Home World Business For Infosys’ Ravi Venkatesan, technology is a friend, not foe

For Infosys’ Ravi Venkatesan, technology is a friend, not foe

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Ravi Venkatesan is co-chairman at Infosys

Raghu Krishnan  |  Bengaluru  April 14, 2017 Last Updated at 10:11 IST

doesn’t own a car. He instead uses Uber for his commutes across Bengaluru every day.


A keen observer of how technology disrupts businesses, Venkatesan knows how Uber and its rival in India, Ola, have enabled thousands of drivers to transition into the formal economy. To him, while technology disrupts businesses, it also creates opportunities that never existed in the past.


At Infosys, as the newly-appointed co-chairman, he will bring these insights to help shape Chief Executive Vishal Sikka’s vision to take the IT services behemoth to its next phase of growth. For this transition to succeed, a leadership that understands the need to adapt is essential, Sikka has been articulating over the past two years.


Venkatesan seems to think alike. “Success requires correct diagnosis. What the industry is facing is not disruption but a crisis stemming from a self-inflicted inability to adapt. Success now requires the courage and tenacity to shift focus, resources and most of all intellect away from legacy businesses towards the brightest opportunities,” wrote Venkatesan on November 1 on his LinkedIn post. “What will make the difference at the firm level is nothing more than the quality of leadership.”


The 53-year-old, who led Microsoft India and Cummins as its chairman and helped cement their businesses in the country, doesn’t like to flaunt his success. Soft-spoken and polite, he builds relationships, while ensuring that the organisation keeps pace with the changing times without compromising on its core values.


So, when the rift between the board and its founder N R Narayana Murthy came out in the open, Venkatesan was the backroom boy who engaged with the old guard.
 
Murthy, who had raised concerns over corporate governance lapses, and questioned R Seshasayee’s leadership of the board, had also sought that a co-chairman be named, initially recommending Marty Subramanyam, a former director and a professor to the post. Although the management did not elaborate on how the decision was made, it appears that Murthy, too, is in agreement with the choice.


Venkatesan has the right credentials. Having served as India heads for two multinational firms, Cummins for 16 years and later at Microsoft, he has global exposure. On the board of since 2011, he has seen change from a founder-led board to a professional one. Those who know him say he has the mindset to work with leaders without ego. Venkatesan is on the board of several large and is the chairman of Bank of Baroda.


He is passionate about education and social issues. Cummins College of Engineering, India’s first engineering college for women, in Pune, was established by him. He is also the co-founder of Social Venture Partners, a global network of philanthropists who invest in the social sector, besides being a venture partner at Unitus Seed fund, which identifies technology start-ups that look at disruptive traditional businesses.


“His social venture is to identify large scale problems and find ways to solve them. The returns are not for private gain,” says a business leader who knows about his work.


Venkatesan and his wife, Sonali Kulkarni, the India head of Japanese firm Fanuc, are nature lovers who can regularly be seen taking walks in Bengaluru’s Cubbon Park. They love dogs and have adopted a street dog, Toffee. They both married late — Venkatesan was 47 and Kulkarni, a great granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, was 45 then.
 

In between his busy schedule, Venkatesan has found time to write a book, Conquering the Chaos – Win In India, Win Everywhere, a playbook for multinationals looking to win in the local market.


From his past interviews, it is easy to see the direction is headed. “The challenges for Indian becoming global are in many ways the same as they are for Microsoft or GE operating in India. The top one is to find the right balance between being Indian and being local. So in America, they need to feel like an American company. The country head should be American,” said Venkatesan in a 2013 interview to Business Standard.  


“The majority of employees should be American. Most operating decisions should be taken locally, not in India. Promotion should be blind to the passport. You have to operate sensitively and sustainably so that each country sees you as a force for good not someone who is taking away jobs.” 


That should be music to Donald Trump’s ears.

For Infosys’ Ravi Venkatesan, technology is a friend, not foe

Ravi Venkatesan is co-chairman at Infosys

Ravi Venkatesan is co-chairman at Infosys

doesn’t own a car. He instead uses Uber for his commutes across Bengaluru every day.


A keen observer of how technology disrupts businesses, Venkatesan knows how Uber and its rival in India, Ola, have enabled thousands of drivers to transition into the formal economy. To him, while technology disrupts businesses, it also creates opportunities that never existed in the past.


At Infosys, as the newly-appointed co-chairman, he will bring these insights to help shape Chief Executive Vishal Sikka’s vision to take the IT services behemoth to its next phase of growth. For this transition to succeed, a leadership that understands the need to adapt is essential, Sikka has been articulating over the past two years.


Venkatesan seems to think alike. “Success requires correct diagnosis. What the industry is facing is not disruption but a crisis stemming from a self-inflicted inability to adapt. Success now requires the courage and tenacity to shift focus, resources and most of all intellect away from legacy businesses towards the brightest opportunities,” wrote Venkatesan on November 1 on his LinkedIn post. “What will make the difference at the firm level is nothing more than the quality of leadership.”


The 53-year-old, who led Microsoft India and Cummins as its chairman and helped cement their businesses in the country, doesn’t like to flaunt his success. Soft-spoken and polite, he builds relationships, while ensuring that the organisation keeps pace with the changing times without compromising on its core values.


So, when the rift between the board and its founder N R Narayana Murthy came out in the open, Venkatesan was the backroom boy who engaged with the old guard.
 
Murthy, who had raised concerns over corporate governance lapses, and questioned R Seshasayee’s leadership of the board, had also sought that a co-chairman be named, initially recommending Marty Subramanyam, a former director and a professor to the post. Although the management did not elaborate on how the decision was made, it appears that Murthy, too, is in agreement with the choice.


Venkatesan has the right credentials. Having served as India heads for two multinational firms, Cummins for 16 years and later at Microsoft, he has global exposure. On the board of since 2011, he has seen change from a founder-led board to a professional one. Those who know him say he has the mindset to work with leaders without ego. Venkatesan is on the board of several large and is the chairman of Bank of Baroda.


He is passionate about education and social issues. Cummins College of Engineering, India’s first engineering college for women, in Pune, was established by him. He is also the co-founder of Social Venture Partners, a global network of philanthropists who invest in the social sector, besides being a venture partner at Unitus Seed fund, which identifies technology start-ups that look at disruptive traditional businesses.


“His social venture is to identify large scale problems and find ways to solve them. The returns are not for private gain,” says a business leader who knows about his work.


Venkatesan and his wife, Sonali Kulkarni, the India head of Japanese firm Fanuc, are nature lovers who can regularly be seen taking walks in Bengaluru’s Cubbon Park. They love dogs and have adopted a street dog, Toffee. They both married late — Venkatesan was 47 and Kulkarni, a great granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, was 45 then.
 

In between his busy schedule, Venkatesan has found time to write a book, Conquering the Chaos – Win In India, Win Everywhere, a playbook for multinationals looking to win in the local market.


From his past interviews, it is easy to see the direction is headed. “The challenges for Indian becoming global are in many ways the same as they are for Microsoft or GE operating in India. The top one is to find the right balance between being Indian and being local. So in America, they need to feel like an American company. The country head should be American,” said Venkatesan in a 2013 interview to Business Standard.  


“The majority of employees should be American. Most operating decisions should be taken locally, not in India. Promotion should be blind to the passport. You have to operate sensitively and sustainably so that each country sees you as a force for good not someone who is taking away jobs.” 


That should be music to Donald Trump’s ears.

image

Raghu Krishnan

Business Standard

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