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The gentle giant of Infosys
Raghuvir Badrinath | April 23, 2007
The new chief executive officer of Infosys Technologies, the iconic software company, is certainly not as outgoing as the two other founders - N R Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani - who have held the position earlier. But he makes up for it in quiet resolve and affability. As Narayana Murthy himself put it: "Kris is gentle but firm, consultative yet decisive, and thoughtful yet action-oriented."
S Gopalakrishnan (Kris to all), 52, who will take over as CEO & MD in late June 2007, is one of the founders who trooped out of Patni Computers in the early eighties to help Narayana Murthy set up Infosys. He is yet another IIT alumnus (Madras), securing first an M Sc in Physics and then an M Tech in Computer Science.
Even though Infosys is on a sort of auto-pilot mode, consistently adding a billion dollars to its topline year-on-year, with impeccable systems and processes in place enabling it to weather rupee fluctuations, wage hikes and attrition woes, Kris will have enough on his hands.
As he says: "My focus would be to make Infosys more competitive, increase productivity further, continue to be a leader in corporate governance, attract the best of global talent and enhance brand equity."
While that is the broad brush picture, the specific and cardinal task before him will be to crank up Infosys' consulting capabilities to their fullest extent. Once that is achieved, it will mark an inflection point in the firm's history, when it ceases to be a challenger and becomes an established global leader in software and consulting.
As one senior manager put it, "We are all working towards the dream of having Accenture billing rates with our offshore cost structure. This is the objective and Kris is passionate about it."
To achieve the consulting goal, Kris will have his own technological prowess to help him. It is not well known that Kris is active in Infosys's lesser-know division, software engineering and technology labs, which spearheads Infosys's commitment to innovation and intellectual property development with focus on technology-led business transformation.
While Kris will be keeping an eye on consulting, the rest of the world will be keeping an eye on what Infosys is up to on the acquisitions front, an area in which it has been as self-effacing as the new boss. "This company is sitting on more than a billion dollars in cash and we expect its leaders to put it to good use as Infosys targets the $10 billion revenue mark," an industry watcher said.
Put this to Kris, and his typical low-key reply is: "We are always on the lookout and if there is a good fit, we will surely go ahead." You can expect him to look after not just the professional but the interpersonal fit also. People who have worked closely with him say, "He has the charm to build relationships as well as the ability to get work done efficiently."
Low-profile Kris has had an effective public profile too. He is currently the chairman of IIITM, Kerala, and vice chairman of the Information Technology Education Standards Board set up by the Government of Karnataka.
He is also on the board of the National Internet Exchange of India. With the Infosys board having decided that its members should go out and engage the world a little more (via board positions in key global board companies), there is every need to watch this space.