnt will set our life forward. Our agility to constantly keep learning, evolving and using technology to solve business problems is what will set us apart.”

A purpose-driven digital age for finance

For Sandhya, the best part of being a CFO is being able to bring her head and her heart to work:

“Narayana Health operates with a vision to make healthcare affordable and accessible to all. Patients come to us from across the pyramid Including patients from underprivileged backgrounds (especially children) and we make health care accessible to them whether they can afford it or not.”

“At the same time, being a company listed on the stock exchange, we are constantly measured by the markets in terms of performance. We have a very strong values driven performance culture and are constantly looking to better our business results through digitisation, strategic choices and continuous improvement.”

“Finding that balance and still being able to help so many people and giving back to society - that makes me look forward to getting up and coming to work everyday.”

It’s clear digital transformation and adoption has played a key role in their mission to democratise healthcare:

“We’ve been able to significantly reduce the cost of healthcare while improving the quality, with more high-end equipment alongside more efficient processes.”

A combination of soft skills and tech savviness to deliver these kinds of digital advancements is how Sandhya believes CFOs can have the most impact when it comes to creating a digitised future with purpose:

“The soft skills of the CFO are just as important as the technical skills. CFOs must pioneer the adoption of new technologies and make the business case evident, with a finance perspective backed by business intelligence. But we also have to ask how we’re going to bring together the collective might of the organisation and lead it forward.”

“At the end of the day, everything we do should be about building the future of the business!”

Power Profile

Who is your hero?

"I don’t have just one, but I can give you my top three! First and foremost is my mother. She’s brave, she finds a solution to any problem, and she’s always curious. A lot of who I am is a reflection of who she is. Second for me is Dr Devi Shetty, Narayana Health’s visionary founder and chairman. His dream to make India self-reliant in its health needs is a war cry for all of us and inspires us to go above and beyond every day In our works. Finally, Nitin Paranjpe, Chief People & Transformation Officer at Unilever. He taught me this equation: Ambition > Resource. The difference between a leader and a manager is A>R, i.e. a leader is not limited by the resources available to them but charged by their ambition. It’s become a motto for me in life. In Unilever, we used to have a concept of 3 + 1. That means 3 work goals and 1 personal goal. While I have spoken about my 3 heroes above, I do want to call out my + 1, the awe inspiring Simon Sinek. He says our job as leaders is not to motivate people, but to take motivated people and inspire them. It’s taught me to always give people a vision and make them feel valued no matter what."

What music inspires you?

"Purposeful, soulful music touches me. I can talk about this for days, but I will talk about the most recent music that I was Inspired by. There’s a beautiful singer called Shruti Veena Viswanath who researches soulful music from around the world and renders it with unbelievable depth and passion. Recently she sang an Afghani lullaby by Ustad Farida Mahwash, dedicating it to the people affected by war, depicting a mother speaking to her child saying “be patient for God is merciful and solves all problems This story will also come to an end, until then sleep”. The song really touched me and reminds all of us that hope is more powerful than any pain and the spirit of humanity persists at the end."


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Olivia Wing, Customer Success Manager, GENCFO

Olivia is an author at GENCFO as well as being the Community Success Manager. Read her articles on everything from events, agility, hot topics in finance and interviews with key finance and accounting industry figures.

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