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Long-term view for new Xylem managing director

Balancing customers' short and long-term priorities with a sustainable approach to water management is one of the biggest challenges for water technology company Xylem Oceania’s new managing director Brian Krishna.

“One of the challenges the industry faces is the payoff between what’s going to get done right now, and what’s going to be more beneficial five or ten years down the track,” Krishna told Water Source.

“At Xylem, we take a holistic view of water management. We don’t come with a product mindset. We believe that we’re here to solve a bigger problem, and that is relevant to whatever the customer’s needs are. But I think the big one is water scarcity, and in this country, there’s not an industry I’ve worked with that doesn’t have that issue.

“We really take the approach around asking how can we manage your water better on site, whether that’s helping you find a source, pumping the water, treating the water, testing the water, and then making it sustainable, considering how we deliver it back to the environment in a sustainable manner.”

Krishna believes it’s important to maintain a long-term perspective and look at the effects a decision can have well into the future.

“We’re very quick to jump to the solution or the need in the moment. My view is what about 200 years time or 300 years time,” he said.

“We came on to this earth with the same water today as we had 10,000 years ago. How are we going to leave that same source or that same water in the condition that we found it? Through industrialisation, we’re doing a lot more to water than we have ever done in the past.

“We have to think not just in the moment, but think about how we discharge the water, where it is going afterwards and what is the impact, not just for future generations, but also for the existing aqua life in river streams and the livelihoods that are dependant on us looking after the water.”

Krishna said that one of the ways Xylem is addressing this challenge is through technology. While new digital tools are part of that, it also includes improving and upgrading existing solutions.

“There is a lot of work being done with existing equipment to regenerate it to be more efficient. For example, for a submergible pump, making more efficient motors to provide a better outcome on energy consumption,” he said.

“Many of our brands are over 100 years old. We’ve been in the sector for a long, long time. We’re using the new digital presence we have to also make us more efficient in the legacy business.

“There’s a lot of equipment out there that we just can’t make smart. So how do you pay attention to that infrastructure that’s ageing, that’s breaking, that is highly costly for utilities, businesses, miners? We can’t just replace it all at once … We work with our customers not just to find solutions for the digital future, but for the ageing equipment and infrastructure we have today.”

Xylem is also providing better information to customers to inform their decision-making and help improve their businesses.

“The digital future of Xylem is really exciting,” said Krishna.

“We have a lot of enhancements in our existing portfolio that is going to take us to a position with our customers, where they will be able to make more informed decisions around capital expenditures, op ex planning and, quite frankly, in the case of utilities, a better outcome for the end user, which is us, the homeowner.”

Krishna’s appointment to managing director comes after more than 25 years in the industry and 17 years at Xylem, where he started in an account manager role. He worked across business development and product management, getting to understand the water industry.

In 2009, Krishna and his family moved to Perth for five years, which provided a different perspective on the region’s diverse water needs.

“That gave me a really good sense of the two-speed economy, with the mining business and really understanding the water needs of remote miners, as well as the unique landscape of Western Australia and their water needs as well,” he said.

“I was also looking after Indonesia at the same time. That gave me a good aspect on an emerging economy, and what their demands were on water, and wastewater and their sanitation needs. That was a really good experience, because it was vastly different to our needs in Australia.”

Between 2015 and 2021, Krishna worked as sales and marketing director for Xylem Oceania, during which time he continued to develop relationships across the industry.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of people across that period, both within the company and externally, through peers at networking events, like the AWA and others. I’ve really enjoyed a cross-section of customers.”

For anyone looking for a career where they can make a difference, Krishna says he sees the water industry as a wonderful place to be.

“I would say to anyone who wants to join this industry, whether you are a young grad student or you’re leaving school and thinking about 'what’s a sector that I could work in and make a difference', that the water industry can do that,” he said.

“Over 25 years, I have enjoyed every part of where the journey has taken me. I would say to any young person wanting to make a difference in the world ... please come to the water industry.”