11 November 2016 07:31:12 IST

Visas will not be an issue if you innovate: Murthy

There are ways in which we can reduce the onsite effort, says Infosys founder

A day after Americans elected Donald Trump as their next President, former Infosys Chairman NR Narayana Murthy issued a clarion call to the $143-billion IT industry in India to pull up its socks and look at innovation as the way of the future, considering the possibility of a tighter visa regime.

In an interaction with the media, he spoke about the need to think of ways in which companies do not rely heavily on visas and the need to create jobs — both locally and outside.

President-elect Donald Trump has been vocal about the fact that outsourcing of jobs is impacting the US economy. What are your thoughts?

The concern of the President-elect has been to make America great again, as he puts it. It has been to create good-income jobs for Americans, something every well-meaning politician would want to do.

Therefore, I can understand that sentiment.

But are protectionist tendencies increasing, especially in the backdrop of Britain tightening visas? What sort of a fallout would it have on Indian IT?

I have all along believed that the only instrument that Indian companies have to become more successful is bringing more and more innovation. In developing software, in selling our services and thinking in new areas where we can play, in recruiting better talent and in building our brand.

The panacea we have to continue to succeed in our markets will hinge on innovation. Therefore, this is an opportunity for the Indian IT industry to be more innovative.

They have done a good job till now and there is no doubt about it. It has created lots of jobs in India and I have no doubt that the industry will continue to use innovation to be more successful.

Are companies in the sector thinking of ways to reduce dependency on visas?

In Infosys, we had worked on a visa-independent global delivery model for software. We said that we would reduce the onsite effort requirements to about 10-15 per cent of the total effort from about 30 per cent of the total effort in 2013. We also said we would recruit local talent in our markets to deliver this 10-15 per cent effort. The remaining efforts will be delivered from countries like India. We had developed a methodology, lots of tools. I do not know where these initiatives stand now as I have not been with the company since then. So, I think there are ways in which we can reduce the onsite effort and at the same time create opportunities for local talent to take part in the growth of the company. With this they can create better goodwill with the customer.

Companies are creating jobs but the perception seems to be ‘job takers’. What can be done to address this issue?

I do not have data on what is happening there in terms of jobs. It is laudable and necessary to create more jobs in India and other markets.

We are an industry of Indian multinationals. We have to create job opportunities for the British in Britain, French in France, Japanese in Japan and so on. That’s how companies make progress, and invent new products. I cannot accept the fact that constraints of this kind can impede our progress.

Do Indian managers understand the cultural aspect when dealing with foreign employees?

I am not very familiar with the current situation. However, it is the responsibility of the companies and the industry to ensure that our managers are trained so that they can handle situations better.

The industry has been vocal about the fact that the locally available talent is not enough.

The reality is this: as leaders of the industry we have to find innovative solutions within the existing constraints. We have to work within the existing global order. I have a lot of confidence in the industry to overcome constraints wherever they are.

You talked about innovation. Does it mean a structural change in way the IT industry works?

As you move from one paradigm to another there will be changes. In the 80s before liberalisation, because we could not import computer equipment or have connectivity, we had to send youngsters to do projects abroad. The day we could import computers, install video-conferencing systems and high-speed data communication systems, we moved to the global delivery model. Tomorrow if movement of people becomes more difficult than what it is now we have to devise new methodologies, come out with new innovations and that is human ingenuity. We cannot stop the growth of our companies.