Vishal Sikka - The Superman of Infosys?

How would it feel like to have 24,000 crore (INR) at your disposal? Whether one is a student, a homemaker or a businessman, this amount of money is big enough to spin anyone's head. Well, this is the amount of cash on the balance sheet of Infosys and the new man at the helm, the one who will decide upon the fate of this money is Dr. Vishal Sikka. This Punjabi lad grew up in Vadodra and moved on to Syracuse and then Stanford to study Computer Science. Thereafter he dabbled for a bit in research with Xerox, went the start-up way for a while and then worked at Peregrine Systems. It was from his position as an Executive Board Member of SAP that Infosys head-hunted him and put him into the CEO-designate chair. In less than a couple of months, Dr. Sikka will be the CEO of the third-largest IT Company in India.

But he is not inheriting a bed of roses for a company. The company came under the scanner recently when the chairperson, Narayan Murthy announced a downward revision in revenue guidance, giving fuel to talks that Infosys is indeed in a sustained revenue decline. Another issue that has been a big thorn in the side for this firm is its cash balances. Cash balances are typically used for either expansionary activities (both organic and inorganic growth), for direct investment in financial instruments or for paying dividends. Infosys has drawn flak in the past for not doing the first two and letting its cash just pile up. With a loss of focus on its core offerings, consistently sliding margins and 77% revenue growth rate decline in the last two years, several high level exits and a high attrition rate of about 18%, Infosys definitely needs its very own Superman to bring it back to its heydays.

Will Dr. Sikka rise to the occasion? Given his birthdate of June 1st, 1967, his ruling number 1, luck number 3 and sun sign Gemini; the enthusiastic and intellectual Gemini coupled with the ferocity and tenacity of the number 1 seems to be a good combination for the first non-founding CEO of Infosys. But Gemini’s also tend to be indecisive and nervous. These traits may hamper any bid to bring the company back to the good books of investors, especially with Narayan Murthy and a few other senior ones still in the board. So, the profile does throw up a lot of questions and there is uncertainty to be expected on some fronts. Let us hope that the enthusiasm and the tenacity work so that Infosys as well as its shareholders see better days!

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