Slowdown also creates opportunities

Interview/ Abidali Neemuchwala, CEO and MD, Wipro

56-Abidali-Neemuchwala Abidali Neemuchwala

ABIDALI NEEMUCHWALA spearheaded many initiatives at Wipro that have helped the information technology giant become a nimble and agile organisation once again. A veteran with more than 25 years of experience in the industry, he had held key leadership roles at Tata Consultancy Services before joining Wipro. He currently lives in Dallas, Texas, in the US with his wife and three children, and travels to India for key meetings. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Neemuchwala talks about his vision and how Wipro is geared to deal with the challenges. Excerpts:

Hiring local talent has helped us navigate the supply constraints and service our customer demand faster than before in our overseas markets.

Q/ You have been working on a largely successful revival effort at Wipro. What is next?

A/ When I took over in 2016, we identified six areas of transformation. We have made tremendous progress in most of those areas, such as driving growth in the digital business, improving the ability to cross-sell, localisation in key geographies and deployment of Wipro HOLMESTM (a cognitive automation tool) in our large customer accounts. My current focus is on creating a funnel of large transformational deals and accelerating our client mining process.

Q/ Wipro has been known for being strong in the BFSI (Banking Financial services and Insurance) segment. Isn’t it a conventional and slow-growth segment?

A/ BFSI as an industry and segment spends much more on technology than any other enterprise sector. The size of spends of this sector is also much bigger. This enables service providers like us to grow them into large relationships. The BFSI segment is also one of the early adopters of newer digital technologies and much of the differentiation that they have to offer comes from technology. In the last three years, based on the capabilities that we have built in digital technologies, we have been able to tap into these digital spends and have grown the segment ahead of our peers. I am also encouraged to see growth in our consumer business unit, especially in verticals such as consumer packed goods, media, logistics, travel and transportation. Manufacturing and healthcare is also seeing early signs of recovery, while energy, utilities and communications are expected to remain stable.

Q/ There has been an increased focus on getting more business from the digital and cloud computing segments.

A/ Digital transformation is a top priority for most of our customers. As a result, digital is at the forefront of all our offerings. Our proposition in Wipro Digital is anchored around redesigning business processes to be future ready, building enterprise agility and creating next-generation IT. We have a ‘business first’ approach to cloud adoption and have built domain centric solutions with our cloud service providers.

Earlier this year, we called out four areas where we continue to make differentiated investments as a part of our ‘Big Bet’ programme—digital, cloud, engineering services and cyber security. Our investments in digital and cloud have created the requisite presence, experience and scale to support transformation. The strength of our offerings, our market presence and success are acknowledged by many industry analysts in their reports. Our consultative and design-led approach to process transformation is the key differentiator. Even in the current macro environment, both these practices continue to grow robustly. Our digital revenue grew 29 per cent last quarter and now contributes 40 per cent of our total revenues.

Q/ You have been hiring locally in markets such as the US and Europe. How is it working for the company?

A/ Hiring local talent has been one of the initiatives that we have driven since 2016. Our endeavour to localise the workforce has been successful in all our major markets. Locals today make more than 64 per cent of our workforce in the US. Campus hiring from the universities is playing a crucial role across all our markets. We have specially designed training programmes that enable university graduates to move successfully into customer projects. Hiring local talent has helped us navigate the supply constraints and service our customer demand faster than before in our overseas markets.

Q/ What are the main challenges before Wipro? How is the overall business sentiment for IT services companies?

A/ Prolonged slowdown in macroeconomic environment and geopolitical risks do impact the ability of our customers to spend on technology. At the same time, these situations can also create a huge opportunity for companies like us to innovate and provide the solutions that our customers need. We remain focused on winning at the marketplace. Our investments in our big bet technology areas, talent, localisation and building an innovation ecosystem have ensured that the fundamental building blocks are in place. My priority is now to create a funnel of multiple large transformational deals, strengthening the integrated delivery in a few verticals, driving sales-delivery continuum and empower the client partners to service the customer better by delayering. Though there is an overhang of macro uncertainty in certain sectors the overall demand environment has been stable. We continue to see a robust pipeline.

Q/ Do you feel issues such as Brexit and the slowdown in the automotive sector will have an effect on the business?

A/ Brexit and the slowdown in the auto sector cause uncertainties that could impact spends by customers in the short to medium term. At the same time, such situations also create opportunities for us to innovate and partner with our customers.

Q/ In which all ways has Azim Premji influenced you?

A/ Wipro founder Azim Premji is an exceptional leader who gives free hand to all professionals. His resilience, perseverance and humility have helped the company through ups and downs. At the same time, I am deeply influenced by his commitment to philanthropy. It means that there is a larger cause that unifies us all at Wipro. Post his retirement, he is always available to me and his son Rishad for continuous guidance and support.