Soon after being named to lead Infosys on Thursday, Vishal Sikka pepped up tens of thousands of employees with the promise of innovation and change.. “Our aim is to become industry leader again,” the 47-year-old CEO and managing director designate told the company’s 150,000 employees in a session that was video-shared across the company’s campuses across India.
The mood in the IT major, which has ranged from the sombre to the nervous over the past few months, rapidly turned upbeat with the entry of the high profile CEO with credible global experience.
Staff exodus at every level, successive quarters of underperformance and top-level tussles that created uncertainties were on top of the mind as Infosys employees attended a townhall with Sikka in the afternoon.
“Infosys is truly iconic, built by pioneers of our industry. I would like to help to shape it to next level,” he told tens of thousands of Infoscions, as they are called, attended the townhall through simulcast. “Even more important than what we do is how we do it. We have to think about what these next generation processes are, how to dramatically improve the way we work..,” he said.
Insiders said Sikka stressed the need to focus on clients.
“Clients are more than customers. It is a long-live, deeply held, trusted relation. Bring innovative ideas to what we do,” he said. He wound up his brief address with the words “Looking forward to work together with you, learn from you and our clients”.
According to people familiar with the company, middle-level managers at Infosys see this as a positive development with a lot of uncertainty including the promoters’ role and future role of Rohan Murty, son of Infy founder NR Narayana Murthy, getting cleared at one shot.
“There are two types of employees in Infosys. One is old timers, who joined before 2000, who got stocks, and others who joined after 2000. The latter will be happy as the place will now become more competitive,” said a source.
Some say SAP actually created that position for Sikka.
Read: Here's why new CEO Vishal Sikka can lift embattled Infosys
However, Sikka’s resignation from SAP on May 4 was sudden and shocking, as he was considered a future CEO of the company. If he had made it, he would have joined Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain in leading an iconic German company. His exit was said to be the result of a personal blog in which he slammed an article in German magazine DAS E-3 about SAP’s internal politics.
The blog, in a philosophical vein, discussed German writer Herman Hesse’s India-centred work Siddhartha in criticising rumours, but evidently did not go down well with the top brass in Germany. With Infosys and SAP being business partners, his association with the German software giant is likely to continue.
Read: Vishal Sikka mixes global high-tech with rich Indian roots
Sikka insists he did not have Infosys in mind when he quit SAP. Outgoing CEO Shibulal and Sikka are said to know each other for many years, representing their respective organisation for business dialogues.
A Hindi speaker whose English has an American-accent, Sikka’s wife calls him a “fake Punjabi.” His technological prowess, however, has been proven genuine enough.