Talent, not market growth, is the challenge for tech services companies: Wipro Executive Chairman Rishad Premji at 49th National Management Convention

Technology is changing dramatically every year and the value of tech services companies is only growing, said Mr Rishad Premji, Executive Chairman, Wipro Limited in a fireside chat with Mr Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman, Hero Enterprise at the 49th National Management Convention this morning.


Mr Premji said that he is bullish about the tech services industry, as customers have legacy and new age systems and they care a lot about the benefits they are getting from those. “The biggest concern is talent,” he said. Retaining and upskilling tech talent is a challenge because of the disconnect caused by covid, he said. He pointed out that only about 10% of the Wipro’s workforce now works from office and the majority of the employees have little emotive connect with the organization. He said that he has spent hundreds of hours over about a hundred meetings with employees in recent months to engage the employees globally.


Scale of talent with Indian tech services companies is the key, Mr Premji said, pointing out that today the industry employs 5 million people compared to 2.5 million two years ago and by next year the workforce count would increase to 6 million. “We have to continuously scale up to maintain the advantage,” he said.


Mr Premji also expressed great optimism about the prospects of Wipro and the tech industry over the next 5-10 years. India is becoming a digital-first economy and with growing entrepreneurship and rapid growth of the consumption economy, tech companies like Wipro will participate in India’s economic transformation, he said.


Commenting on Wipro’s increasing M&A activity, Mr Premji said that he looks at M&A as an accelerator of change and as a visible communication that the company is changing. “It is not about buying growth but about buying capabilities and market access,” he said. He said that if 6 out of 10 acquisitions turn out to be right, it would be a good success rate, and he does not want to rush integration of the acquired companies if it destroys their unique attributes.


Commenting on the philanthropy of Wipro, Mr Premji said that the logic was that if you have this kind of fortune and luck, you need to give back. “Organizations are living beings and they have a deep responsibility to the communities they live in,” he said. He elaborated that 66% of Wipro being owned by a foundation is a big draw for investors, customers, and talent all over the world. “Employees are becoming activists and they want to work for companies that care about environment, society, and governance. In fact, all stakeholders across the value chain are asking for it,” he explained.


Mr Premji said that while Wipro has been into sustainability for long, in the past two years it has formalized its efforts and communication and he promised to decarbonize Wipro by 90% by 2030 and not merely do carbon offset. He said that all Wipro office vehicles will be electric by 2030, the air travel will be reduced, employees will carpool and the company will notice how the suppliers show up. Regarding diversity, he said that Wipro’s target is to have 20% women leaders in two years from now compared to 2% two years earlier.


On the issue of moonlighting by tech workers, Mr Premji said that though has received a huge amount of hate mail since calling it cheating, he stands by what he said. “Employees can have a transparent dialogue with the organization about their second or weekend work, but we discovered 300 employees who were working for direct competitors. There is no place for them,” he said.


The session was attended by more than 500 delegates and it was livestreamed on AIMA’s social media channels.

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