Infosys - Kris Gopalakrishnan

From tiny beginnings in a flat in Bangalore, Infosys has risen to be one of the Titans of the Age of Technology.  

At its heart is Kris Gopalakrishnan, a founder of the company and now its CEO.  Here he tells Asian Enterprise what has made him and the company he helped create the successes they are today.
A soft-spoken South Indian, Kris Gopalakrishnan was studying physics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in the 1970s, when he decided to take a computer language course "just out of interest ". He was hooked and did a masters degree in computer science.
In 1979, he joined a local company, Patni Computer Systems, where he met the team of six other software engineers with whom he has since spent most of his working life, including Mr. Nilekani and NR Narayana Murthy, Infosys's non-executive chairman. After Mr. Murthy announced in 1980 he wanted to found Infosys, he followed without hesitation.  They had  an initial capital investment of $250 between them. The original group of founders still hold 18% of the company, which is listed on NASDAQ and valued at $26bn, making each of them wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.

A man with neat hair, a grey moustache, dressed in a plain shirt with “Infosys” sewn in cursive writing on the chest, S. Gopalakrishnan, or “Kris” as he is known, is so unassuming he might be mistaken for an employee. But beneath the quiet demeanor is a man of comm¬anding intelligence. Kris, the co-founder of Infosys, one the most influential companies in the global information tech¬nology outsourc¬ing industry and a flag¬ship entity in India's rush to modernity.
“Infosys provides end-to-end business solutions that leverage technology. We provide solutions for a dynamic environment where business and technology strategies converge. Our approach focuses on new ways of business combining IT innovation and adoption while also leveraging an organization's current IT assets. We work with large global corporations and new generation technology companies - to build new products or services and to implement prudent business and technology strategies in today's dynamic digital environment.”
Looking at Infosys's sprawling campus in Bangalore today it is easy to forget its humble beginnings. Its global aspirations are on display everywhere, even in the upscale guesthouse restaurant, which boasts clocks showing different time zones. But this is a recent phenomenon. For much of its life, Infosys was a relatively small company.

  

"Our registered office was Murthy's flat because that was the only permanent address any of us had," Kris says. In 1987, Kris was put in charge of technical operations at Infosys KSA, a joint venture in the US with the consultancy Kurt Salmon Associates, selling software services to the apparel industry. The partnership with KSA dissolved in 1994, with Infosys keen to have direct access to clients and branch out into other sectors.
“We were young back then and this seemed like something interesting and exciting. Plus, under Narayana Murthy, it was really like working for a company. We wanted to create a bright future for ourselves, for the Indian society and for the world at large. We had a good idea and were able to create the market for it in the G–7 countries. 26 years hence, it seems like it all worked itself out!” He says with a smile.
In 1999, Infosys hit $100 million in annual revenues. March 2006, Infosys, fueled by growth in the outsourcing industry, had hit the $2 billion mark—a remarkable feat by any company's standards. It took the company 23 years to reach $1bn in revenues and just another 23 months to hit $2bn, a landmark achieved in 2005. The company forecasts sales of more than $4bn in the current financial year. Infosys clients include Royal Bank of Scotland, Sainsbury, Tesco, ABN Amro, Boeing and DaimlerChrysler.
But Infosys has no intention of resting on its laurels. Rather, aware that it still needs to step up its branding efforts, the company launched a global branding campaign built around the idea of winning in the "flat world." Instead of being seen as simply another offshore services provider, the company's goal is to build a reputation as a trusted transformation partner that can help businesses compete in a global market.

On 15 November 2007, the company - the inspiration for “The World is Flat” by author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; was honored with the Sharpening Brand and Competitive Differentiation Marketing Excellence Award from the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) for the strategy and execution of its “Win in the Flat World” campaign. ITSMA recognized Infosys for its success in shifting its perception from being a provider of off shoring services to that of a partner that helps companies reshape their businesses in a flattening world. Infosys’ ability to set itself apart from the competition through innovation, execution and the business benefits resulting from the “Win in the Flat World” campaign. The marketing program behind the campaign clearly demonstrated Infosys’ unique approach towards building its credibility as a trusted transformation partner that strengthens its clients’ global competitiveness.


One of the most pressing strategic issues facing the company is making progress on efforts to move up the value chain into consulting.  The industry's other big challenge - how to handle double-digit wage inflation and staff shortages, particularly at middle management level. People with eight to 10 years experience "don't exist ", he says.” So whoever is there is in great demand today.”
To solve this problem, the company has embarked on a furious training programme and is also recruiting overseas. Once known for sucking jobs out of call centres and IT departments in the west, Indian technology firms are re-exporting them to wealthier nations as wage inflation and skills shortages at home reverse the process. Infosys spent $250m this year buying the Polish call centres of Philips, the electronics group, manned by workers who speak half-a-dozen European languages. The company is building up a network of offices stretching from Mexico to Eastern Europe to China to provide an "anytime, anywhere" solution to its clients. "Our customers are global, so we have to become so," says Mr Gopalakrishnan.
With pressing problems at the office, he finishes his 12-hour days by going home and relaxing in front of the cricket. When he is not holding late-night teleconferences, reading is his passion. His latest book is “India after Gandhi”.
Speaking on his role as the chief executive and managing director he says, “It’s exciting as well as challenging. Exciting because, few people get to run an organisation like Infosys and expectations are very high, so in that sense it’s challenging.”
Talking about the future he says “The global IT services industry is going through a major change – the world is “flattening” itself. Traditional models are no longer valid and are fundamentally delivering lower quality, with higher costs, delays, overruns, etc. Clients are increasingly dissatisfied with that. Our business model, which is based on excellence in execution, is what customers are looking for. They also want good business knowledge, consulting knowledge, domain skills and understanding of problems and solutions. The next generation IT services and consulting firm does both - it provides excellence in execution as well as great business problem solving skills. We aspire to be such a company. We want Infosys to be in the top echelons of globally respected companies. At the same time, the game is definitely not only about size.
He concludes: “In the IT services industry we have been an agent of change. We want to continue to be an agent of change and be the leader in the industry.”  

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