Business

Sikka gives Infosys a global feel

The appointment of Vishal Sikka as CEO & MD of Infosys was itself considered a break from the past. Within eight months of assuming the role, he has influenced the company to break away from the old mould in more ways than one.

Industry experts believe Sikka is seeking to underline an impression that Infosys is no more a conservative Indian company but a truly global one. This has been reflected in the selection of teams, engagement with external stakeholders, including clients, and breaking away from the practice of being the first in the sector to announce quarterly financials.

Ever since Sikka joined Infosys, at least 10 of his former colleagues at SAP, instrumental in building and managing key software products at the German software maker, have joined the Bengaluru-based company. Experts feel that it is not because they were close to Sikka, but the company has done this to transform itself into a next-generation services player where products, platforms and newer technologies backed by intellectual property are going to be pivotal.

“Sikka is clearly driving an agenda to position Infosys at the forefront of the intellectual property wave of services. What is impressive about him is that he is taking a consistent set of actions to infuse Infosys with a new thinking and new leadership,” says Peter Bendor-Samuel, founder and CEO of Everest Group. Among the notable new hires who have joined Infosys from SAP are Michael Reh, a former executive VP who is now heading Infosys’s wholly owned subsidiary EdgeVerve and core banking solution Finacle; Abdul Razack, head of platforms; Navin Budhiraja, head of architecture and technology; and Ritika Suri, head of mergers & acquisitions. Other senior leaders from SAP who have joined Infosys in recent days include Gordon Muehl, who was earlier chief technology officer for security at SAP.

Most recently, former SAP Labs India managing director Anirban Dey joined the company to head the Edge series of products, part of EdgeVerve. What is interesting is that most of them will be located in the US where Sikka is currently based.

“In addition to the new leadership, he appears to be shifting the company’s headquarters to the Silicon Valley, locating it at the heart of innovation and making it much easier to participate in the ecosystem there,” added Bendor-Samuel. Locating of leadership in the US closer to the company’s major customers is in line with Infosys’s new strategy ‘New’ and ‘Renew’, which is more about the customers than the company itself, he added.

The decision of Infosys to hold its board meeting in Chennai this time is also a clear break from the old practice. This is for the first time that Infosys will announce its quarterly financial results outside Karnataka, though on two earlier occasions it had organised the same at Mysuru where the company has a sprawling campus that houses its global training centre as well as delivery centre. Senior sources in the company say this is an experiment to hold similar meets at its other large development centres, including Pune and Hyderabad, “which will motivate the employees to have greater bonding with the company”.

“Vishal continues to put his stamp on both organisational issues as well as the strategic direction,” said Thomas Reuner, principal analyst for IT services at London-headquartered analyst firm Ovum.

He, however, said while people were ‘over-interpreting’ the changing conventions and the break with certain traditions, the crucial aspects for the company would be demonstrating the proof points of Sikka’s strategy and optimising the sales engine. “The acquisition of Panaya was a statement of intent that automation and artificial intelligence are the key pillars to lead Infosys back to its erstwhile glory. The next step is to leverage this momentum and translate it into sales traction.”

With Sikka at the helm, Infosys has brought in many changes in its employee practices as well. One of the first that Sikka did away with was the rule on wearing neck-ties. He encouraged the senior leadership to constantly stay engaged with the employees through initiatives like ‘murmuration’, crowd sourcing of innovative ideas, or even launching massive training programme for thousands of them on ‘design thinking’ in partnership with the Design School of Stanford University. The first acquisition under his leadership, that of Panaya, was quite different from the ones that had been happening in the IT services space in many ways – whether in terms of valuation or the purpose of acquisition.

“There will be some murmurs but the question is: Is the company moving in the right direction? And the answer is yes. No one is questioning the ability of Sikka. He has put so much on stake that losing is not an option,” added another analyst on condition of anonymity.

CHANGING TIMES

OLD INFOSYS

  • Rigidity about employee practice, dress code, do’s and don’ts at the workplace
  • Conservative approach towards use of cash for acquisition
  • Hirings were mostly based on present requirements
  • Most decision were India-centric, driven out of the headquarters
  • Most senior people used to sit in Bengaluru

NEW INFOSYS

  • Liberal employee norms – whether it is for wearing ties, activity in social media, etc
  • Have shown the hunger and aggression with acquisition of Panaya at a valuation of six times of revenues
  • Hiring senior leaders to create new business streams, prepare for future opportunities
  • Putting seeds to be a truly global company
  • Locating senior leaders closer to clients