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Why Vishal Sikka has everyone’s support at Infosys

It was almost three years back that a 46-year old Vishal Sikka moved into the Infosys corner room that was once occupied by NR Narayana Murthy, and became the first non-founder CEO of Infosys. In his 32-month stint Vishal Sikka has changed many things in Infosys: he overhauled the organisational structure, increased the thrust on artificial intelligence and based on this laid down vision 2020.

Infosys Divide Updated: Feb 13, 2017 23:05 IST
Suchetana Ray
Vishal Sikka

Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka arrives at the headquarter of the company in Bengaluru for quarterly results.(PTI)

It was almost three years back that a 46-year old Vishal Sikka moved into the Infosys corner office that was once occupied by NR Narayana Murthy, and became the first non-founder CEO of Infosys.

Sikka joined Infosys after a 12-year stint in SAP and is credited with developing the analytics software, HANA, which reads, searches, analyses and gives distills information from realms of data, online and offline.

In the world of technology, that’s “cutting edge” and “innovative”. No wonder, he got the top role at Indian IT’s poster boy firm.

In his 32-month stint Sikka has changed many things in Infosys: he overhauled the organisational structure, increased the thrust on artificial intelligence and based on this laid down vision 2020.

The goal for 2020 is to achieve $20 billion ($8.7 billion currently) in revenue at 30 per cent net margin (23 per cent) and revenue per employee of $80,000 ($49,000).

All business decisions since June 2014, have been keeping this target in mind; the four acquisitions have also been executed to plug the gaps that were between the 2020 goal and Infosys.

The results were for all to see, within two years of Sikka taking over Infosys’ share price jumped 54% after some turbulence following worries of global protectionism and the recent controversy between its Board and founders, the IT company’s shares are still at a 22% spike over June 2014.

Sikka’s leadership has always been appreciated by Infosys’ investors.

Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund, which holds a 2.13 per cent stake in the company and has been a long-term investor said: “We have been enormously pleased to see the stabilising hands of Vishal Sikka, who has improved underlying operating performance and begun to articulate a coherent strategy to a firm beset by a host of structural challenges to the ageing offshore IT service industry.”

The support from investors should come as a boost for Sikka, who has been caught between the Board and Infosys founders led by NR Narayana Murthy.

The Board has also stood by Sikka.

“The Board is fully aligned with the strategic direction of Dr. Vishal Sikka and is very appreciative of the initiatives taken by him in pursuance of this transformation,” said R. Seshasayee, chairman of the Board in a statement.

The founders have remained consistent in their view that they do not have any issues with the performance of the CEO, but the 40-50% increase in his compensation has become a sore point.

Murthy, along with other co-founders Nandan Nilekani and S Gopalakrishnan, had written to the Infosys board asking why Sikka’s compensation was raised and hefty severance packages offered to two top-level executives who quit the company.