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Pravin Rao, Chief Operating Officer and Whole-time Director at Infosys.
Pravin Rao, Chief Operating Officer and Whole-time Director at Infosys.

Will see irritants like H1B visa changes in an election year: Infosys's Rao

  • Infosys has recruited more than 13,000 locals — today, more than 60% of the US workforce are locals. While some of the visa changes are irritants, it is not making any impact on Infosys because it has de-risked its business model

NEW DELHI:Every election year in the US comes with its own share of visa troubles for India’s IT services exporters. Things appear more complicated this time around, with covid-19 pushing countries like the US to enforce restrictions on H1B visa hiring. Pravin Rao, COO of Infosys and a director on its board, told Mint in an interview that the company has de-risked by aggressively hiring locals in the US over the last two years. Excerpts.

How do you see recovery in different parts of the world markets you service?

We have seen a huge impact on gross domestic product (GDP). While Europe seems to have stabilised, we have started seeing second waves (of covid-19) in Australia, Japan. It is difficult to predict how long this will last. The recovery path would depend on vaccines and medical breakthroughs. While there are positive breakthroughs on the vaccine front, it is early to predict both availability and efficacy. You have to think of the seven billion global population — it would take a couple of years to vaccinate. Having said that, enterprises across industries are trying to build resilience, reimagine the business model for the post-pandemic world. For this, technology plays a huge role and we expect to see investments in digital accelerate over the next 12-24 months.

What strikes you about the response from customers now versus what you saw during the Lehman crisis?

The significant difference is investment in technology. In any recession, the first thing to get impacted is discretionary spending. In today’s world, discretionary spending is digital. However, clients have seen the benefits of investing in digital.

The world was getting a bit de-globalised ever since the Lehman crisis. Now with covid and elections in the US, we are seeing more noise around visas. How does the environment impact Infosys?

Every country will try to do what is important for itself. Every country will start focussing on being self-reliant — we have seen India talking about it. However, countries are so intertwined, it would take a lot of time to de-couple. From our perspective, we have made sure that we keep up with the regulations and policies in all countries we operate in. Over the years, we have made several strategic investments to ensure we are well positioned to deliver. Our localisation initiatives are a key part of the strategy. This has ensured we have a resilient business model. Couple of years back, we started accelerating localisation initiatives in the US. We set up six local centres. We have recruited more than 13,000 locals — today, more than 60% of the US workforce are locals. While some of the visa changes we have seen are irritants, it is not making any impact on us because we de-risked our business model. This is something we are replicating in other parts of the world as well. While talent will determine where you work and India is well positioned, we will continue to see irritants, particularly during an election year.

What is the outlook on physical assets that Infy has invested in over the years with the new paradigm of work from home?

There will be an element of work from home in the new normal. But it is premature to figure out a percentage. Our approach has been to create a hybrid model where we are able to switch seamlessly between work from home and work from office. Many of the creative stuff happens when you interact with people — for this, we feel there is a need for physical presence. Campuses will be relevant from that perspective. At this stage it is very difficult to predict what we would do with the campuses or how much we need. In the short-term, we have halted infrastructure development. Whenever leased facilities come up for renewal, we have to see if we want to renew them or get out. We are waiting and watching./

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