Wipro will be back to industry-matching growth in 3-4 quarters: CEO Abidali Neemuchwala

Wipro CEO Abidali Neemuchwala says operationally, the December quarter was good for the firm but revenue growth could have been better


Wipro CEO Abidali Neemuchwala. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Wipro CEO Abidali Neemuchwala. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bengaluru: Abidali Neemuchwala completes a year on 1 February as Wipro Ltd’s chief executive officer (CEO). The former Tata Consultancy Services Ltd veteran, who joined Wipro as chief operating officer (COO) in April 2015, remains confident that by the end of March 2018, Wipro will be able to come back to industry-matching growth.

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Over his 20 months at Wipro, Neemuchwala, who is based in Dallas, has focused on simplifying internal processes, worked on organization alignment to improve execution, embraced hyper automation and adopted an aggressive mergers and acquisitions approach. The measures have helped Wipro marginally improve upon the 3.7% dollar revenue growth recorded in 2015-16, which is expected to grow at-best 5% in the year ending March. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Three full quarters as CEO, and you have embarked on a journey by articulating six broad themes. Given these measures you have started, the management has said in the past that a complete turnaround will take time. Will it be fair to ask if the company can come back or say end March 2018 with industry-matching growth or Nasscom-projected growth numbers? How would you describe this quarter?

Operationally, it was a good quarter. Our profitability improved in a quarter where there are furloughs and fewer working days. But I think in revenue growth we could have done more. But core business is doing well. India and Middle East business restructuring (had an impact) and Appirio (acquisition) closing also took time. So these things aside, I’m very confident that Wipro is progressing well and I believe three-four quarters is a reasonable time frame (when we will come back to Industry-leading growth). You need all cylinders to be firing for industry-leading growth and that is what I’m focusing on.

One criticism of your 20-month stint, first as COO and then the 10 months as CEO, is that you have shied away from taking tough decisions when it comes to making or appointing leaders. Analysts believe you have continued with the same set of leaders.

One of the things which is part of my nature is that we don’t advertise tough decisions. As a CEO, you take tough decisions all the time. About 40% of my current leadership team, from direct reporting structure, is not what I inherited from T.K. Kurien. We have new leadership where ever it is required. (What) I’m also very sensitive about is that whenever these changes happen, we do it very respectfully and consciously. So we don’t make changes for the heck of making changes. In fact, I feel very good that if you as a journalist don’t see this change, then customers also don’t see this change. And this is the best thing for us. Remember, we have had a very smooth CEO transition, or rather the smoothest in the industry.

Do you think there is a lot of noise on visa regulation in the US and Indian companies’ dependence on visas is actually coming down?

Absolutely. The industry, including Wipro, has learnt to hire globally, many more local employees. Rebadged a lot of employees from our customers. Today I guide my hiring managers that don’t make overseas job posting as an attraction. That era is over. So today I tell young talent that if you want to do great digital and path breaking and domain focused work, join Wipro. So dependence on visa has absolutely come down over the last few years. And so it is not that much of a worry because we believe that all business friendly decisions will be taken by the US government.

What are say two challenges ahead of you, as you start calendar year 2017?

Strategically, we have to future-proof our organization. So execution here will be key. Our exposure to telecoms and energy in the past had its impact. So balancing the whole portfolio takes time. We have to configure our business that we are diversified enough so that cyclical changes do not have more than impact.

Now India and Middle East is creating new opportunities. Historically, we have had challenges. So we plan to complete in two quarters. So we hope to complete by Q1 of next financial year. All this is apart from continuing to make our mergers integrate well and continuing with our six-pillar strategy.

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