It's continuity and change at Wipro with Rishad Premji at helm: CEO

Abidali Neemuchwala, CEO, Wipro
A change in guards is in the offing at information technology (IT) services major Wipro — founder and Chairman Azim Premji will step down next month and his eldest son Rishad Premji will take over. Chief Executive Officer Abidali Neemuchwala tells Bibhu Ranjan Mishra & Debasis Mohapatra that a good succession plan will take the company to greater heights and Rishad has all the values of his father.

What changes can be expected at Wipro from July 31 when Rishad Premji takes over as the new chairman?

The succession planning has been going on for a while. It’s a very smooth transition. So you should not expect that something is going to be very different after July 31. Of course, every new leader brings a new energy to the company, so I am expecting much more energy in the company. That’s the change we are looking for.

How do you see Rishad as a successor to Premji in the company?

Rishad has all the values of Mr Premji and Wipro, and he’s also been part of Wipro for almost 12 years now. And, he understands the generation of millennial. So there’s a lot of continuity in terms of basic values and there’s also a lot of new thinking based on the generational shift… it’s a combination of continuity and change.

What sorts of change?

It’s not any sudden change but in terms of new thinking, on a long-term basis. It’s around technology — how to use technology and invest in technology because they are changing so fast.

Will you miss the presence of Premji to seek the guidance from, on daily basis?

He’s there on the board and he’s the founder chairman. So he will be there at least once in a quarter, but operationally he’s not there. He has no executive responsibility in the company.

Growth seems to be missing Wipro for quite some time now and Q1FY20 was no different also. You have seen declined in growth in most geographies and verticals. What is holding the company back?  

If you see the numbers on year-on-year basis, our BFSI segment has grown by 11 per cent. I will certainly not read much into the quarterly blip. Consumer (business unit) has grown about 8 per cent. We have a large engagement which was expected to ramp up but it is taking little longer. Wipro has shown double digit growth in the US. That way, the areas on which we are focussed on have shown growth. Our client mining efforts are showing dividends with growth in $100 million clients (Wipro added 3 $100 mn client in the quarter). Similarly, we are focussed on BFSI, in which we have historically under penetrated. Now we are gaining market share in this space. So, over time, we have prioritised our growth and are the taking the path that we have chosen.

But, the contribution from top clients remained flat in the past quarters.    

When we run a long-term business, we can’t focus on these quarterly numbers. We look at these numbers on year-on-year basis. In the large deal space, we have also seen good growth though sometimes it takes even 12 months for ramping up of projects.

You have added 6,000 fresh graduates, which was one of the highest, in anticipation of demand. But why this bullishness is not showing in your guidance?

Some projects which were delayed got signed by end of Q1, early Q2. Some are still to be signed. So I would wait and watch through Q2 to be able to give a sense. But remember that hiring talents is a long-cycle business. You can’t decide that tomorrow after the deal get signed, you will hire. Because, the fresh hiring and training, all of that take time. We are in the business for long-run. If the business goes up or down in one quarter, we are not going to reduce our people or focus.

But your Wipro’s attrition rate continues to stay at a higher level of well above 17 per cent. Why is that so many people leaving the company even though you continue to hire?

We would like it to be lower but there are a couple of things happening right now. One is, overall demand is good which is leading to higher attrition. Secondly, there are a lot of changes happening (in the industry) in terms of skills, requirements etc., and some people are not able to undergo that change. So they are opting out.

Does this number attrition number you have provided include involuntary attrition or lay-offs also?

No, right now there is none. Involuntary attrition happens as part of our annual performance appraisal system which is a normal process. But we have never done (effected) involuntary attrition as a special project.

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