Can outsider Vishal Sikka change the DNA of troubled Infosys?

CEO and MD of Infosys Vishal Sikka smiles during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Bangalore. (AP Photo)


“If there are no challenges, what is the point?”

Vishal Sikka, said this on Thursday after being named the next CEO of troubled Infosys. That attitude could come in handy as he takes the reins from executive chairman NR Narayana Murthy and incumbent CEO SD Shibulal in August.

Infosys, once a stock market darling, is battling criticism on all fronts including growth momentum, talent retention, corporate governance and client confidence. Sikka, a former executive board member of Germany’s SAP and the first Infosys CEO who is not a founder, must first look for generals to fight his battles.

“Sikka’s biggest challenge is to build a core team as most of the leadership team left Infosys in the last two years,” said V Balakrishnan, former chief financial officer and board member who was a CEO-probable until he quit Infosys six months ago.

“With founders leaving, it is Sikka’s mission to build an emotional connect with employees,” he said.

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Another former board member, TV Mohandas Pai, said Sikka needs to build client relationships and dismantle a command culture.

“Sikka will have to change the highly centralised decision-making culture at Infosys by empowering senior people,” he said.

Sikka, a Ph D who loves innovation, might have a more fulfilling task in transforming the company closer to its long-term aim, called Infosys 3.0, of growing intellectual property on the side of products, platforms and solutions, away from its traditional services.

Jaideep Mehta, vice-president at industry research firm IDC, said Sikka would have to strike a balance between traditional outsourcing business and the 3.0 work.

“I expect he will bring his own set of people. He will have to connect with the top executives, many of whom are waiting to see the turn of events in the next three to six months,” said Mehta.

Sikka had easily cracked a mathematical puzzle that Infosys founder Narayana Murthy challenged him with when they first met.

He now has a greater puzzle. This one is about employees, clients and markets.

 

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