Home/ Companies / Infosys to refrain from hiring SAP executives for now

Bengaluru: Infosys Ltd has decided to refrain from hiring top executives from chief executive Vishal Sikka’s former employer SAP AG in the coming months and has asked search firms to not consider senior executives at the German software maker for vacancies at India’s second-largest software exporter, according to two people familiar with the development.

Since former SAP board member Sikka became the first non-founder boss of Infosys last year, 13 senior executives from the German firm have joined the Bengaluru-based company at the rank of vice-president, senior vice-president and executive vice-president. In addition, three former SAP executives have also joined at the rank of associate vice-president at Infosys.

“We have been told not to consider SAP executives. SAP is a very strong partner (of Infosys) and you won’t want to spoil this relationship," said an executive familiar with the development. The executive did not want to be named on account of the sensitivity of this subject. Spokeswomen for Infosys and SAP declined to comment.

Asked to “go slow" on recruiting from SAP for at least until the end of the calendar “year", another executive said that the current management at SAP has expressed its “displeasure" in its conversations with Infosys. Mint could not independently verify what transpired in the discussions between SAP and Infosys executives.

Two executive search firms Heidrick & Struggles and Egon Zehnder have assisted Infosys and emails sent to both firms this week remained unanswered.

It is quite a turn of events for Infosys as the company was facing one of the more challenging times in its 34-year-old history at the beginning of last year. Thirteen senior Infosys executives had quit since company founder N.R. Narayana Murthy returned in June 2013.

Since Sikka resigned from SAP last summer, the German company has seen at least two dozen senior executives—at the rank of vice-president and senior vice- president—leave the firm, in addition to the 16 executives who have joined Infosys. Some have joined other technology firms, including International Business Machines Corp., Oracle Corp. and Google Inc., while a few have turned to start-ups.

SAP declined to comment for this piece this week, but a spokesman had told this paper in April that “SAP is a strong attractor of the world’s best talent" and it will be “incorrect to say that SAP is facing difficult times" since Sikka left the firm.

Since a large number of SAP executives have joined Infosys, some believe that a helping hand from Sikka will help SAP retain talent.

“It’s not just about these people joining Infosys. This has shaken the leadership at SAP. Two or three senior executives leaving from one team obviously leads to problems, and so others too start leaving," said another person familiar with the development.

“Sixteen executives who follow is a large number in less than one year," said John Mattone, a leadership coach and author based out of Lake Mary, Florida in the US.

Mattone is correct for other than Sikka and chief operating officer U.B. Pravin Rao, Infosys has close to 200 senior executives, including 14 executive vice-presidents, 20 senior vice-presidents, and 160 vice-presidents.

“Typically, non-competes are in place to prevent this type of movement. I understand that Infosys and SAP are more partners than competitors so I am not sure about the non-competes and legalities governing movement of talent," he said.

Interestingly, nine of the 16 former SAP executives joined Infosys at a lower rank.

“People only change when they see that a compelling alternative, in this case joining with Vishal and helping him build the new Infosys. So, people will take perhaps lower level positions—temporarily—as long as the pay is there and it is structured to minimize transition pain—in the hopes of joining hands with Vishal to build out the architecture for the new Infosys," Mattone said.

Varun Sood
Varun Sood is a business journalist writing on corporate affairs for the last fifteen years. He also writes a weekly newsletter, TWICH+ on the largest technology services companies. He is based in Bangalore. Varun's first book, Azim Premji: The Man Beyond the Billions, was brought out by HarperCollins in October 2020.
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Updated: 17 Sep 2015, 12:47 AM IST
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