Abidali Neemuchwala, since taking over as chief executive officer of Wipro Ltd on 1 February last year, has completed five full quarters. Wipro has done well only in one quarter—the January-March period this year.
A former Tata Consultancy Services Ltd veteran who joined Wipro as chief operating officer in April 2015, Neemuchwala remains confident that by the end of March 2018, Wipro will be able to come back to industry-matching growth. Edited excerpts:
You have already stated that Wipro will come back to industry-matching growth by March 2018. How would you view the performance in this quarter?
When I started, we had set ourselves a plan, and milestones. The current quarter, I will call it as evidence of disciplined execution of strategy. As you know, some of the best strategies if not executed well, fizzle out.
I believe this is certainly one of my best quarters and we have got a momentum. I feel pretty good, as we have got results from client mining, (high growth) from top ten clients. Even from margin perspective, we have done reasonably well.
So is the worst behind?
I personally feel the worst is behind. We had Wipro-specific issues and most, if not all, are behind us.
So unless there is a macroeconomic uncertainty or challenge, I believe we have got the momentum to deliver industry-matching growth numbers by March 2018, as previously stated.
One continuing criticism of your stint at CEO is that you continue to shy away from taking tough decisions when it comes to making or appointing leaders. Executives at Wipro believe the firm is giving a long rope to its leaders at the top, and that Azim Premji (chairman) has to be consulted on making some of the executive changes. Analysts believe you have continued with the same set of leaders.
Firstly, let me tell you that I have an excellent working relationship with Mr Premji. A visionary leader. He is going to get the Nobel peace price equivalent in philanthropy, The Carnegie Award. On business, he gives me complete freedom. He is available whenever I need him.
I’ll tell you how one of the acquisitions which we are doing, I got to know that many other suitors were also vying for it. So I called AHP, as we call Mr Premji, and told him how we have to make this acquisition, and I need to do this. And then we followed the board process and got the acquisition done.
So I have a great working relationship. As CEO he gives me complete authority and holds me accountable for delivery of results.
Now, CEOs do things differently. Some CEOs come and say, look, I’m in a hurry and I have to make all the changes and bring people I know. Some CEOs say that this is a transformation journey, if you have the right people with learnability skills, you help them with a reskilling programme.
You’ve got to give time to people to change and learn with the new environment. I believe a stable leadership team with stable customer relationships is needed. It’s not that I have not brought in new people. But my first priority will be that if you have people within Wipro, then you have to give them a chance.
On the M&A front, Wipro appears to have slowed after having spent over $1 billion last year.
We have a clear vision and strategy. There has been no change in the strategy. When I came in, there were clear gaps. Design (we bought DesignIT), Cloud (we bought Appirio) and Germany (we bought Cellent).
So we were very aggressive. Now, when I look, there still two-three gaps which I cannot disclose. We need to find the right assets in these two-three areas.