Salil’s low profile may stand him in good stead at Infosys

India’s second largest tech player Infosys has appointed Salil Parekh (53) as its chief executive and managing director for five years with effect from January 2, 2018. U B Pravin Rao, who has been holding the fort after Vishal Sikka’s sudden exit in August, will resign and will continue as chief operating officer of the company. Parekh will quit his current job at Capgemini as a member of the group executive board on January 1. Interestingly he was a CEO contender for Infosys earlier in 2014, but lost out to Sikka then. Infosys in collaboration with executive search firm Egon Zehnder studied over three dozen prospective CEO profiles over a period of three months before it eventually zeroed in on Parekh’s name. Dallas-based tech advisory and analyst firm Everest Group founder and CEO Peter Bendor-Samuel spoke to Mini Tejaswi of Financial Chronicle about what the new CEO-elect Salil Parekh would mean to a struggling Infosys: Excepts.

You interact with global tech leaders on a periodic basis.  Do you think Salil Parekh is the right choice for Infosys?

 I think Salil will do a fine job as CEO at Infosys. He was an unexpected selection, however, the board has selected a talented industry executive who is well positioned to continue the existing Infosys strategy. He is not as flamboyant as some of the past Infosys executives but brings experience in building a consulting lead global service transformation business which leverages Indian talent.

Will new CEO be able to help Infosys in the digital transformation front?

In Salil I believe they have found an executive committed to building the next generation of Indian services, who both understands and appreciates all what the Indian talent base can offer while broadening the global talent base and leading Infosys into a becoming a digital transformation leader. Under him I expect Infosys to strengthen its consulting capabilities and the firm emerging as a first choice for digital transformation services.

What are the positives you see in Parekh that fit Infosys at the current juncture?

Specifically, I think he brings a wide range of expertise to Infosys. He is a safe choice for the company as he understands Indian model and he will also fit well into the culture of the company. He has the experience and exposure of working in a global context. He also has the ability to lead a tech consulting firm focused on transformation. Salil brings strong credentials in using a consulting lead approach to building a global services business, which is clearly what Infosys needs to do.

Vishal Sikka, the first outsider CEO of Infosys, had often faced external and intern push-back.  Will Salil Parekh find it tough to get acceptance at Infosys?

Salil is a very interesting and in some ways surprising choice. It is surprising because he does not have a big industry profile unlike previous Infosys CEOs. However, given the prominent brand of Infosys, they do not need the CEO to start with such a high profile. This may play out well for Infosys and Salil as it will give him room to build alliances in and outside the firm without creating the push-back that Sikka experienced.

Why do you think Infosys went for an outsider again, after having had a bad experience with its first outsider CEO?

 I think Infosys chose an outsider to lead it so as to avoid some of the issues lingering from the board, management and founder friction of the past. In Salil, they have found a capable executive that fits the culture, brings the consulting and global perspective it needs. To start with, Salil need not bring clients to Infosys.