Business Today

Smiling, but fingers crossed

K.R. Balasubramanyam | Print Edition: July 24, 2011

Venkatram Balakrishnan, one of the newcomers on the Infosys board, follows international news closely. CFO since 2006, Bala - as he is better known - is pleased that his company's clients across the world have healthy information technology budgets this year. He is optimistic that they will spend liberally, thus swelling Infosys's coffers, but he is far from sure.

WATCH:Balakrishnan talks about how acquisition is not the sole goal of Infosys

V. Balakrishnan,
47, Executive Director and CFO
My best practice: I try to reply to all my emails daily before going home
What gets my goat: Convoluted arguments to support a bad case
How I unwind: By spending time with my eight-year-old daughter Shweta
Global CFO/CEO I admire: N.R. Narayana Murthy, because he leads by example
"The question is whether they will actually spend the money," he says. Before the recession, he points out, they took two or three quarters to react to a negative situation by curbing expenditure. "But now the response is quick." Companies have learnt to tighten the purse strings at the first sign of trouble. Hence his obsession with global economic trends.

There are some ominous signs already, and Bala says he expects 2011/12 to be far more challenging than 2010/11. He has two additional responsibilities this year: ramping up both Finacle, Infosys's banking solutions product, in developed markets, and the BPO, or business process outsourcing, business. "Our BPO business is growing at 30-40 per cent a year," he says.

Bala has no worries on the debt front: Infosys has no debt. It sits on a cash pile of $4 billion (Rs 18,000 crore). His main worry is currency management, since Infosys operates in 45 countries and earns nearly 98 per cent of its income in foreign exchange.

Currency management on such a scale is tough, but his strategy of hedging for two quarters seems to have worked well so far. Acquisitions? Only if they plug gaps in the business or are strategic fits, says Bala. Mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has stepped down, but has left behind a clear vision for Infosys 3.0. If Infosys can make the transition, it will be a different company. "Infosys 3.0 is all about earning high-quality revenue and getting a better mix of business,'' says Bala.

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