Renuka Rajagopal’s initiatives go beyond simply implementing and recreating old-school approaches to workspaces. Her knowledge from her initial experience as an architect paved the way for her involvement in commercial projects and construction management. Now — with over 22 years of work experience in the real estate industry — Rajagopal lends her expertise to the rapidly growing IT industry in India. She develops and manages leading real estate portfolios, lease transactions, 24x7 facility operations, integrated facility management, and expansion and consolidation of projects.
VMware India, one of five global sub-regions for business operations, is considered as the microcosm of the company’s US-based headquarters. Housing all the business verticals present in Palo Alto, the Bengaluru campus constitutes almost 20% of its global strength, making it one of the most critical centres of operation.
In 2015, Rajagopal joined VMware at a very exciting time, when the new campus building in Bengaluru — the second largest campus for VMware Inc outside of the US — was under construction. “One of my top priorities and initial agenda was to build a strong team that could bring the workplace and real estate management of India, then our newest REW region, to the next level. The focus was on harnessing existing strength within as well as building a diverse team of rich and experienced members,” she explains.
Laying the foundation for design
The design and functions of the Bengaluru facility was envisioned as an embodiment of several solutions into one. The aim was to consolidate VMware’s 3,000-plus employees into a single site with a collaborative, flexible working environment. Including working in tandem with VMware to develop a standard for its global operations, the project team worked on a detailed design brief specific to the Bengaluru project. Consultations and on-site surveys validated the data and revealed a need for several meeting spaces in multiple sizes, training facilities, formal and informal collaboration zones, staff amenity spaces for food services and a dedicated customer briefing centre.
Rajagopal elaborates: “The site was under construction, when the project initiation with the design team started and they could work with the landlord and construction contractor to fine-tune the structure. Features such as internal staircases as well as the technological infrastructure, which empowers the space with ‘plug-and-play’ flexibility, could be optimised during the construction phase itself. This resulted in the office design bearing a contemporary identity that helps fuse its international as well as Indian context.” The facility is also LEED Platinum certified.
Identifying the power of technology
In a world of cutting-edge technology and innovation, agility, ideation, creativity, collaboration and speed are of absolute essential. And every VMware office across the global imperatively abides by these principles. Though Rajagopal was involved in the latter stages of construction and operations commissioning, the areas of collaboration involved focus on partnering for innovative and out-of-the-box concepts in project stage and operations with industry experts and stakeholders. Other actions focused on driving cultural change, transformation, transparency and customer excellence. In the final stages, active partnering and transparent communication assisted in change management and expectations setting, which is crucial for large-scale projects.
The building’s service infrastructure includes electric cars and cloud-based solutions for employee transport services, creation of employee forum to enable better participation and engagement, and collaboration with technology and IT team for enhanced tools on helpdesk to sustain an enriched customer experience.
“The overall approach in design, conceptualisation and movement has been aimed towards facilitating a sustained process-driven approach rather than people-centric. This enables the team to drive strategy in planning and operations, customer centricity and ongoing development. The design and space planning was led by a project team in Bengaluru along with experts based in London and Singapore. Interaction with VMware stakeholders in India and globally were facilitated by web-based videoconferencing and 4D virtual project room technologies. The constant communication, engagement and collaboration with the design teams, internal teams and stakeholders enabled easy resolution of challenges,” says Rajagopal.
Spread across 4,50,000 sq-ft, the campus combines state-of-the-art interactive office technology tools into its landscape. These include the integration of Wayfinder for improving accessibility to office areas on every floor, synchronisation of meeting room booking system using Outlook, integration of building services and BMS on the company network, establishing centralised help desk and tools for projects and an energy management software that’s currently in the pipeline.
Commenting on the role of technology, Rajagopal reveals, “In addition to a facility’s performance, in a highly competitive environment, automation, access and reach are the key differentiators. The way an employee ‘feels’ about his/her experience at a company may make all the difference in attracting and retaining talent. Employees function as true ambassadors to support the cause on sustainability; technology aids in drawing out their expertise and knowledge to take the overall efficiency of the structure to greater heights. In some of our older offices, we are looking at ways to upgrade spaces with more interactive technology.”
Role of a leader
In addition to her role as the director of real estate and workplace, she also passionately drives VMInclusion Council, India, a global workforce diversity promotion initiative. She is also a member of the VMWomen Global Leadership Council and is the leader for VMwomen Council chapter in India. “VMInclusion is a business enterprise initiative to harness the power of human differences and drive systemic change for better business outcomes through a more inclusive and diverse environment. We stand for inclusion and involve our diverse communities and stakeholders to create positive social and environmental impact. The initiative is essentially about a culture to model, champion initiatives and drive inclusive behaviour and accountability through adoption of measureable outcomes,” says Rajagopal.
Speaking on the key contributions of a facility manager, Rajagopal acknowledges the fact that facility managers play a key role in leading strategies, long-term plans, creating work streams and accomplishing goals. She asserts that a facility manager should have a strong alignment with the organisation’s leadership, and as they mature, they must advance the scope of strategic partnerships with business units, HR and finance to support their core objective and goals.
Given that facility managers are accountable for every penny spent — as the president of the Bengaluru Chapter of IFMA — Rajagopal believes that one of the most important aspects of running a team (and organisation) is to build a culture that is prudent in financial planning and management while delivering superior customer experience. Implementing best industry practices and technology, adoption of key performance measures in services and engineering with audits and analysis are steps towards better operations and cost management.
She concludes: “Facility managers have immense potential for a wider sphere of influence, to widen their scope and roles, being trusted business partners, industry leaders and the ability to have a seat at the table with senior leadership. They must take charge, engage with business partners, lead core site strategy for business initiatives, make final decisions on critical matters, develop policies and authorise their implementation to create value in an organisation.”