Infosys CEO Sikka Weaves A Story Of Starlings and Startups On Day One

vishal sikka_infosys
Newly appointed Infosys Chief Executive Officer Vishal Sikka speaks during a news conference at the company's headquarters in the southern Indian city of Bangalore June 12, 2014.

Infosys’s brand new CEO Vishal Sikka wants his 160,000-strong team to orchestrate itself much like a murmuration to win orders and build new applications in industries “where software is making its way for the first time.”

In a reference to how thousands of starlings fly in concert, seemingly effortlessly, with the flock changing patterns and direction in spectacular response to unseen impetus, Sikka spoke of his vision for the company in an interview with Divya Amarnath, head of learning and development at Infosys Ltd (NSE:INFY), which was posted on the company’s website Friday.

It is apparent from the video that Sikka has been talking about murmuration to Infosys staff for some time now. The company will look to each one of its employees for ideas, and will also spend as much as $100 million to acquire ideas found outside the company, said Sikka, who started his initial five-year term on Friday.

“We have a $100 million fund that our shareholders and our board has approved already, I want to put it to great use starting today, and work with startups ... to be a great amplifier for startups here in India and also other parts of the world, In the Valley where I live,” he said.

Infosys had set apart $100 million to invest in products, platforms and solutions, chief financial officer Rajiv Bansal had said in an April 2013 conference with reporters.

Shareholders can expect many innovative tweaks that will tap the great software opportunity beckoning the company, but not drastic changes, Sikka had said on Wednesday at the company’s extraordinary general meeting that formalized his appointment.

“I see no reason to make any grand changes to the direction we’ve been going in, but I do see a great opportunity to augment that with new kinds of innovation,” said Sikka, who has been offered over $5 million in annual compensation, in addition to stock options, to lead Infosys.

Sikka quit as chief technology officer at SAP AG before accepting Infosys’s offer. His entry as CEO marks the culmination of a tumultuous 15 months since Infosys’s iconic founder NR Narayana Murthy returned from retirement to try and turn the company around.

In the two years leading up to Narayana Murthy’s return in June 2013, a strategy called Infosys 3.0 -- to break away from recruiting hoards of college graduates, like the rest of India’s outsourcing industry, and bring in greater revenues from proprietary software products, platforms and consulting -- didn’t take off.

Infosys lost ground to rivals such as Tata Consultancy Services Limited (NSE:TCS). The company paid the price for neglecting its bread-and-butter IT outsourcing business, and the rate at which sales rose fell by close to 80 percent and margins fell by 45 percent, Murthy told analysts in a series of conferences earlier this year.

While a gradually improving U.S. economy has helped Infosys meet the fairly muted expectations of investors in recent quarters, Sikka is tasked with returning the Bangalore-based company to its bellwether status. For now, Infosys’s growth still lags those of its peers.

The company’s 7 percent to 9 percent growth forecast for the current fiscal year that ends March 2015 compares with a 13 percent to 15 percent industry estimate for exports, which form the bulk of the $118 billion Indian outsourcing industry.

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