Pravin Rao Curated

COO and Member of Board at Infosys Ltd

CURATED BY :  


  • 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.

  • Digital-first companies manage their own IT, and are challenging legacy companies. How can Infosys help them with artificial intelligence platform Nia to make an impact?

    Business models are changing fast today. For example, Uber, Airbnb, and the sharing economy have redefined business. These are companies that license software, and manage their own IT. But there are so many old companies that do not have these capabilities, and that’s where we come in. Take our platform Nia, which is a horizontal platform that provides cognitive capabilities. Horizontal capabilities are going away, and will be dominated by a few platforms like Microsoft while Google will dominate the AI engine. Our strategy is to build something on top of this, and not create our own platform. We intend to build business apps on these, and these apps can be around fraud detection and procurement, for example. We don’t want to build hundreds of business apps; we want to focus on apps with great use cases for our clients. It is about stickiness and repeatability. Nia will function on industry leading platforms. We will focus on business insight, which is very important for clients. Nia has helped in incident management in databases. Autonomous ways of approaching business is the future; you don’t need armies of people managing incidents. Nia can work in any place that generates data. In the retail space, we have come up with “consumer genome”. It begins when a consumer consents to share data with retailers. When we discover that data, we build systems to personalise offers. There are many opportunities. Take banks for example; today, increasingly, companies are using AI at the customer and enterprise level to do KYC and credit cheques. AI helps you look at customer delinquency and fraud detection across multiple data points.

  • How do you protect customer identity for your clients when data protection laws are being passed by every government?

    Data can be used only when consumer gives his consent. The consumer may not know how we arrive at insights, but we are not going to violate their privacy. Today, policies and companies are ensuring that customers are protected. There is a trade-off when it comes to data. Consumers get benefits with personalisation. They are the beneficiaries. The irony in the world today is the world has severe data regulations. Yes, we have to protect data. However, when I am providing tools to protect consumer data from being misused, the end user does not want to share data. On one hand they want us to secure data, but they don’t want us to deploy tools to protect their data. The benefits of data for personalisation will be lost because of this.

  • Your thoughts on modern BPOs, Blockchain, and startups?

    The traditional BPO era is over. All BPO will now be automated. It will be more about platforms. You host data, provide insights, and innovate with technology. Combine process efficiency with technology. Solutions will be industry specific. Blockchain is a framework that everyone is experimenting with, and will be used in any situation where there are multiple players. However, Blockchain will take some time for adoption. Infosys actively looks at startups; we love those in the insights space, in cloud-based applications, and are interested in startups in the cyber security area too. What we have, however, not seen in India are those in the experience side where technologies can amplify insights. We are looking at those who are disruptive. I personally meet startups at Nasscom whenever I have time. We had created an innovation fund to invest in startups. But, at that time, we realised Indian startups were in the B2C space. We love B2B startups and would love to look at the new ones making an impact in the market.

  • How you do compare this 2020 Covid-19 situation with the 2008-09 situation?

  • What are your thoughts on the current situation of hiring?

  • 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.

  • Is 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.

  • 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 feels 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.

  • Digital transformation is many things; what does it mean to Infosys?

    From our perspective, digital transformation is about changing the core, and amplifying experience. True digital transformation is beyond experience, and is much more than just having a website. We have come up with a digital framework that has five dimensions. The first one is crafting experiences, where our clients can serve their customers and consumers well. The second one is to leverage data for meaningful insights. The third is to create new innovative operating models for businesses, and the fourth to modernise legacy and move workloads to the cloud. Finally, the last one is cybersecurity. So, if you look at it, it is a full-stack experience. It is about re-imagining business models, and refactoring talent for the modern digital approach. Digital by itself does not mean anything unless you approach it this way.

  • The cloud has won the game, but you say it is still a journey. Why?

    Hybrid cloud is a reality, and no one questions it. But, it is still a journey. Some clients are visionary, and they are ahead of the cloud. Any transformation involves the cloud, and migrating legacy to new workloads is happening at a faster rate. You will have examples across verticals, and we conducted a survey to see this transformation. Infosys recently categorised companies as visionaries, explorers, and watchers, and we had some great findings. Around 22 percent were visionaries, 50 percent were explorers, and the rest were watchers. Visionaries have a holistic view of transformation and are looking at a prism of maximising insights. They will derive a lot of benefits digitally. The explorers are looking at creating experiences, while the watchers are looking at digital transformation from an efficiency bucket, and are yet to make a move.

