Bengaluru: Ten months into his role as chief executive of Infosys Ltd, Salil Parekh is hoping the company becomes “more boring" during his tenure, even as he proceeds on a frenetic pace on acquisitions, dealmaking and pushing its digital business. He has achieved his first goal: restoring stability to the company that less than a year ago was racked by the abrupt exit of his predecessor Vishal Sikka, following differences with co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy. The return of stability prompted chairman Nandan Nilekani to remark recently that Infosys had become boring again.
In this short time, the 54-year-old industry veteran has made two acquisitions (Fluido and WongDoody), bagged billion-dollar deals, given the digital business the required urgency, appointed new leaders for key verticals, restructured compensation and still found time to meet 95 of the company’s key customers across the globe. That means he is on the road for as many as three weeks a month, leaving him with little time to spend with his three sons aged 13, 18 and 20.
Vitally, he has also built bridges with the men who matter. He shares an easy rapport with non-executive chairman and co-founder Nandan Nilekani, who, he says, is always “a call away" but also has a special relationship with Murthy, who has often invited him home for a cup of coffee or a meal. Which is probably why he is unequivocal about what he has inherited.
During the course of an exclusive interview to Mint on his first 300 days and his plans for the future, at his corner office surrounded by massive palm trees in Bengaluru’s Electronic City, Parekh says “what has been built here by the founders and all the leaders is an exceptional business".
A Bollywood buff, who still manages to watch a movie every weekend, Parekh is candid enough to admit that only the next 5-7 years will tell if the recent stability at the company is here to stay. Challenges abound for the man who studied engineering at IIT Bombay and then Cornell University, before going on to a career in consulting, first with EY’s consulting division and then Capgemini after it bought the former. With growth in the global IT services business continuing to remain subdued, deals are being fiercely contested. Market leader Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) has been setting a scorching pace, especially in the digital services business. There is also the vexed issue of work visas in the US, with the Donald Trump administration threatening major changes.
Parekh’s way of dealing with that has been to push local hiring in that country. In the past 18 months, Infosys has hired over 4,000 people in the US.
He refuses to be drawn into a conversation on his leadership style, saying that’s for others to comment on but he’s clear about what it will take to drive the company’s future: “My view is, the more relevant you are for the client, the more likely you’ll succeed."
One thing is certain: Parekh’s business model for Infosys won’t be out of any business book since he doesn’t read those, preferring instead ones that deal with economics or history or 2,000-year-old cultures. Salil Parekh is here to be his own man.