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Home / Companies / Wipro turns to Abid Ali Neemuchwala in push for quick recovery

Wipro Ltd has named chief operating officer Abid Ali Neemuchwala as chief executive with effect from 1 February, succeeding T.K. Kurien who will become executive vice-chairman.

Wipro appointed Neemuchwala, a former head of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd’s (TCS) business process outsourcing (BPO) unit, as chief operating officer (COO) and group president in March 2015.

Neemuchwala had joined Wipro as part of a management reshuffle to help India’s third-largest software services exporter get back to industry-beating growth numbers.

While the company had then explained the appointment as a move aimed at letting Kurien focus on strategy and bigger business initiatives, the appointment of its first COO in more than six years led to talk of Neemuchwala being groomed for the top job, leading to the departure of a few senior executives.

“He (Neemuchwala) genuinely understands how to marry business process delivery with IT delivery, and he can truly help globalize Indian-heritage provider with his experience, which is essential for a firm like Wipro," said Phil Fersht, chief executive officer and industry analyst at HfS Research, a US-based outsourcing researcher.

“He led the TCS BPO business to well over one billion dollars in revenue using this strategy and targeting specific industry verticals, most notably the insurance and banking sectors."

Neemuchwala is credited with having doubled the revenue of TCS’s back-office division in the six years he headed the business.

Since joining Wipro, he has focused on basic measures, such as simplifying internal processes and finding better ways to sell more to existing clients, to revive the company.

Wipro has grappled with dismal growth numbers since Kurien took over at the helm in February 2011. The company’s revenue grew 6.4% in 2013-14 and 5% in 2012-13, underperforming larger rival Infosys Ltd, which grew 15% and 4% during those periods. Since 2011, Wipro has also struggled to grow revenue more than 8% a year in dollar terms.

Kurien, whose five-year stint as CEO will end on 31 January, will continue to report to Wipro chairman Azim Premji and will remain a board member until 31 March 2017, the IT firm said in a statement.

“As executive vice-chairman, T.K. will enable Abid by leveraging his deep relationships with customers and chart out a new technology roadmap for Wipro," Premji said in the statement.

During his nine-month stint at Wipro, Neemuchwala has made each of Wipro’s six business unit heads responsible for the delivery of software in addition to managing sales—a move aimed at cross-selling services and arresting any fall in profitability as clients seek lower prices from software services firms.

In an interview in August, Neemuchwala had said that he was also trying to make the Bengaluru-based company more competitive by improving the delivery side of the business and hiring more locals in Latin America, China and Canada.

Some of Neemuchwala’s efforts mirror those adopted by Vishal Sikka, who took the helm of bigger rival Infosys in 2014. Sikka has also been working on improving the internal processes and realigned the delivery side of the business.

Some analysts’ are sceptical about a quick recovery at Wipro.

“Abid has been overseeing the delivery side of business for the last nine months. We have not seen much improvement on client mining. And now he will be tasked with the additional role of getting his company win more deals will be a tall task. His task becomes more challenging when we see a renewed push from Infosys under Vishal to chase news deals. Let’s wait for 12-18 months to see if Wipro can manage industry-matching growth numbers," said the head of research at a Mumbai-based domestic brokerage. The person declined to be named.

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