AT THE HELM - Srinivas Pallia, MD &CEO, Wipro

Wipro is returning to its roots to steer itself through stormy times. The fourth-largest Indian software services company has roped in a veteran insider to head its operations. In April, the Bengaluru-headquartered information technology (IT) company appointed Srinivas Pallia as its MD and CEO after Thierry Delaporte quit the top post.

Wipro’s four-year experience with the foreign CEO has had mixed results. Mr Delaporte did bring in radical changes in the software services company, which many analysts opine as too many in a comparatively shorter time. To be fair, Mr Delaporte put in place mechanisms to push Wipro to the next level. However, things did not seem to go as planned, and the foreign chief departed 15 months before the end of his five-year term.

In his new role Mr Pallia – who is known as Srini in industry circles –will continue to be based in New Jersey, the US, and report to Chairman Rishad Premji. Interestingly, the new Wipro chief was the head of Americas 1 – the IT company’s largest and fastest-growing strategic market, including the US – before taking over as the Wipro chief. Mr Pallia’s appointment signals two key messages. One, the focus, needless to say, will remain on the US to drive Wipro’s growth. Two, that growth will be driven by the man who knows the US market like the back of his hand.

Young Srinivas completed his bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s in management studies from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. He also graduated from Harvard Business School’s Leading Global Businesses executive programme and the Advanced Leadership Program at McGill Executive Institute. Mr Pallia joined Wipro as a product manager in 1992. Since then, he has held numerous leadership roles, including that of president of Wipro’s consumer business unit and global head of business application services, among many others.

Throughout his career at Wipro, Mr Pallia – who is also a member of the company’s executive board – has been overseeing diverse industry sectors, establishing their vision and implementing growth strategies, resulting in increased market shares of those sectors. Over three decades of his career has helped deepen and broaden his understanding about Wipro’s various geographies, functions, service lines and business units.

Wipro has been passing through a bad time for the past few years, with its performance lagging behind its industry peers. The company has been pushed to the fourth place from the third after HCL Technologies in the pecking order of the top-five Indian IT companies. Besides, there are concerns about high attrition of its senior leadership over the past two years.

A slowdown in the major Western markets has roiled the Indian software services industry quite badly last year. And the situation does not seem to be getting better this year too. Moreover, artificial intelligence (AI) holds out hopes to the beleaguered IT industry. The new Wipro chief has a daunting task at hand to place his company further up in the pecking order. Mr Pallia incidentally is an avid hiker, and that passion, along with his rich and diverse experience, could help him get Wipro back its sheen.

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