Microsoft announces new T&T leadership

Raman takes the helm at Microsoft, T&T
Originally published in the Business Guardian, September 24, 2009.

Microsoft's top men in Trinidad and Tobago; George Gobin, Country Manager, BCBB, Alvaro Celis, Director General, Multi-Country Americas and newly appointed General Manager, Trinidad and Tobago, Pradeep Raman. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

The trio of men in dark suits seated across the table from me in the conference room at Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago's headquarters represent the brain trust for the region.
Presiding over the meeting is Alvaro A Celis, Director General, Multi-Country Americas, who is visiting Trinidad and Tobago to settle Pradeep Raman, the new General Manager of Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago.
Next to both men, with his trademark pixie grin is George Gobin, the man who used that confident smile to take Microsoft from selling some software in this country to becoming the nexus of solutions providers delivering products and services to the Government and many of Trinidad and Tobago's largest businesses.

There's no question that Gobin is the man with the big boots and seven league stride in this room. Celis describes him as "the embodiment of passion for customers in the region." "George took us well beyond the expectations we had 10 years ago," Celis adds.
He's actually much more than that, and the two Microsoft executives acknowledge it with a little private joke that they don't elaborate on, one in which Gobin is described as "Sir George."
If there was anyone who deserved knighting in the region by Bill Gates himself, it's probably Gobin, who went solo with the Microsoft brand in 1999, convincing the company that it would be better off with him than they had been with the large publicly held organisation that managed distribution for them at the time.

For that company, Office and Windows were just one more product to put in a storefront for customers who would, presumably, show up eventually.
For Gobin, it would become his personal mission for the next decade, in a country which had already figured out how to pirate and duplicate software with an abandon that has hardly abated, to educate the Government and local businesses on the advantages of licensing Microsoft's software.

Big moves, growth
Since then, the company has moved offices several times, first out of his home, then into sequentially larger quarters as staff grew to meet the support and service needs of a growing number of strategic partners and clients.
There's a local saying that has remarkable resonance in this situation about "clearing track for agouti to run," and Gobin's replacement, Pradeep Raman will certainly have a more even, clearly defined path to follow.

There are 13 Microsoft employees now, sharply up from Gobin's solo act in 1999, and seven more will be joining the company in coming months as the local arm of Microsoft gears up to deliver more services.
Microsoft's strategy for the region has been undergoing review and adjustment over the last few years, and the previous arrangement of business clusters is being replaced with a new designation of 'subsidiary,' when regional representation begins to significantly grow business.
Peru, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago have been rewarded for strong performance with the designation, this country making the switch on July 06. Panama, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador will be elevated over the next 18 months.

The new designation grants broader autonomy to Microsoft's representatives within the subsidiary and deeper access to corporate resources at a time when the company has chosen to deepen its partner relations.
"We believe this is the right time to invest," Alvaro Celis said. "Things are tough, and whether they get better sooner or later, this is when we believe we can build better relationships with our partners."

Partner network
It's worth noting that Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago sells almost nothing to customers directly. It acts as a facilitator and technology provider to a partner network, businesses that provide software and services, that is now 900 strong. It's the way Microsoft operates on its home turf and it's a system that has doubled business volume in Trinidad and Tobago over the last three years. According to the company's research, every dollar spent on Microsoft products results in $21 worth of local business.

As Gobin moves up in the organisation to take on a new role as Country Manager for Bermuda, Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and Belize and new residence in Florida, his successor Pradeep Raman is still just a collection of resume points.
A tall, gracious man with a warm smile, Raman was pretty much just off the plane when this interview was scheduled, moving into his new residence in Trinidad just four days before.
Described by Celis as being in "the top four percent of leaders in Microsoft" will begin by following George Gobin's successful trail, amplifying market development and building business opportunities for the partner ecosystem.

"I'm going to be doing much more listening than talking," Raman said. The new General Manager has worked at Microsoft for the last 11 years, moving from one executive challenge to the next.
"I feel extremely fortunate to be here," he said. "Particularly at a time when the country is embracing ambitious initiatives in technology. I believe that we will have a significant role in those initiatives. We are a part of the backbone projects and participate in other elements of technology outlined in Vision 2020. We are uniquely positioned as a company to offer solutions and to help the country in its thrust toward diversification and productivity."
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