Home / Companies / People /  Wipro’s growth trajectory remains intact for full year: T.K. Kurien

Bangalore: India’s No. 3 software services exporter, Wipro Ltd, posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter results on Thursday but issued a weak guidance for the first quarter. Wipro last reported double-digit full-year revenue growth in the 2011-12 fiscal year and the company’s chief executive T.K. Kurien is under greater pressure now to deliver results faster. The Bangalore-based firm plans to do this while rolling out salary hikes of 6-8% for offshore employees and 2-3% hikes for onsite employees this financial year, according to Wipro’s global human resources head Saurabh Govil.

In an interview on Friday, Kurien spoke about the challenges facing Wipro, when he expects it to return to industry-leading growth and the steps the company is taking to automate increasingly routine, commoditized tasks in outsourcing projects. Edited excerpts:

We’ve been hearing different commentaries from different companies on the demand situation. What’s really happening at Wipro and what should we expect for FY15?

There are three sets of companies that have come out with a fairly positive outlook in the market and the kind of portfolios these companies have, it’s fairly well-distributed. It’s applications, infrastructure and BPO (business process outsourcing). If you look at the deals that are coming through, a lot of them are coming in the infrastructure area and that typically is a weakness for others. And that’s why you see this disparate commentary in terms of demand. Similarly, we’ve seen BPO also strong in the last quarter and we continue to see BPO strong for the year. The typical ‘run the business’ kind of budgets, we see that going up for competitive bids. And in those competitive bids our ability to win has been pretty decent. That’s what we’re seeing in this space. I’m not complaining about demand—I think it’s our ability to go out there and access demand that is really going to differentiate us from the rest.

You’ve said most of the work as far as the restructuring is concerned is behind Wipro. Why isn’t it reflecting in the numbers?

Q1 for us traditionally has been a weaker quarter. Last year, if you look at Q1, our growth over the previous year in the April-June timeframe was 4.7%. At the bottom end of the guidance we’ve given today, it would still be closer to 8%. For us, the way we see it, our growth trajectory remains intact for the full year. We don’t see that changing significantly.

But a weak Q1 puts more pressure on you to perform consistently through the rest of the year..

I don’t want to judge Q2 right now, but all I can say is wait for Q2.

How far along would you say you are in your turnaround journey, in terms of putting the problems Wipro faced in the past behind you?

Pretty much done. Now it’s a question of standing there and executing it and making sure the entire organization follows it. So, if you look at our strategy there are three broad pillars that we looked at. One, customer experience. That’s working for us in some form. There is still a lot of work to be done even now in terms of making sure that components of what doesn’t work, we’ll fix. That we’ll continue to do. Secondly, productivity, and that’s reflected clearly in terms of profitability. Thirdly, we said better client mining (getting more business from existing clients) and better hunting (getting new clients). Both have played themselves out during the past couple of years because our hunting revenue this quarter is significantly higher than it was at the same time last year. From that perspective if you ask me, I continue to be bullish about the future.

But you’ve also said that there’s still work that needs to be done in terms of getting consistency in performance and that will take some time..

It’s a question of getting hyper-growth back and that’s really it. You have to win much more, as simple as that. The good news is that the trajectory is upwards and if the trajectory continues we’re pretty clear that we’ll be able to get past the Q1 issue. And I mentioned this last time as well, I’ll never be happy till we get linear (consistent) growth back. So, restructuring, change is not really over till we get linear growth back. And that’s not yet done.

Wipro also seems to be very vocal in terms of automation and driving more of that in commoditized businesses. In the backdrop of automation, what kind of rationalization should we expect in the near term with your workforce?

Last year, we continued to recruit and we recruited about 15,000. We continue to hire from campuses. But going forward, the scenario might change a little for us because fundamentally what we want is we require very strong technical skills, which are spread across our entire pyramid. I think it’s extremely important for us because what is going to happen is the way we’re developing tools, the way automation is going, we’re going to provide measures that will allow people to do the basics, yet we’d like them to use initiative to go beyond that for customer delight. Which means the person who will sit in front of the customer will really be a person who has been empowered to take decisions. It could be a smart or stupid decision, but they’ll have to take them. Speed of decisions is more important than quality of decisions... In this industry the way we see it, the quality of manpower and the kind of people we would have would clearly go up. The numbers would probably come down. The overall cost equation may not change. As you invest in more intellectual property, you’ll be forced to hire more expensive people and different quality of people. That’s the transition that we’re going through.

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