Both clients & vendors have to think about adoption of WFH model: Infy COO

Topics Infosys  | Coronavirus | Lockdown

U B Pravin Rao, Infosys COO said, "....currently, our focus is to take out some cost in terms of freezing salary hikes and increments among others (without reducing headcount)."
With more than 95  per cent of its employees working from home, Infosys has seamlessly adopted the new model without any loss in productivity so far. With relaxations in the nationwide lockdown induced by Covid-19, the company plans to adopt a staggered approach in getting back employees to office. U B Pravin Rao, the chief operating officer, tells Debasis Mohapatra they are talking to clients with regard to continuing WFH approvals. Edited excerpts:

Infosys has adapted to the work-from-home (WFH) model well amid Covid-19 crisis. What are the challenges?

Today, around 95 per cent of our people are enabled to WFH. There are some percentage of people who work from office because clients have not given permission. Barring that, we are able to adapt to this model seamlessly. We have not seen any impact on productivity or quality of output as we are doing it now for four-six weeks. Some challenges are related to infrastructure like connectivity issues. This model also depends on good power connection.

Also, everyone is not geared up for WFH. Despite this, I am extremely pleased the way we and the industry have embraced this. Obviously, we have to continue to show productivity with no security breaches, which will increase clients' confidence in this model.

Both clients and vendors (us) have to think about the adoption of this new model. This is good learning. If this happens, the contract has to provide for it.

After the relaxation of lockdown, when do you see employees coming back to office? 

Our plan is a phased one. In the first phase, we want 15 per cent of employees to come to office. Then, we plan to take it to 15-20 per cent, which will be increased to around 40 per cent (subsequently). The whole process will take somewhere around three to six months. Also, some expect the pandemic to be over (by September) and come back in winter, then our model will have to adjust to that. So, the new normal will be a hybrid model.

You have taken approval from clients for WFH during emergencies. But, is the approval open ended or does it have a sunset clause?

There is no specific timeline, but it has been done in the context of the lockdown. So, when the lockdown comes to an end, we have to have a conversation with the clients on this. From our side, we are giving periodic updates to clients. Wherever clients have any concern and want employees to come back, we will be more than happy to do that. Currently, clients are comfortable with our approach. But, this will evolve with the situation.

Infosys has decided not to optimise cost through headcount reduction. What are the levers you have to reduce cost? Is the board in sync with the management's approach in dealing with this crisis?

In this case, there is absolutely no predictability of when this (Covid-19 pandemic) will end. There is complete alignment between the board and the management on the approach. The board is fully supportive of the management’s initiatives in dealing with the current situation. Currently, our focus is to take out some cost in terms of freezing salary hikes and increments among others (without reducing headcount). We do have other operational levers to reduce cost if the crisis lingers.

Because of scaling down of projects in onshore locations like the US, some employees will move to the bench. What is your strategy in dealing with them?

Our strategy has always been that when there is a long bench time and those people are from India, we get them back to India. There is no change in that. We also take the service of subcontractors and we have the opportunity of replacing them with our people. While we have seen project scaling down, we have also seen ramp-ups. It is a function of demand. We have not seen any significant drop in onshore utilisation rates. So I don’t see any requirement of that (calling people back).


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