Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka: Challenge is to transition without losing values, ethos


Bengaluru: Transforming the culture of a company is “difficult” but the challenge is to transition “without losing values” and “ethos”, said Infosys Ltd chief executive Vishal Sikka, speaking at a discussion conducted by the Wharton School on Monday.

Sikka’s comments come against the backdrop of a recent public spat between Infosys founders and board members over alleged corporate governance lapses.

The founders had raised concerns over Sikka’s steep compensation hike and severance pay of former executives Rajiv Bansal (CFO) and David Kennedy (general counsel).

“It is very, very tough. Everybody says it is tough, but when you do it in reality, when you exercise it, you realize that it is much more difficult than it seems,” said Sikka, when asked about transforming the culture of an organization to become innovative.

He acknowledged the role played by Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy in inculcating a culture of learning at the software services firm.

“We had that—it comes from our founder Murthy… He used to talk about ‘learnability’, the ability to learn, as one of the key hiring criteria,” Sikka said.

For Sikka, transforming a company is among the biggest challenges he has faced as a business leader. “I think the biggest challenge is ensuring that we transition ourselves to a new generation without losing our values, without losing our ethos,” he said.

The first non co-founder chief executive of Infosys has been steering the IT company into expanding focus on newer areas such as Artificial Intelligence and automation and believes these new technologies present both challenges and opportunities.

“If we sit still, there is absolutely no doubt that our jobs are going to be wiped out by AI—60-70% over the next 10 years, or maybe less than 10 years, of the jobs that we do today are going to be replaced by AI…unless we continue to evolve ourselves, unless we continue to develop better technology and faster automation,” Sikka said. However, the work on AI so far is largely focused on the consumer world and the enterprise world is wide open, rich with applications, he added.