So, the rumors were laid to rest as Infosys today announced that Vishal Sikka is indeed the next CEO. An unusual and interesting choice, to say the least, Sikka could however be just what the doctor ordered for the ‘ailing’ company. One has to say that Infosys (and team Murthy) has done itself proud by choosing a person of such standing and technical capability as its first non-founder CEO. With the founder-rotation policy running into rough weather, and the company’s image taking a severe beating, hiring a person of such impeccable credentials is quite a master-stroke.
While some may argue that Sikka does not have the services business experience, I think this is not such a difficult thing to understand. At its core, the Infosys business model is really quite straight forward and Sikka with his vast experience in a successful global corporation should not find it all that difficult to wrap his head around. Also, as Sikka has himself said, the distinction between products and services is blurring.
Sikka can spread a culture of technology innovation in Infosys, at a time when the IT outsourcing industry is searching for the next big business lever. We must not forget how Sikka spearheaded HANA and made it a revenue spinner for SAP. HANA was SAP’s first big and successful innovation in a long time. His induction can also be a big boost for InfosysEdge, the products and platform spin-off, on which the company is betting for the future.
Second, it could also lift sagging employee morale, aggravated by continued adverse media coverage. The incumbent CEO’s reputation could have a positive impact on employees who could feel encouraged that a person of such stature has reposed confidence in the company.
Third, Sikka can leverage his contacts built during his SAP days to further Infosys’ business interest.
Importantly, I believe that the Sikka-Pravin model is really complementary and could be a winner. The outsider with the fresh perspective can bank on the veteran Pravin’s deep knowledge of the company, culture, delivery model and capabilities. Sikka the visionary will find an able partner in Pravin the tactician who comes with an excellent record at Infosys. Sikka and Pravin have both experienced turbulent times (the former at a personal level at SAP before his exit). Together they should have the resilience to overcome the challenges and bad press and pave the way for a brighter future for the company.
All this said though the challenges Infosys faces are real. The euphoria over the new appointment will fade soon and only real results will count. The recent exodus of senior leadership will have some impact, as I am sure the company would have been sorry to see a few of them leave.
Lack of leadership was often cited as reason for the gradual fall from glory, post the Murthy-Nilekani era. Now, that has been sorted out. If this move works, the next 2-3 years can redefine the company. As a former employee who has participated in the most exciting period of the company’s growth and rise to fame, and as a keen industry watcher, I am quite optimistic that Infosys will, on the back of the cleanup act of Mr Murthy, rediscover its winning ways soon.