  • Digital-first companies manage their own IT and are challenging legacy companies. How can Infosys help them with artificial intelligence platform Nia to make an impact?

    Business models are changing fast today. For example, Uber, Airbnb, and the sharing economy have redefined business. These are companies that license software, and manage their own IT. But there are so many old companies that do not have these capabilities, and that’s where we come in. Take our platform Nia, which is a horizontal platform that provides cognitive capabilities. Horizontal capabilities are going away and will be dominated by a few platforms like Microsoft while Google will dominate the AI engine. Our strategy is to build something on top of this, and not create our own platform. We intend to build business apps on these, and these apps can be around fraud detection and procurement, for example. We don’t want to build hundreds of business apps; we want to focus on apps with great use cases for our clients. It is about stickiness and repeatability. Nia will function on industry-leading platforms. We will focus on business insight, which is very important for clients.

  • How do you protect customer identity for your clients when data protection laws are being passed by every government?

    Data can be used only when the consumer gives his consent. The consumer may not know how we arrive at insights, but we are not going to violate their privacy. Today, policies and companies are ensuring that customers are protected. There is a trade-off when it comes to data. Consumers get benefits with personalisation. They are the beneficiaries. The irony in the world today is the world has severe data regulations. Yes, we have to protect the data. However, when I am providing tools to protect consumer data from being misused, the end-user does not want to share data. On one hand, they want us to secure data, but they don’t want us to deploy tools to protect their data. The benefits of data for personalisation will be lost because of this.

  • Your thoughts on modern BPOs, Blockchain, and startups?

    The traditional BPO era is over. All BPO will now be automated. It will be more about platforms. You host data, provide insights, and innovate with technology. Combine process efficiency with technology. Solutions will be industry-specific. Blockchain is a framework that everyone is experimenting with, and will be used in any situation where there are multiple players. However, Blockchain will take some time for adoption. Infosys actively looks at startups; we love those in the insights space, in cloud-based applications, and are interested in startups in the cybersecurity area too. What we have, however, not seen in India are those in the experience side where technologies can amplify insights. We are looking at those who are disruptive. I personally meet startups at Nasscom whenever I have time. We had created an innovation fund to invest in startups. But, at that time, we realised Indian startups were in the B2C space. We love B2B startups and would love to look at the new ones making an impact in the market.

  • What are the multiple challenges that have arisen from the Covid-19 crisis and how is Nasscom addressing those challenges?

    There is no doubt that this is an unprecedented situation for countries, communities and organisations alike. Just like all industries, IT organisations too, are adapting to the new normal. We believe that the industry’s response and agility, to get a majority of its employees enabled to work remotely while ensuring business continuity for our clients, has been commendable. Over the past couple of months, NASSCOM has been working with its members as well as the governments and other bodies to help to adapt. We believe the future of work will be a hybrid environment where businesses will be able to switch between WFH and WFO (work from office) seamlessly. We are also working with various governments to help them in their fight against Covid-19. Nasscom has created a task force, which is identifying key areas in the field of containment, tracking, testing, recovery and working with members to develop solutions in these areas. The task force has already demonstrated some great work like developing an end-to-end Covid-19 platform for the government of Telangana. We are working on delivering a similar platform to other states across the country.

  • 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 is the industry itself preparing for an unpredictable future?

    We believe that though this is indeed an unprecedented situation, the IT industry has been agile and efficient and even as we gradually get our critical employees back to work, the industry has been at the forefront of putting in place extensive measures to ensure employee safety. Digital technologies will play an ever increasing role in not only helping us deal with the pandemic but to also evolve new models of working.

  • What does the industry expect from the government in terms of monetary as well as regulatory support?

