Vishal Sikka: Infosys' pick to usher in change

Written by Anand J | Bangalore | Updated: Jun 13 2014, 14:09pm hrs
Vishal Sikka InfosysVishal Sikka speaks during a press conference after he was appointed the new CEO and MD of Infosys, at the company headquarters in Bangalore. (AP)
The manner in which a technologist like Vishal Sikka would fit into an IT services firm like Infosys would determine the future form and shape of the software major, even as it tries to shrug off a sustained period of difficulty. The appointment of Sikka, who enjoys no previous IT services industry experience, is an indicator of how the firm wants to chart its course from now on.

Sikka, 47, the man behind the German software product firm SAPs HANA platform, which helps businesses operate in real-time by transforming text analytics, predictive and spatial processing, will now adorn the corner office at Infosys, which is battling for larger contracts and higher margins.

Infosys has identified Sikka as the man who can transform it as CEO, nomination committee head KV Kamath said on Thursday. Sikka won the race due to his high product awareness and ability to innovate and transform large businesses, he said. Sikka, who has a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University in California, is certain to drive the IT major in the direction of innovation.

Vishal never allows profit making to come in the way of innovation. He is sure to build an asset-based business for Infosys, Vijay Vijayashankar, VP (global channels) at Mongo DB, told FE. Vijayashankar, who had earlier worked with Sikka at SAP, had this to say about his former boss, Vishal is a one in a million kind of leader. He is not bureaucratic and hates mundane work. His speed of execution has always amazed me... and he talks in days and weeks and not in months and years. Sikka had apparently told his HANA teammates once that the only limitation is our imagination.

During a press conference in Bangalore on Thursday, Sikka said the difference between products and services is blurring. One of the most complete form of product we are familiar with is the aircraft engine. Today, the engines are sold as services. What we are seeing around us is a great services transformation. The distinction is not as significant today, Sikka said. While NR Narayana Murthy used to call Infosys his middle child, Sikka calls SAP HANA my little girl.

At SAP, where Sikka worked for the last 12 years, he was named the first chief technology officer, reporting directly to the CEO. He was a member of the executive board and part of the global managing board.

Sikka grew up in Vadodara, Gujarat. Like Narayana Murthy, I am also the son of a teacher. My mother was a teacher in Rajkot, Gujarat, and my father was an engineer in the Indian Railways, he told reporters on Thursday.

After graduating from Rosary High School, he studied computer engineering at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Sikka finished his bachelor of science in computer science from Syracuse University. He has also done extensive research work in artificial intelligence from from Stanford University in California.

He worked at Xeroxs research lab at Palo Alto and later started his first company, iBrain, with his brother, which was acquired by PatternRX. His second startup, Bodha.com, was bought by Peregrine Systems, where Sikka worked as vice-president for platform technologies after the acquisition.

Sikkas work experience includes research in artificial intelligence, intelligent systems, programming languages and models, and information management and integration.

Sikka has also authored a book called Timeless Software that represents the renewal of products without disruption to customer environments, which underpins SAP architecture and innovation strategy.

Sikka blogs and is an avid reader, with Hermann Hesses Siddhartha being one of his favourite books.