Q. Is Vishal Sikka indeed the “much needed agent of change” for Infosys, as some analysts are pointing out?Q. In the fast-evolving IT landscape where competition clones each other’s services in no time, do you feel Sikka’s move in making Infosys an innovation-led “next generation services company” is the need of the hour?
Many analysts tend to oversimplify things; many succumb to herd mentality. And, quite a few speak like sports commentators who forget that they are not the ones playing the sport. While a commentator has privileges, he must be respectful of the player and not trivialise things. I read the phrase “much needed agent of change”, with despair. By saying such things, we underestimate the complexity of large systems. We coin intelligent sounding verbiage that is problematic from two angles.
One, we succumb to the Indian psyche of what is called the “deliverer syndrome”. For all problems, there is only one solution: Wait for the deliverer. Once the deliverer arrives, problems will just evaporate, things will turn around and life will be beautiful once again. We need to grow out of this mindset. The second problematic aspect of the “agent of change” idea is that we falsely believe that there is only one variable. In reality, there are a massive number of variables.
Therefore, we have to drop this fixation with the deliverer idea and seek a deeper understanding of the complex and sometimes long-acting transformative process that large institutions (and not just businesses) go through.
Isn’t that a catch-all question that could be said of any sector, any business? Show me a place where innovation is not the urgent need of the hour. Also, I find this sweeping statement that IT services companies are clones rather problematic. All of us may be in the IT services space but, more often than not, we are in different domains, business models vary, organisational culture varies hugely and the nature of customer relationships quite often differentiates one company from the other.
Q. Is Infosys equipped to go through a radical transformation considering its scale and size? And how important is it for a company like Infosys to stay true to its core?
Infosys is not a floundering company that needs radical change. Apostles of radical change disregard the richness of an organisation’s past and discount its destiny. Organisations with depth and character like Infosys must have a strategic shift from time to time, but not radical change. Our customers don’t like radical change. Q. Since you have seen Infosys grow under the leadership of its co-founders and since Narayana Murthy is a larger-than-life figure, how do you foresee the company a decade from now?
Independent of people, every organisation has its own destiny. Infosys will be relevant even a decade from now. Too soon, and too many people, have passed too many judgements on Infosys. A big reason for that was the sheer novelty of witnessing a transition on a big screen. It was the first major screening of a first-generation, entrepreneurial saga. That novelty is now gone; everyone is better prepared for what must, and will, happen in many more organisations. Leaders will come and go, the organisation will continue; they will outgrow individuals. Q. There aren’t many listed companies in India that have a low promoter holding and don’t have the promoters on their board. Infosys is one such case. Do you see it as a challenge for Sikka to shield Infosys from potential takeover bids?
In the knowledge businesses, hostile takeovers don’t work. To think that Infosys can be bought and sold is to underestimate the power of the thousands of IT professionals that make Infosys what it is. Infosys is an institution, not an object in a bazaar.
(This story appears in the 07 August, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)