The New Indian Assistant Editor Subham Tiwari caught up with Padma Bhushan awardee Indian billionaire Senapathy ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of IT giant Infosys, on the sidelines of the 8th convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jodhpur on Saturday, November 13. Gopalkrishnan, who is recognised as a global business and technology thought leader for his role in growing the IT services industry worldwide, spoke on a range of issues like mass layoffs in IT companies, the future of the Indian IT sector and what he called the “India story”. Edited excerpts:
Subham Tiwari: Mr Gopalkrishnan, in your convocation speech, you said that India would be the greatest leader in the world in the next 30 years. But there are mass layoffs at several IT companies like Infosys, Microsoft, and Twitter. Don’t you see a sharp contradiction between your prediction and the current situation?
Kris Gopalkrishnan: No, there is absolutely no contradiction here. There is a circular medium to long-term growth. I am talking about what happens in the next 30 years. Clearly, not just the IT industry, I see growth in all industries. Indian GDP (gross domestic product) will grow to $10 trillion over the next 30 years. I have absolutely no doubt about that. What you are seeing (layoffs) are very short-term ups and downs in the market. There are cycles in the economy. On top of circular growth, you are seeing ups and downs and companies will react based on that. I am very very optimistic about the future.
ST: Where do you think the Indian IT industry is moving?
KG: The IT industry is actually doing well. It is growing at about 10 per cent. Again, the IT industry consists of multiple things. What you are seeing (layoffs) is confined to some of the startups and product companies. When product companies are not doing well, of course, they have to cut costs, which means sometimes, they have to let go of people.
But I don’t think any of these employees will find it difficult to get another job. Because, overall, the industry is growing. By just looking at salary increases, I can say that there is a very good environment for jobs in the IT industry.
ST: Are you essentially saying that these layoffs are a result of the asset restructuring at these companies?
KG: Yes. See, we expect 7-8 out of 10 startups to fail. Everybody knows that.
ST: But there are job cuts in big companies like Microsoft.
KG: Yes, there is a cycle. I don’t know the exact number of Microsoft employees. Probably, there are about 1 lakh people and out of this number, you are hearing about maybe 1000 people being laid off. It could be a situation in the case of a particular product, particular office or particular region. But overall, even Microsoft continues to grow.
ST: Being one of the top minds in the Indian IT sector, what are, in your opinion, the key areas of this industry that will see growth and place India at par with the US?
KG: The IT services industry in India is already world-class. If we look at the top 10 IT companies in the world, five are Indian. Now, what we need to do is to focus on other industries and products like semiconductors. Even in the product segment, we have very good companies coming out of India like Zoho. Again, there are good companies in the SAS (Statistical Analysis Software) model. We need to look at all industries. We have the largest manufacturer of two-wheelers today. Similarly, I think India is now number three in mobile phone manufacturing and will become number two pretty soon. So, we are doing well in all sectors.
In agriculture, for example, we are the top producer of rice, wheat and milk in the world. So, we have to look at the positive side, we have to look at how we can do value addition and produce world-class companies in India, and I believe it can be done.
ST: What are the key emerging areas of the IT industry that could offer lucrative career opportunities to professionals?
SG: There are several areas in computer science itself like AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, mobile computing, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and 3D printing. And at the intersection of computer science and biology are the areas of genomics and immunotherapy for cancer.
ST: Where do you see the Indian IT industry moving in the next 30 years?
KG: I think the industry will continue to grow because technology is changing. The change in technology results in companies investing in IT, which means business for Indian IT companies. That is why I am very optimistic.
In his address at the IIT Jodhpur convocation, the former CEO and managing director of Infosys said that India is the best place for entrepreneurship and startups in the world and the country has emerged as a “default location” for R&D (research and development) for global IT companies.
“We already have more than 100 unicorns. Some of these companies will become global leaders in their sectors. Most of the IT companies have their R&D facilities in India and they outsource these services to IT firms.”
Gopalkrishnan, who now heads venture capital company Axilor Ventures, said India pioneered the model of work from remote locations decades before Covid-19 which left the world with the only option to conduct business online.
“Indian IT companies started and perfected these processes around remote work way back in the 1980s. That is the genesis of the Indian IT services industry. I am proud of the world-class IT services industry in India and for leading the world in remote work and creating some of the best-governed companies in the world and being entrepreneurial,” he told graduating IITians.
Stating that the “IT story of India” is inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs, Gopalkrishnan, who is also the chief of Infosys Science Foundation, said: “In the next 30 years, three trends will be important that you can ride upon – technology innovations, new opportunities for industry leadership and the India story.”