Curious about Kurien? TK talks to HfS about his plans for Wipro

TK Kurien is Chief Executive Officer, Wipro

It’s been quite the year for Wipro, as Chairman Premji has sought to refocus his organization and try to keep pace with the (seemingly) relentless growth of both TCS and Cognizant.  

As we have discussed, Wipro is a company which has some tough decisions to make to find the right avenues for future growth and investment.  The old days of being “all things to all people” is not a strategy that is going to work – and Premji knows it.

Curiously, Premji decided to look internally for his new Chief Executive, when many observers felt it time to recruit some fresh blood from outside.  Step up TK Kurien, a deep-thinking type and  someone who I have known well during his leadership role in establishing Wipro’s BPO business between 2004 and 2008.  TK’s also had great experience in healthcare and life sciences, boasting a former career with General Electric before his Wipro days, also being instrumental helping Wipro develop its footprint in the sector.

So where are TK’s thoughts, as he consider’s Wipro’s options in today’s market?  We grabbed a few minutes with him recently to share them with you all.

HfS Research: TK, firstly, congratulations on your promotion to CEO, Wipro.  You have now been at the helm for 9 months and we have seen many changes. I’m sure all our clients would be eager to understand your vision for Wipro. How do you respond to those who claim Wipro’s best days are behind them? What is top priority for you over the short term?

TK Kurien: Thanks. Over the past nine months, Wipro has undergone significant transformation with the intent to become more agile, innovative and to provide better value to our customers. Our blueprint of change is in line with the new business reality, where speed, agility and information are not seen as threats but as opportunities. The design principle of our approach is to win the hearts and minds of our customers and our employees.

Technology is a key driver for improved business performance. Our focus hence is in delivering business value through a unique blend of solutions that complement each other at the intersection of Analytics, Mobility and Cloud with a clear aim to provide business benefit. Our view of the world and our solution investments will fall under four broad themes:

1) Innovation in the constrained world: The world of tomorrow is going to be built around constraints – resources, raw material, capital, talent, energy among others. Application of effective technology will profoundly reshape strategy and business models across a wide range of industries.

2) Variabilization of IT to enhance business agility: Maximize business’s ability to innovate by providing an agile and flexible IT. Apply innovative management models including lean, Flex and shared services. Also, Virtualization, Cloud and Collaboration technologies directly lend to variabilize the asset footprint.

3) Consumerization of Technology: Forward looking companies will realize the immense innovation opportunities by integrating consumer technology in enterprise systems.

4) Analytics driven performance improvement: Actionable insights generated through advanced capability will be a key differentiator for continuous competitive advantage.

We are strategically looking at higher value and higher outcome based business.

I believe Wipro is best placed to capitalize on this opportunity due to our technology competency combined with increasing levels of vertical and horizontal domain and business consulting expertise.

HfS Research: We’ve talked a lot about the changing economy and the fundamental changes to clients’ global business models over the recession years.  Now with the grim prospect of a Double Dip, how do you plan to have Wipro top-of-mind for business leaders as we venture into this new business climate? 

Like everything else, the way I see it is that in every adversity there is an opportunity and really for us this is an opportunity to go back to our customers and build bonds which are far-far stronger and demonstrate how we can help our clients get through these tough times.

In spite of the uncertainties in the business environment, growth opportunities still exist for businesses that can take advantage of disposable income and demographic dividend in certain economies. While core IT spends are under threat, overall technology spends are still rising. Budgets are often getting reallocated/ investigated on a quarterly basis based on demonstration of business value. And to that extent I think the core theme that all of us have learnt coming out of the last recession is flexibility; and we have built that into our systems.

We’ve put together a consulting layer with a vision to wholly integrate with the rest of the business provide a ‘One Wipro’ experience and engage with the customer in a proactive and effective partnership to help them grow the pie and make it meatier.  Our conversation with our clients is no longer how we can help them reduce the IT cost, but it is around how we can help them reduce the cost of their transaction. This change opens up so many additional opportunities for us to bring technology into play and improve speed, cost point and client satisfaction. We do not view BPO, IT and Infrastructure as separate and discreet offerings.

HfS Research: It’s great to have a “BPO guy” take the helm!  And it’s been encouraging to see the strides Wipro has taken over the last 3-4 years to get a good foothold in the space (see link).  How do you plan to take BPO forward for the company – will you be altering the approach and trying some different strategies? 

