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A 'servant leader' who promises to turn around Infosys

August 04, 2014 10:12 IST

A 'servant leader' who promises to turn around Infosys

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BS Reporter in Bangalore

"In many ways, Infosys helped put India in the map of the IT industry. Now, it is our aspiration to take this to the next level; we can be the leading IT company of the world," says Vishal Sikka.

Vishal Sikka's may be a formidable name in the global technology segment, but he isn't your average geek who has time only for technology labs and technical journals.

On his first day as Infosys managing director and chief executive, Sikka quotes Rabindranath Tagore in describing himself as a "servant leader"; calls himself a Hindi movie buff (till recently, a song from a Bollywood blockbuster was on his Twitter feed); and says he wants to write regularly, as it has a "calming influence" on him (his blog, Timelessness, deals with his childhood memories, Diwali in Delhi, etc). 

He also talks animatedly about his plans to take regular classes, both online and otherwise, at the Infosys Leadership Training Centre.

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Image: Infosys CEO Vishak Sikka
Photographs: Courtesy, Infosys

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Speaking to the media at the Nandan Nilekani Hall in the sprawling campus of India's second-largest information technology services exporter here on Friday, Sikka touched upon on a wide variety of subjects-his vision for the company which has just seen a huge transition from a founder-led entity to a professional outsider-led one, the kind of leadership he believed in and how he intended to introduce a culture of innovation that can make even mundane software coding jobs interesting and appealing.

"Life is too short to focus only on the mundane," he says, dressed in his trademark black round-neck T-shirt, jeans and blazer. 

The former SAP Technology head says above all, the foremost task before him is to bring back confidence to each of the 160,000 Infosys employees. "I am told Infoscions have lost the can-do spirit. I will bring it back." 

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Image: nfosys Executive Chairman N R Narayana Murthy with newly appointed CEO & MD Vishal Sikka at a press conference at Infosys headquarters in Bengaluru.
Photographs: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI
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On the need to continue with the company's bread-and-butter business, Sikka underscores the importance of innovations, even in mundane business process outsourcing work.

While a check on costs and obsession with resource utilisation are a must, these can't aid the company in reaching the next level, he says. 

He cites the example of Formula One cars, now using 'ultra capacitors' to capture energy when the car breaks down, and release a lot of energy, to be reused at the discretion of the driver.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons
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Sikka says he doesn't want resources to be utilised at 100 per cent levels, as this was a sign of badly-designed systems and a recipe for burnout and failure. "We need equivalent of a kinetic energy recovery system in services companies such as ours," he said. 

He dismissed apprehension of any large-scale shift in focus, saying Infosys would continue to be a services company, while bringing in the efficiency of intellectual property into this business. 

On the kind of business he was looking at, Sikka said the scope of engaging with customers would increase, not just for improving clients' legacy platforms, but also for creating platforms that were futuristic.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Infosys
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Citing an example, he said a client he had met recently manufactured fabrics; the client wanted to develop a platform that gave the company visibility of the fabric's entire supply chain---how it impacted the mood, body temperature, etc, of consumers.

"Great innovations and innovators are T-shaped, with a wide range of know-how and expertise in certain areas and deep specialisation in some areas.”

"As almost all major industries are disrupted or totally transformed by technology, it is time to build intelligent, adaptive applications in unprecedented new areas of business," he said. 

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Photographs: Reuters
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On whether he was concerned about the widening gap between Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys, Sikka said Infosys didn't believe in following the standards set by others, but in creating its own.

"Infosys's aspiration is to get back to its pioneering and iconic status," he said.

"In many ways, Infosys helped put India in the map of the IT industry. Now, it is our aspiration to take this to the next level; we can be the leading IT company of the world." 

Sikka said in the past, leaders operated on privileged information, but this wasn't the case now. For instance, no one could have monopoly over innovation and a leader had to harness the energy of his teammates, he said.

That was why the company had started an initiative called Murmuration to crowdsource ideas from all employees in significant areas of operation.

Sikka said the idea had worked, as the company had received 2,400 substantives ideas, which the senior management was looking at.

Pointing out that the last few weeks had been "surreal, a blur", Sikka said he was immensely excited about be leading an iconic company.

 


Image: Vishal Sikka
Photographs: Courtesy, Infosys

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