    As an industry, this is one of the most difficult times for organisations across. Hence, in this environment, it is important that the government looks at providing some stimulus package to the industry and at the same time relook at certain policy imperatives. This is to ensure that we have a conducive business environment and ensure stability for all stakeholders in the times ahead. The government’s announcement that they will provide Rs 4,000 crore to the MSMEs through the ministry’s Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGFTMSE), which will provide partial credit guarantee support to banks, has been encouraging. The industry is also looking for changes in labour laws, making permanent some of the temporary relaxations to enable remote working, improvement in telecom infrastructure, in particular the last mile connectivity, changes in IT laws to allow expenses incurred by employers to enable WFH models to be treated as business expenses, etc.

  • Do you see overall revenues stagnating at the previous financial year’s levels?

    As an industry, we need to be ready to make some difficult decisions to deal with this situation. The impact of this outbreak and subsequent lockdown is being felt by organisations and industries globally. Although, companies across sectors are doing everything possible to maintain business continuity, there is likely to be a short term decline in some sectors, especially for mid and small-sized companies in the immediate term. The Indian IT industry is also a part of the global industry and any disruptions or impact to the demand side will have an impact on India as well. However, In terms of arriving at an exact impact, we will have to assess this when we begin to get an idea of when this is likely to pass.

  • Is there a silver lining, amongst COVID-19?

    Every crisis comes with an opportunity. The Indian IT industry has shown resilience at many instances in the past and we believe that the foundation of the industry is strong and we will emerge stronger from this crisis as well. When we have emerged from this crisis, we would have utilised technology in unimaginable ways. We will evolve new models of working and also new ways of innovating and delivering value to clients. We also believe that this pandemic will accelerate the digital transformation journeys of enterprises across industries. There might be a short term impact on spending, but in the medium to long term enterprises will look to strengthen their digital infrastructure with the adoption of cloud, invest in cybersecurity solutions and adopt virtual collaboration platforms to enable remote work at scale. As such, we expect IT spends to bounce back stronger in the medium to long-term.

  • Most enterprises are talking about digitalisation and cloud adoption increasing in the near term? Will that compensate for the overall business loss?

    Due to the WFH model we have seen a domino effect on companies accelerating investments for seamless remote work. With the need to access critical applications and ensure the scalability of the infrastructure, cloud computing emerges as an essential technology. There is an opportunity for every industry and sector to reevaluate their digital transformation journey and take the necessary steps/investments to accelerate the pace. In the new normal this role will only amplify. We believe that a collaborative, secure and resilient technology landscape will continue to be a priority for organisations worldwide.

  • Will the shuttering of a large number of businesses and large mergers and acquisitions arising out of economic stress across the world drag down the industry?

    I believe that our industry, more than ever, needs a focused approach towards building resilience, reaffirming Indian technology industry as a trusted partner, expanding its market presence globally, skilling workforce and solving and contributing to our country’s growth. While there will be some short term impact as businesses across the world grapple with the slowing demand, technology will continue to be a big enabler for organisations as they come to terms with the new reality.

  • Do you see the BFSI vertical coming back this year as a major revenue contributor?

    BFSI as a sector has been undergoing a digital transformation over the past few years. With the acceleration of digital payments triggered by this crisis, financial institutions will need to invest to enhance customer experience, security and digital infrastructure. However, as of now, the vertical is likely to undergo stress due to several other factors like loan payment defaults, lower interest rate regimes, etc.

  • Most IT services companies don’t see more than 50% of their workforces going back to offices even in the long term. What are the long-term ramifications of such a situation?

    The hybrid work model will need HR policies, business models and laws to evolve to accommodate this change. Businesses will need to give up the textbook approach as the situation currently is very dynamic and things that were relevant before may not be going forward. Even though Nasscom has recommended to the industry a phased approach (10-15% workforce in phase 1) with stringent safety measures in place, it is yet too early to say what percentage of people will work remotely in the future. However, it is clear that the models of work will see a shift. It is too early to predict on impact on various other things like real estate, etc.

  • Do you see customers getting comfortable with the idea of system integrators’ employees working from home? Will that increase outsourcing to India?

    Ever since we have adapted to the blended working model for the industry, the clients for companies have been very supportive as they too are undergoing several changes in their structure. The clients have defined the expectations they have from IT and BPM companies at present, with most concerns pertaining to data security and privacy. We have been communicating extensively and openly with our clients to make sure they are aware and comfortable with the measures we are putting in place. Once WFH and remote ways of working becomes a reality, work will tend to gravitate to where talent resides and this could lead to increased outsourcing to India.

