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Keeping a focus on the customer

Ragni Mehta is not one to reinvent the wheel.

If something is working, there is no need to fix it, she explains. It can, however, be improved upon.

Mehta uses that thinking when it comes to product development at Xerox Corp. She uses a product’s strengths, while adding capabilities, to create something customers will get the most use from at the best price.

“There’s always something to offer the customer,” she says.

Mehta, 46, is vice president and general manager of the cut-sheet business team for the Graphic Communications Business Group in the Xerox Technology Business. 

Mehta works with Xerox staff globally and has 20 employees who directly report to her about the more than $1 billion global operation.

The customers her team works with are located in places such as Dubai, the India-Asia Pacific region, Europe and the United States.

Mehta has held her position since May 2015.  She and her team are responsible for the strategy and performance of the overall cut-sheet technology portfolio. Included are printers in the high-end monochrome platform, including Nuvera; the entry production color space featuring the Versant platform; and production color, including the Color Press and iGen platforms.

Mehta’s group is slated to be a key driver of growth for the new Xerox company that emerges from the planned split.

In January, Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox announced its plans to separate into two independent, publicly traded companies. It is on track to complete the separation by the end of 2016, officials say. Xerox will be comprised of the company’s document technology and document outsourcing businesses; Conduent Inc. will be a business process services company.

Mehta is looking forward to the change.

“I’m excited about what the new Xerox will bring for us,” she says.

Line of engineers
Mehta was born in Stamford, Conn., and comes from a long line of engineers on her father’s side.

“It’s a bit of a tradition,” she says.

Excelling in math and science in high school, Mehta, continuing the family line, decided to pursue a career in engineering. She enrolled in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, Rensselaer County, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1989.

She later added to her education while at Xerox, obtaining her MBA from the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School in 1995.

While attending RPI, Mehta completed a cooperative stint with Xerox after hearing positive things about the program from other students.

It was a good experience and gave her a chance to see what a career would be like in the field.

She joined the firm after her graduation.

Mehta’s 26-year Xerox career has taken her from software engineer to assignments in United States marketing and sales operations, in the United Kingdom as a financial analyst, as a certified Six Sigma master black belt and then leading a customer and lean Six Sigma organization. 

Working for a global, multibillion company has allowed Mehta to develop technological as well as business skills.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do so much,” she says.

Most recently she led the operations, strategy and business transformation unit for Graphic Communications Operations globally, overseeing the integration of Impika into the business.

Xerox had acquired Impika, a French firm that designs, produces and sells production inkjet printing solutions used for industrial, commercial, security, label and package printing in 2013.

During that time, Mehta worked with Jeff Jacobson, who is president of the company’s technology business and is slated to become Xerox’s CEO after the company splits, effective Jan. 1.

Mehta calls him a mentor.

Since meeting her four years ago, Jacobson has seen Mehta’s career grow firsthand. She possesses keen leader-ship skills that have helped her suc-ceed, he says.

“Ragni is a strong leader who leads by example, solicits input, creates an inclusive environment and then is decisive,” Jacobson says.

Mehta has a passion and commitment to excellence, he adds. She is someone who stretches people to be their best, while driving accountability.

“A great leader drives results and has the respect of their people,” Jacobson says. “Ragni possesses these elements.”

Products are key
These days, Mehta spends a fair amount of time traveling to other Xerox locations and visiting with customers.

She was recently at the drupa 2016 trade show in Germany, overseeing the rollout of the Brenva HD Production Inkjet press, which will launch this fall and is being manufactured in Webster. 

The device has features from several Xerox products, including the iGen digital printing press platform and Impika’s inkjet printing capabilities.

When Mehta is working in her office on the Xerox Webster campus, it is not unusual for her day to begin at the Gil Hatch Center for Customer Innovation, a 100,000-square-foot showroom for Xerox offerings. She talks with purchasers from around the world about new products.

Mehta believes in bringing the voice of the customer into the development side of the business.

One client is Innovairre Communications LLC, a New Jersey-based firm that provides services, such as direct mail, marketing, data analysis and customer-relationship software, to nonprofit agencies.

Dean Wimer, Innovairre’s senior adviser to the CEO, met Mehta in 2005 when his company was in the process of transforming from traditional to digital workflow. 

Keys to Mehta’s success are her understanding and ability to help customers best use the services and products Xerox offers, Wimer says.

“Her understanding of the details of the business allows her to connect well with multiple levels within the client’s organization, and her calm and consistent demeanor allows her to execute her clients’ objectives effectively,” he says.

With Xerox’s staff, Mehta spends a portion of her time looking at research and development as well as strategic initiatives. She describes her leadership style as collaborative. She is always available, but also believes in empowering others. Mehta most enjoys the variety of the job.

“You never know what the next hour will bring,” she says.

Mehta also enjoys working with people of different cultures. It gives her a good perspective on international business.

“Culture is a big part of how people run a business; it should never be underestimated,” she says.

Providing products to such a diverse customer base also brings its challenges, but they are ones Mehta relishes.

“That’s what makes the job so interesting,” she says.

She believes there is ample room to expand in the marketplace; she sees growth areas in both inkjet and digital printing. In addition to the Brenva digital presses, Xerox plans to introduce new models of the iGen presses with additional capabilities later this year.

“We’re in a great place,” Mehta says.

Off the job
Mehta and her husband, André Blaakman, live in Pittsford. Blaakman is a marketing manager for production workflow and solutions at Xerox.

The couple has two sons: Devan, 15, and Milan, 13. Both are avid soccer players, and Mehta and her husband spend a fair amount of time watching the boys compete.

Mehta also enjoys paddle tennis, which was adapted from tennis but with a smaller court and lower net. It is played with a solid paddle, a depressurized tennis ball and an underhand serve.

The family enjoys traveling and spends time visiting relatives in India and Europe.

“It’s a great opportunity for the boys to see other parts of the world and experience that diversity firsthand,” she says.

At Xerox, Mehta is focused on continuing to grow the business. Local operations will continue to play an important role in growth, she says.

“It’s exciting to bring this level of business to the local community,” Mehta says.

Ragni Mehta
Title: Vice president and general manager of the cut-sheet business team, Xerox Corp.
Age: 46
Education: B.S. in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, Rensselaer County, 1989; MBA, the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, 1995
Residence: Pittsford
Family: Husband, André Blaakman; sons Devan, 15, and Milan, 13
Hobbies: Watching her kids play soccer, playing paddle tennis, traveling
Quote: “Culture is a big part of how people run a business; it should never be underestimated.”

8/5/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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