Infosys story part 2: Leadership and process discipline – Has Infosys’ once strengths waned away?

Sudin Apte

The dollar I lost to George is repetitively making me think about Infosys. Here are three incidents that come to my mind today:

First incident – I don’t remember the exact date, but it has surely been 6-7 years. While debating on Infosys campaign based on Thom Friedman’s World Is Flat, Nandan Nilekani made one interesting statement. According to him, today Infosys can knock board room of any Global 2000 firms, and it gets opened. Possibly Nandan was right! With rising role in World Economic Forum, coveted positions like seat on Bill Clinton foundation, he surely was one of the most well connected Indian CEO.

My current question is – Is this happening today? And if I stretch it further, will such CEO-driven growth be tenable in long term?

Second incident is of when Phaneesh Murthy left Infosys. Leave aside the context to this event, however I remember, Infosys leadership bravely faced his exit and subsequent loss of client relationships. Infosys management said (not exactly a quote, but meaning) – every role, and especially senior leadership role at Infosys is institutionalized. We have leadership ladder that will fill in the position, hence, we don’t expect any operational disruption. Again arguably they were right. Basab Pradhan took over as new Sales head and Infosys continued on its growth path.

Today I am wondering – Has it happened every time? Has Infosys really been successful in building person agnostic business model and leadership?

Third and relatively latest incident (2010) is of a client. I was having lunch with a senior outsourcing executive in a retail company – and a long term Infosys client. While explaining her point that “Infosys is changing” she said, if you get 10 Infosys folks in one room you can separate old Infoscions (who worked in Infosys for long tenure, possibly started at junior level and grew over period) from new joiners. Her point was, there is a clear difference in terms of – how they interact, their business values and trust-worthiness, attitude and approach, and typical values that she links with Infosys founders.

Why are clients seeing this difference? Is it real and so stark? Are all leadership training only focused on base trade skills? Do they not focus on building traditional Infosys values and qualities??

Till now, Infosys was a strikingly different company. It thought and talked of various such new concepts in Indian IT like leadership building, creating business ethics and core values. After visiting Mysore facility (Training as well as Leadership Institute) severally, I know they have focused a lot on this front. Where have things gone wrong? Does its earlier strength have become now its challenge?

The cynical analyst in me asks – if Infosys faces these challenges on this front, then what about other Indian companies?

11 thoughts on “Infosys story part 2: Leadership and process discipline – Has Infosys’ once strengths waned away?

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