  • During this financial year, do you see the industry's cost-efficiency coming down because of the measures taken by the companies to enable remote work and safe office spaces for employees?

    The industry has been shifting tech assets and configuring internal networks to make this possible since the first week of March. During the first and second lockdown phases, almost 90% of the industry’s workforce was working from home, which was the largest WFH scale project anywhere. While the immediate cost might have an impact, in the long run, the organisations would be equipped to handle processes remotely, which would lead to significant cost efficiency as well.

  • 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.

  • Can you just share a little bit about you, and how you ended up as COO for Infosys?

    Good to talk to you as well. I am an electrical engineering graduate. from Bangalore University and joined Infosys in 1986. Actually, it was my first job, and this is my 34th year at Infosys. When I joined, we were less than 50 people, and today we are over 240,000 people, so obviously it’s been a great journey. When I joined Infosys, it was a very small company, and obviously not very well known. I had just two motivations. One is that I didn’t enjoy my electrical engineering stint, and I wanted to get out of it. The second one… In those days and probably even today, for a lot of people in India - and particularly for youngsters - going abroad is always an opportunity, and that was one of my ambitions. In those days, I heard Infosys was sending people to the US, so that was the added motivation. "In those days in India, if you joined the public sector then you were supposed to be set up for life, but I rejected those offers and joined Infosys. Many people thought I was crazy. I just wanted to see the world, and the rest is history" Once I’d graduated, Phil, I had a couple of interesting jobs, one in the public sector. In those days, in India, if you joined the public sector, then you were supposed to be set up for life, but I rejected those offers and joined Infosys. Many people thought I was crazy. I just wanted to see the world, and the rest is history. I came from a technical background, I joined as a trainee, and I have played several roles. Since the beginning of 2000, I started heading some P&Ls [Retail, CPG, Logistics and LifeSciences] with Infosys. In 2014, I was inducted to the Board of Infosys, and, at the same time, I was also elevated as COO, so I’ve been playing that role since then. For a brief period, I was named the Interim CEO before Salil’s appointment.

  • So tell us a bit about this role that you’ve been elected to as Chairman for NASSCOM. What does that entail, exactly?

    The Indian technology industry is one of the key contributors to India’s economy; it roughly contributes 8 to 9% of India’s GDP. This year, the financial year 2020, the Indian IT industry will contribute roughly $190 billion US dollars in revenue, and it today employs about 4.3 million professionals directly. So it’s a sector with a diverse mix of companies: Indian companies, multinationals, global tech centres of international companies, start-ups, and so on, and NASSCOM is the industry body that is representing the sector. It’s an honor and privilege, Phil, to represent the sector as Chairman, and a great opportunity for me to serve the industry. Within NASSCOM we have a leadership council, which consists of past Chairman, Chairman, Vice Chairman, and President, and this council is tasked with driving the NASSCOM vision and agenda. From an individual perspective for me, it’s a 3-year commitment - one year as Chairman, Vice Chairman (served one year, last year), and after this year, one year as Past Chairman – it’s a 3-year commitment to the industry. Obviously it’s a part-time role, we have a President who runs the forum full time. From a Chairman perspective, my immediate priority is obviously navigating around the COVID-19 situation, and ensuring minimum impact to all the stakeholders, to our clients, to our employees, and ensuring business continuity. In the long term, I hope, once we adjust to the new normal, we will focus on some of the work that NASSCOM has been doing, in terms of transforming the industry and making it relevant in the digital era. Obviously, after the current pandemic subsides, we should also gear up for the post-digital era, which is all about distributed ledger technology, artificial intelligence, AR, VR, quantum computing, and so on.

  • So this is probably the most critical juncture in the history of Indian technology, what’s been happening this year with the recent paradigm shock? How do you think you can support this, and respond to this, in your NASSCOM role? What sort of things are you really looking to do here?

