Infosys COO: We’re not alarmed at the exits, both at the middle and senior levels

K Giriprakash Bengaluru | Updated on November 04, 2019 Published on November 04, 2019

UB Pravin Rao, Chief Operating Officer, Infosys   -  Bloomberg

For a few years now, Infosys has been living from one whistleblower complaint to another. This time, however, a whistleblower group has made allegations that seem to be far more serious than the previous ones. In an interaction with BusinessLine, Infosys Chief Operating Officer, UB Pravin Rao shares the company’s perspective about such complaints and how they have not affected its regular operations. Excerpts

Infosys has said that there is no prima facie evidence to suggest any wrongdoings as claimed by a whistleblower group. So, is this statement based on an interim report?

This is just a clarification. We were asked by the stock exchange whether there was any evidence. We clarified that no evidence was shared with us. We responded to whatever question was asked by the stock exchange. But the probe is continuing and till the report is out, we will not be able in any position to share the details.

Are there any timeline set for the panel to complete the probe?

No, we have not set any timeline because we want to make sure that it is comprehensive and we don’t want to compromise on the nature of the probe. Obviously, everyone wants the report out sooner than later. But we are not putting any pressure to complete it in a time-bound manner. We want to make sure they do a comprehensive job.

On a long-term basis, how do you see such allegations panning out for all the stakeholders?

Whatever has happened is quite unfortunate. We would rather not have these kinds of things playing out. In the past as well as now, we have shown that we are a resilient organisation and we have made sure that it doesn’t impact or distract us from doing what is right for our clients and in terms of executing the strategy and that’s what we are probably doing. We reached out to stakeholders including our own employees. We talked to them about what we are doing with respect to this allegation. We have reassured them that there are no changes as far as our ties with them are concerned. There is absolutely zero impact as far all our stakeholders are concerned. Our commitment to them, our deliverables will be on the same scale as before. They will continue to see Infosys being as proactive as before and helping them in their own transformation. We have told them there will be no disruptions to what we do with your clients and there are many who have been with us for the last 15-20 years. They do understand the DNA of the company.

Infosys is now 38 years old. Analysts say Infosys might have lost its nimbleness with age catching up

It is a journey. In the earlier days when it was a smaller company, it was easier to be agile; there was the energy of the start-up and not burdened with the processes. But once you start growing, it is important not to lose sight of nimbleness. The ideal situation would be to be a large company with a start-up culture. But it is easier said than done. We make sure that we keep re-imagining the processes. Basically, what we are seeing is our ability to react to situations much faster. But today with technology automation and AI, it is possible for an organisation to also start embedding some of these things into its own processes, and react in a much more agile manner.

One criticism against the company is that it has not harnessed the kind of experience some of the senior and older employees in key positions bring to the table. There have been quite a few exits at the top level.

If you look at our overall attrition rate, most of it comes at lower levels, especially between three and five years. Beyond five years, our attrition level is lower than the overall attrition. Even at the senior positions, the exits are fewer. Thankfully, most of the exits have been for reasons where people have got better opportunities or left on their own to pursue their own passion which may not be in line with what Infosys is doing. We have rarely seen regrettable talent leaving us to join peers for similar kind of work. We want to make sure that we retain the best talent, but at the same time if there are exits it also creates an opportunity for the next level of employees. We are not really alarmed or really worried about the the level of attrition at the middle and senior level.

How active is the leadership institute at Mysuru Mysore?

I think it is evolving and is keeping pace with the changing times. Earlier, it was more about going to Mysuru and getting trained there but today our training methodology has changed. You don’t really need to go there to get trained. There are multiple interventions. We have tied up with some of the global academics like Stanford. Some of our top leaders attend these tailor-made intervention programmes. We are also connecting senior leaders with mentors from outside who are CEOs and business leaders from other organisations. We also drive a lot of internal initiatives for potential leaders.

The Q2 performance of Infosys was, in fact, better than some of its peers. But if one looks at sector-wise analysis, financial services is expected to be soft on the back of weakness in capital markets. Retail is expected to be volatile led by caution in spending.

There are some pockets of weakness in the capital markets and some of the banks in Europe but we have a broad-based portfolio. We work across geographies. We remain reasonably confident about this space. We have had a strong position there and we have won several deals and a big percentage of that has come from financial services. And again, there is a lot of concern about macro consumer spending and we expect it to be a little bit volatile. This quarter is important for retail from a holiday season. If this quarter pans out well then hopefully some spend may come back next year depending on how this holiday season works out but retail is one sector which will always remain volatile because it is closely tied to the consumer sentiment and consumer spending but barring these two, I think we have seen good performance in other sectors.

Are clients being wary about spending more because of the fear of recession which many feel is around the corner?

Well, there is a general talk about it but we are not seeing any impact in any decision-making from a client perspective. In the last year and a half, one thing is common. Clients are looking at taking cost out and repurposing that spend in newer areas, in the discretionary areas because it is important for them to transform themselves for them to survive and be competitive against the digital natives. That behaviour still continues. So far, we have not seen any impact on client spending.

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Published on November 04, 2019
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