TK Kurien: Wipro BPO is rapidly evolving from executing end-to -end business processes like Order to Cash/Procure to pay to managing end-to -end business functions where Wipro manages both the business process and the underlying systems and platforms. We see IT as an integrated part of our BPO offerings. For me it is Business Process Optimization and not necessarily just Outsourcing. This has led to a quantum leap in process efficiencies; as well as the learning from process execution being ploughed back into IT system improvement. This IT-BPO virtuous cycle is driving huge gains for clients where Wipro manages both IT and BPO and we expect this trend to pick up momentum. The business processes & platforms for Insurance are different from business processes & system for Banking and it is equally important to be knowledgeable of the horizontal processes and the industry. Our added focus on Industry verticals adds a vertical edge to the IT-BPO cycle.

Customers today expect a committed business outcome, visibility, insights and control of their global operations, anytime, anywhere; and vendors that can provide that on demand. What this means is aligning our BPO, IT, infrastructure and consulting assets to provide vertical specific, platform based BPO solutions that can deliver a business outcome. Our BPO assets include a global workforce with 21 locations outside India with expertise in local regulations and language capability, our enterprise process integrator toolkit – Base))); our analytics engine – BASE))) Insights and industry specific end-to -end process management expertise.  Couple this with our IT core competence, process optimization capabilities of consulting and our powerful analytics engine and you have what it takes to guarantee an outcome.

I feel that in the world of constraints where there will be focus on doing ‘more from less’ our integrated view of looking at business process will be a differentiator.

HfS Research: Competitors are making major investments in Cloud enabled Business Platforms? Can you outline your strategy and vision for Business Platforms? What are you bringing to market and where will you be competitive?

TK Kurien: Cloud is a huge opportunity for Wipro. Let me share with you some data from a CIO opinion survey across our client base that Wipro consulting team ran earlier this year. The highlight of the study is that while uncertainty prevails on how the supply-side will evolve in coming years, most CIOs expect to significantly increase spend on Cloud (30-50% of total IT spend) once benefits are solidly visible around reduced IT operating costs and enabling focus on ‘core’ activities that add real business value.

We’re advising CIOs to adopt a ‘sense and respond’ approach – creating a cloud incubator as well as changing the IT operating model.  Cloud computing offers an opportunity to look at holistic picture of the business process and makes it imperative for IT to have business-natured discussions like

  • How can an organization achieve faster time to market?
  • How can an organization match resource requirement to availability for global operations?
  • Can we migrate to variable cost structure?
  • Can we leverage economies-of-scale?
  • Can we access capacity-on-demand?

Wipro understands the transformative potential of cloud computing and that traditional ‘tower’ models will not help push the envelope further on cost savings or time-to-market etc.  Wipro also understands that a true cloud, for example, changes the behavior of the organization by recapturing shadow IT, eliminating over-engineering, and removing the IT shop as a roadblock to business value realization.

We have an integrated Cloud Services group which cuts across all verticals and service lines. This has been done to ensure that discussions with clients around cloud computing are elevated to more business-led discussions.  This group is responsible for all strategy related discussions on cloud with the clients and ensures that the client has a fairly well rounded picture of ‘To-Be’ state. We are helping many of our clients through cloud advisory, readiness analysis, and implementation and refactoring of applications.

Alongside, Wipro has also developed a portfolio of industry specific business process solutions to be delivered as cloud services from public cloud platforms and our own data centers.  As an example of a business platform on cloud, we offer spend analytics on cloud (BPaaS). For a client, we were able to bring $ 30 million savings in data classification and analytics through this integrated infrastructure, application and BPO solution provided on the cloud.

HfS Research: And what – in a year’s time – would you would like business leaders to think of when they hear the word “Wipro”?

TK Kurien: Business leaders should be able to say the following about Wipro in future (and many of our best customers already believe in this) – Trusted partner and an industry thought leader who delivers winning business outcomes for me.

HfS Research: Thanks for taking the time to talk to our readers, TK.  We look forward to hearing more from you soon and seeing your plans develop.

TK Kurien (pictured above) is CEO of IT Business and Executive Director, Wipro Limited. TK is also a member of the Wipro Corporate Executive Council. You can view his full bio here.

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2 Comments

  1. Dieter Schwarz
    Posted October 10, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Good interview. I notice TK doesn’t mention Infocrossing. Hmmm…

    Dieter

  2. David Levy
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Interesting discussion. Shows that TK is clearly in tune with what customers a looking for – his challenge is going to be making the right changes to the Wipro machine so they can execute effectively and differentiate form the other vendors. I’ve always found Wipro’s value-add their detailed operational focus and customer-friendly pricing. If they stay true to that and really add some value with their analytics push and some of the industry areas, they could rebound well.

    David Levy

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