    Yes, these are challenging times for everyone, including the Indian technology industry; however, our industry has, time and again, proven its resilience in the past, and I’m very confident that this time, too, we will emerge stronger and wiser. And, as I said earlier, during this time, maintaining business continuity and keeping in mind the safety and wellbeing of the employees was the topmost priority for the industry. Our industry has been enabling work from home since the first week of March and has been shifting assets and configuring the internal networks to make this possible. Today, roughly 85 to 90% of the workforce has been enabled to work from home – it’s much higher on the IT services side, and on the BPM side, it’s slightly lower. A small percentage of staff is working from our office, typically on mission-critical applications and dealing with sensitive data. And, considering the size of the industry, $190 billion dollars, and the scale, a 4 million-person workforce, the speed at which we have achieved this, I think, is a very remarkable achievement. We are also in regular touch with our clients and going the extra mile to ensure minimal business and service disruption. "Our industry has, time and again, proven its resilience in the past, and I’m very confident that this time, too, we will emerge stronger and wiser" The industry has worked very closely with the government during this period, both the central government as well as the individual states. First and foremost, we got IT and IT-enabled services categorized as essential services. That cleared a lot of hurdles. Then we had a lot of policies around moving assets out of campuses and policies around taking calls from home, so we worked with the respective departments and got it enabled as well. We are also working with state governments in terms of enabling ease of people movement, transfer of assets. The industry has actually worked very closely. I think what is very heartening is that we have also come together in supporting the government in leveraging technology to fight COVID-19.

  • So, as we look through the other side of this Paradign Shock, Pravin, do you think India will come out the other side unscathed? And do you see a different landscape emerging from this?

    I think, from a global perspective, the situation at this stage is pretty stark. There are still multiple scenarios being debated and discussed in terms of the global economy and the shape of the recovery. People are talking about V-shaped, U-shaped, L-shaped, and so on, and it’s very difficult to predict. Given the complexity and challenges which are unique to India, I think the government has done a good job so far, and the lockdown, as you are aware, has been now extended until May 3rd, although some activities will start opening up starting April 20th. For IT and IT-enabled services, wherever possible, the government has recommended up to 50% return to work. However, our industries will take a very phased approach. We want to be very responsible, so in the first few weeks, we expect only a maximum of 15 to 20% of the workforce back in the office, and it will actually take a few months before we get back to the old ways of working, probably close to 100% working in the office. From a country perspective, I think it’ll take about three, four months for things to stabilize. The other aspect is that this industry is part of the global value chain, and any disruptions in that will have a ripple effect on both India and the Indian IT industry. Overall, I’ve seen forecasts talking about GDP being lowered by 1 to 2% than what it was forecast before the virus outbreak, and COVID-19 is obviously creating disruptions globally where businesses across countries and geographies are facing major demand-side challenges. For our industry, it will be impacted by the demand-side shifts as opposed to any supply-side issues, so from that perspective, I think that in the short to medium-term we will see some fall in demand, some of the discretionary spend being pushed out, and so on. However, I believe that in the medium to long-term the industry will bounce back because as we get into a new normal, every enterprise will start looking at reimagining their ways of working. They’ll look at transforming talent and building resilience into their existing business models, and some changes will probably be permanent and be part of new normal, in these cases, technology and technology services will be very integral in all these models. Even today, technology is playing a huge role in enabling businesses to run remotely, and in the new normal this will be only amplified. So, in some sense, COVID-19 is a tipping point of the digital transformation of the workplace. The sudden shift to remote, digital work has the potential to accelerate digitally-enabled environments and workplace transformations. So, I’m very confident that in the long-run, Indian technology industries and providers will be more relevant than ever to organizations globally. While what is short term, what is medium and long-term are difficult to predict, I think the industry will bounce back and will continue to be relevant.

  • Do you think there’s going to be some positive behaviours, positive outcomes that we’re going to take away from this COVID-19 experience?

