DTDIY SPECIAL THE 'HOW TO' ISSUE 2012
How to 'Choose your Successor'
Besides being recognised as one of india's most admired it companies, infosys is well known for its approach towards succession planning. in this exclusive with dtdiy, kris gopalakrishnan, Executive co-chairman, infosys, discusses his vision for the future leaders of infosys
Virat Bahri | Issue Date - 03/02/2012
Q. From an outside perspective, it looks as if Infy is led more by a strong set of processes than by people. What has worked more for you?
A. The thing is people, process and technology are the three pillars, which we need to look at. I would say that all these matter. Some companies would depend on just one aspect; we look at all. In 1999, we did a comprehensive internal assessment. It looked at various aspects of the business and also at the results. We realised that we have informal processes for leadership, but no formal processes. We didn’t have a model, which is the technology aspect. We created the Infosys Leadership Model and created a process to implement that model. The result is the Infosys Leadership Institute and our leadership development programme.
Q. What are the traits that you would look for in the new leaders of Infosys, once the founders leave their executive positions in the company?
A. The basic model is the same. We look for a person with high integrity, entrepreneurial spirit, driven, self motivated, one who understands technology and who has a successful track record of working in the Infosys context; as ultimately, the whole thing has to be delivered in the Infosys context. Some elements can be more or less from person to person. The person would also have weaknesses; you can augment the weaknesses with processes and technologies and people who support the leader.
Q. CEOs of Infosys in the past, including you, have personified the company in many ways. To what extent do you think it'll be necessary for the new CEO?
A. The CEO is the first person and so in that sense, you are the brand personality for the company. To that extent yes, the correlation will be there. But to me, if you choose the right person, that is a positive rather than a negative. A smart person will understand that you have to also give face to other people. If there are other good people in the organisation, you have to allow them to also be the voice of the company. They must get the visibility required. I have tried very hard myself to ensure that I give visibility to others and that the company is not identified with one person.
Q. How important is it for the new leader to be risk taking? Are you a believer in disruptive changes?
A. We always look for disruptive changes. But a leader must take calculated risk and understand the consequences. As a leader, you have to worry for the jobs of the people, customers, et al. This is a marathon, not a 100 metre sprint. Ensure that you are creating an organization for the long term. We have taken risks – investing in people & capabilities around the world, second to none. We built 25 million sq. feet of campus space in India, expanded in Australia and invested in Finacle. There are 2500 people in the development group (R&D) at Finacle.
Q. What will the strategy for a future leader at Infy when it comes to handling stakeholders, particularly governments where there have been some issues of late?
A. As we get bigger, a larger number of our employees will be from around the world; we currently have 1000 in China, 2000-2500 employees in US, et al. We have to connect with the governments & build relations in a positive way. We can help in development and they can help IT companies & industry. Infosys has always advocated for the industry at large. We approach governments as spokespersons for the industry and all CEOs have had larger platforms to operate. I am head of CII (Southern Region) & part of the Indo-US CEO Forum. IBM and Accenture have more employees in India than anywhere else. So they have a greater stake in India than they have outside. But localising is a challenge for any company today.