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There's no turning back the clock, says Vishal Sikka

In his first interview after stepping down as CEO and MD of Infosys, Vishal Sikka talks about the way forward for the IT major and himself

Published: Aug 22, 2017

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Image: Brendan McDermid / Reuters

It's been an emotional roller coaster and sleepless 72 hours for Vishal Sikka after he resigned on August 18, stunning markets. His shock resignation as CEO of Infosys torpedoed Infosys shares which tanked 13 percent on August 18 during intraday trading to a three-year low of Rs 884.20 ($14.71), wiping some $4.85 billion off the No 2 Indian IT services firm's market value.

"It is all a blur for now. I have barely slept for six hours in the last 72 hours. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I feel that it had to be done," Sikka told Forbes India, from his home in Palo Alto, in the first interview since his dramatic decision to step down.

During the course of the conversation, he says his departure will not stall Infosys as it will continue to push into artificial intelligence, automation, cloud computing and data analytics. Sikka, who has been retained by the Infosys board as executive vice chairman, will help ensure key initiatives, and strategies are institutionalised.

“There’s no turning the clock back,” says Sikka. “We have embraced Design Thinking, Zero Distance programmes, Artificial Intelligence and automation on a massive scale. Tens of thousands of people are involved and working on these things so they will continue to advance. These structural changes will not only grow, but gain momentum.”

Sikka never imagined that three years after presiding over a massive overhaul at Infosys, which had started showing results, he would walk away from the very thing that had so dearly consumed him. Ultimately, he reached a point where the visceral personal attacks took a toll on his ability to make changes, especially some of the more fundamental and structural changes. But he refuses to dwell on the past, and believes everyone needs to allow the company to move beyond the noise and distractions.

"Recently, when I turned 50, a great friend and mentor gave me a rare book of reflections by Herman Hesse. In it I found this one gem: Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. In the end, I do believe it’s about living gracefully and letting go of things not meant for you,” says Sikka philosophically.

Despite the maelstrom, Sikka has over the past few days re-read snippets from his well-thumbed copy of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s Freedom from the Known. “Even Krishnamurthy talks about letting go of the past so that you can embrace something new. It is freedom from the known that helps you renew yourself,” says Sikka.

#WebFirst: Read our full interview with Vishal Sikka and our story on the latest developments at Infosys on www.forbesindia.com on August 24, 2017. Both will be available in our September 15, 2017, issue of Forbes India magazine.

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