    I think the speed at which we have been able to ensure business continuity given our size and scale and enabling work from home, and without compromising on employee safety, for me that has been the most impressive one. And NASSCOM has worked closely with the government to enable this. That has been extremely positive. Secondly, all the industry players….are coming together. I think sometimes adversity brings the best of you, and it’s been amazing how people have come together and shared best practices. And even, I talked earlier about some of the tech solutions that they have provided, working closely with the government, in terms of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. So from that perspective, I’m very proud of the way the industry has come together to deal with the crisis. And some parts [of this] will become the new normal. In the past, I think clients were very reluctant to allow work from home; hopefully, this experience will help them look at it differently. If we are able to demonstrate productivity and good quality without compromising security, I think clients will get adjusted to this way of working, and that will also help the industry in the long run. "Sometimes adversity brings out the best of you, and it’s been amazing how people have come together and shared best practices" In terms of infrastructure side, the country has to improve telecom infrastructure, particularly the last mile connectivity, I think that many people still don’t have fiber connectivity, so that’s one area where I’m sure government and even the telecom providers will focus. And the second area reflects some of the policies, … the government has to make some changes to enable work from home [to be] more permanent. So these are some of the areas where probably we need to improve a lot, mostly from an infrastructure perspective but otherwise on the ability to do stuff and adjusting to the new model – those seem to be going on well.

  • How do you think this paradigm shock is going to impact the role of NASSCOM? What do you think its role should be, as things develop, Pravin?

    I think NASSCOM will continue to play a critical role, Phil, and more so than ever before. Right? Once the new normal happens, it’s important for NASSCOM to play a leading role, in terms of shaping the narrative around how the Indian technology industry was able to respond and with very minimal impact to the business continuity of clients. So, in some sense, NASSCOM has a crucial role in reaffirming India’s technology industry as a trusted partner for global enterprise. So that’s one role it will continue to play. "NASSCOM has a crucial role in reaffirming India’s technology industry as a trusted partner for the global enterprise" Secondly, as I said earlier, the Indian technology industry will continue to be relevant in the global context, post-crisis, so NASSCOM has to continue its role of policy advocacy with various governments, ensuring ease of doing business, articulating Indian tech and the technology industry contribution to the global economy and to creating jobs in the local economies. India technology industry is investing millions of dollars in these economies, how its increasing competitiveness of enterprises. So, these are some of the things which we are doing, and they are some things which we will continue to do. The third aspect is that the skills gap that is there globally will continue, and so NASSCOM has to play a large role in terms of promoting skilling and reskilling, not only in India but globally as well. So that’s a role it can play, and it can bring the Indian technology industry expertise to that. And, in some sense, NASSCOM, NASSCOM in the future will be much more broad-based. It will probably represent companies across the industry. For instance, in India, when there’s been a debate on data privacy law, data strategy, and so on, the NASSCOM voice is heard. So that’s a role I think it can start playing there, and globally, as well. In some sense, every organization today is a tech organization, and NASSCOM can play a huge role in representing the technology industry voice. "In some sense, every organization today is a tech organization, and NASSCOM can play a huge role in representing the technology industry voice" My sense is that NASSCOM’s role will continue to be very crucial and as the Indian industry gets adjusted to the new normal - and we are very optimistic and positive about the future - NASSCOM will have a large role to play in that.

  • Good. Well, thanks for this, Pravin. I think there’s one final question I want to put to you. If we meet again in a year’s time when you’re finishing your tenure, what do you think we’ll be talking about?

    I hope, by then, COVID is done with, though sometimes I get scared when people are talking about two, three cycles of COVID, and things like that. But anyway, jokes apart, I hope at the end of one year, we will probably be talking about looking back at crisis how we dealt and we dealt with the crisis and how successful the Indian IT industry has been able to navigate around the situation, ensuring business continuity for our clients and proving our resilience. Hopefully, with COVID behind us, we’ll also be talking about how seamlessly we have adjusted to the new normal, and we’ll probably talk more positively around the growth prospects of the financial year 2021, I think, at the end of this year.

  • I very much hope we’ll all be together, physically, in a few months at your big India Leadership Forum event in February, so I look forward to it very much.

    Of course, I also hope that very soon this will be behind us, and I look forward to more positive conversations in the future.

  • What do you think of your new role. What’s your task?

    For us growth is important, and whatever we need to do enable growth, we have to do that. From a portfolio perspective, I’ll continue to drive that, but apart from it, I’ll be focussing a lot on service innovation so that we are able to compete better, come up with better solutions and our win rate improves. In today’s world, when you win, client expects immediate fulfilment because they have other choices, so we have to make sure that we proactively look at recruitment, cross-train people, so everything is aligned in an integrated way. So my role the way I see it is more in terms of helping us become more competitive so that we can become more agile in the market so that we can drive growth.

