A start up with five people and an investment of Rs.10,000, Infosys is now a US$3 billion company with 90, 000 people. Mr. Gopalakrishnan, CEO of Infosys, has the peaceful air of the corporate yogi. ‘Infosys needs to innovate to meet the needs of the new emerging markets in our own backyard – India and China, with two billion people whose rising expectations have to be met. Products have to be created for this market. We can leapfrog over the mistakes of the developed, mature economies. We can start on much higher platform, without repeating the mistakes they have made!’
The structure for innovation is created by the ‘flat’ organization. World class organization where hierarchies are less apparent, a closer relationship with clients, bottom up activity, giving more importance to the grassroots. It was Jack Welch who popularized ‘Dreams’ as targets. To be truly innovative one needs to stop looking at others or looking over one’s shoulder.
‘At Infosys, we provide the Source Forge, a technology-based frame work to create projects. There are specified innovators embedded in each unit, to research new products, to act as catalysts in each team. The organization then provides equipment and budgets to create proto-types. Presentations can be made formally, to opinion leaders. Customers are often involved in the process. Our research department itself has 50 people. We try to create an environment for people to collaborate, work together and share information; wiki, blogs, intranet and source forge. This technology environment provides the platform for people to work together, share information.‘
‘Technology creates the flat organization, where everyone can communicate with each other. Anyone can access anyone else. I will write to everyone who writes to me. Technology is the enabler. If someone has a great idea, I will certainly review it’, says CEO Kris’ Gopalakrishnan. ‘I believe that we are an innovative company, where every unit is asked to come out with innovations. Everyone is asked, ‘What are the new things you will do in the coming year?‘
The barriers to innovation? ‘Indians are content with small improvements. They are afraid to think global or about the quantum changes that innovation is all about. We are restricted by the modesty of our dreams. The poverty of our aspirations. It is this lack of confidence that stands in the way of our becoming a world power’, says Kris.
He echoes the words of the German CEO of the Indian business in Alcatel who said, ‘Indian engineers do not have the confidence to differ with their European clients, to go beyond the brief to question status quo. That is why their products lack the originality which only confident dissent can create’.