Rajeev Sawhney, former head of HCL Europe, has seen Infosys evolve in the continent from close quarters. He shared his thoughts about the company with Goutam Das. Edited excerpts:
Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani wore very big boots: They had the gravitas to steer the ship they had so painstakingly built, and were revered not only within Infosys but also across the industry and the globe. I hear from many insiders that the new leaders have taken many value creating steps to enhance organisational capability, such as building propositions around platforms - clearly the way to go. However, considering they had much less time at the helm than their predecessors, a harsher economic climate and a much larger base to build on, the firepower has been inadequate - which has reflected in the results. Radical measures need to be taken to ignite the growth engines. This is true of many parts of the portfolio. I also hear teams on the ground say "There are very few leaders we can take to our clients who can provide us top cover and management commitment." I hope this is not a reflection of what the rest of the organisation feels.
The economic climate after 2008 has been harsh: The global financial crisis ushered in a period of economic and political volatility that shows no signs of abating. Rapid change, relentless unpredictability, and high levels of uncertainty are the norm, and success in this landscape requires leadership skills and styles that differ markedly from those that dominated in more a stable business environment. While some companies have been able to prepare for it and come out winners some couldn't. Going by the results of last few quarters, if you broadbrush the organisation performance and say growth has suffered it may be accurate but not the whole story. The Q3 results actually bowled over everyone as they seemed to be great. The only worry analysts seem to have is whether this was a one-off quarter or will it be sustainable. If we go granular you see the performance of the ADM (application, development, maintenance) service line, it had a negative 0.9 per cent quarter-on-quarter and BPO on the other hand had huge growth. Similarly retail and consumer packaged goods had 0.1 per cent growth versus banking, financial services and insurance which had 6.3 per cent growth on nearly twice the revenue base. The point is that clearly there are pockets that have performed well and others that have not and these need rapid corrective actions. Leadership in some of these business units needs to be strengthened and some others rewarded.
The passion and pride of Infosys global teams seen before seems to have evaporated in the last few years: There are very few leaders who have one-to-one meetings with their front-end team members, I have heard some field teams lament. This is a classic manifestation of the large company syndrome where the "soul" is missing. The impact is that morale and empowerment take a beating… and that's not the fuel to win business. In the market place Infosys has to become much more visible to its target audience and much more vibrant and enthusiastic if it wants growth. The positive side to this is that one hears of many steps now being taken to bring back the glory that Infosys once enjoyed. This quarter's results, I hope, are a beginning.