  • Would you want to be CEO?

    Right now the focus is for me to make sure I’m successful as a president and the rest of it is for the nomination committee. Like everyone else, we’ll have an aspiration to be CEO, like any individual in Infosys, and having worked 28-30 years, but at the end of the day, at this stage that is not a focus.

  • 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.

  • On the face of it, your and BG Srinivas’ mandates seem complementary, but look what happened at WiproNSE -0.96 %. What do you think?

    Structure by itself is not a silver bullet or a solution. Then there are some interventions, better governance and so on. Then there is an element of leadership, people in the right place and all that. Wipro was a different case and I don’t think you can relate this to that. We work with a lot of multinational companies where all the divisional heads are called presidents, where they have two, sometimes five, or geo-based, so I don’t think the president is a new concept and you can’t compare.

  • What happens to 3.0?

    There are three tenets to it. One is where the business IT comes into it, where you are driving efficiency, doing more offshoring, drive costs down and bring savings to the client. The second is about the transformation of the business, which is the consulting and systems integration world where we have always been focused. One thing where we had not done much of work apart from Finacle was on the IP side and the products side. Those are futuristic things but we’ve said we want to start now because anything we start now will take three to five years to become mainstream. I don’t think there is any dilution of the 3.0 strategy.

  • So, now you are going to move products, platforms and solutions into a separate unit?

    I think one of the thinking is that I think we are going through the process formalities so once the formalities are complete, I think we will probably announce it. It’s in continuation with our strategy. Making it a subsidiary doesn’t mean it no longer is part of the strategy, if you look at BPO, it is a subsidiary, Lodestone is a subsidiary. It (products and platforms) continues to be a part of our strategy. Sometimes if it is a different entity, then it gives it more freedom and ability to do things differently.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Digital transformation is many things; what does it mean to Infosys?

    From our perspective, digital transformation is about changing the core, and amplifying experience. True digital transformation is beyond experience, and is much more than just having a website. We have come up with a digital framework that has five dimensions. The first one is crafting experiences, where our clients can serve their customers and consumers well. The second one is to leverage data for meaningful insights. The third is to create new innovative operating models for businesses, and the fourth to modernise legacy and move workloads to the cloud. Finally, the last one is cyber security. So, if you look at it, it is a full-stack experience. It is about re-imagining business models, and refactoring talent for the modern digital approach. Digital by itself does not mean anything unless you approach it this way.

  • The cloud has won the game, but you say it is still a journey. Why?

    Hybrid cloud is a reality, and no one questions it. But, it is still a journey. Some clients are visionary, and they are ahead of the cloud. Any transformation involves the cloud, and migrating legacy to new workloads is happening at a faster rate. You will have examples across verticals, and we conducted a survey to see this transformation. Infosys recently categorised companies as visionaries, explorers, and watchers, and we had some great findings. Around 22 percent were visionaries, 50 percent were explorers, and the rest were watchers. Visionaries have a holistic view of transformation and are looking at a prism of maximising insights. They will derive a lot of benefits digitally. The explorers are looking at creating experiences, while the watchers are looking at digital transformation from an efficiency bucket, and are yet to make a move. This spectrum of behaviour is across verticals, but we find retail and telecom more innovative. These are consumer-driven industries, and therefore, use disruptive technologies first. Customers are expecting more from them, thanks to consumerisation of IT. Most of the innovation is happening in the consumer world, and that’s what enterprises are getting into. Telecom is getting disrupted in a massive way, and the industry is facing severe competition from OTT companies, so they have to re-invent their business model. They are finally leveraging data for more insights. Explorers and watchers often still use legacy tech. But, you will be surprised that even visionaries are in old tech. However, they have been able to move workloads to data analytics and newer technologies, and also use the cloud. They are modernising their IT to get full benefits with insights. You can get insights with data, and deploy analytics. If your legacy system is not prepared to extract data well, then it is not going to transform their business. Watchers have to move fast and have to transform soon. Look at legacy led retailers who are shutting stores rapidly. The impact of Netflix, Amazon, and Google is huge. It is a great opportunity for us to work with them to transform.