Focus on cash flows and right area of investment cannot be lost: Suresh Senapaty

Suresh Senapaty, the CFO & board member at Wipro, ends his 35-year career on Tuesday. Senapaty, who will continue to remain as an advisor…

Suresh Senapaty, the CFO & board member at Wipro, ends his 35-year career on Tuesday. Senapaty, who will continue to remain as an advisor to Wipro, said that the company is robust enough to meet any challenges and seize the business opportunities, in an interview with PP Thimmaya. Excerpts :

How has been your journey of 35 years in the Indian IT industry, and in particular with Wipro?

Clearly it was an exciting journey and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. It had a lot of thrills, highs and of course its own share of heartbreaks. The industry which was a tiny one in the ’90s got the attention because of  the Y2k issue and soon it became an adult. The industry, government and bureaucracy worked together to exploit the full potential of the country. Today we have a brand and we talk of a global trillion dollar IT services industry and India is just $146 billion. In the next 5 to 10 years, I not foresee any threat as long as the Indian IT industry continues to be flexible and dynamic to adapt itself to new business models and technology horizons.

What factors have led Wipro to become a multi-billion IT major?

Driving quality programmes, creating an offshore model, where one can have an extended arm of  a company overseas, where you could scale, Added to this, delivery of services irrespective of time. Indian IT industry and Wipro in particular has tried to different things and not just taken a ride on an existing value addition model. Today we are trying similar things in areas such as artificial intelligence, digital, which will keep us ahead. There is still juice for the next 10 years, if not more.

What were the high points as Wipro CFO?

I think listing overseas in year 2000 when one had multiple business models such as IT, services, consumer care and had a running a India GAAP accounting model. We needed the discipline to adopt to US GAAP. We brought robustness in our financial functions created a whistle blower system and ensuring compliance with regulators.

What will be advice to new age tech company CFOs?

I think focus on cash flows cannot be lost. I remember the early days of dotcom where people were valued based on the eyeballs and number of transactions. My suggestion is that given the complexity as there will be lot of growth, there has to be segmentation between investment and running phases.  In  the running phase, delivering cash flow is important while in the investment phase, cash gets sucked in. One cannot combine these two and the segmentation has to be clear. Lastly, they should not be shortsighted on valuations, as long as the investments are happening at the right place.

What are your future plans?

I became a chartered accountant and joined Wipro. Thirty five years have gone by without proper planning. I have planned for Wipro but not my career. I have been getting used to this aspect of not planning for the future and just living it through. I am open to many things but for now there will be enough time for myself and family. I will continue to be on the boards of Wipro Enterprises and Wipro GE healthcare. I will also be advisor for Wipro limited and PremjiInvest.

Are there any regrets?

The regrets are lesser. The regrets were on some acquisitions we could have done which could have been more earth shaking, There were certain gaps in our system which should have not been there or certain disruptions we should have anticipated before. But these regrets are very few.

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