A Bangalore Baron
Gross, Daniel, Newsweek
Byline: Daniel Gross
An Indian CEO sits atop a cutthroat world.
Outsourcing is a loaded word in politics. But in business, it's a vital activity, a huge source of profits. Nobody knows that better than S.D. Shibulal, cofounder and current CEO of Infosys Limited. Started in 1981 with 7 employees and a mere $250, Infosys now has $7.23 billion in annual revenue, a market value of $30 billion, and 155,000 employees in dozens of countries. Infosys has come a long way from call centers and help desks to being the outside IT and e-commerce consultant for the world's major corporations. "The dimensions of value are much more complex today," Shibulal tells me in a quiet room at the World Economic Forum meeting last month in Davos, Switzerland.
Outsourcing began when U.S. companies hired people abroad to do mind-numbing support work for much lower wages. That work still accounts for 60 percent of Infosys's business. But the company would prefer to be thought of as a high-end consultant like McKinsey, not a cheap substitute for the IT department. A third of revenue comes from "consulting and system innovation," says Shibulal, a notably soft-spoken man. Another 6 percent comes from "products and platform"--e.g., a new mobile point-of-sale system for Nordstrom. In 2012 Infosys paid $350 million to acquire Lodestone, a European management consultant.
Born just eight years after India's independence, Shibulal has ridden Infosys's fortunes to become the 77th-wealthiest Indian, according to Forbes (net worth: $770 million). The fortunes of India's global rich share headlines with grim news on political corruption, social problems, and deep-seated poverty. "All emerging countries are countries of contradictions. India is no different," he says, and then rattles off statistics that would make Tom Friedman drool. "India produces 1 million English-speaking engineers, but we have 14 million children who are not in school. We have 70 percent of our health care in cities, but 70 percent of our people live in rural areas."
Shibulal resides in Boston and Bangalore, but lives "on a plane" and has the weary eyes to prove it. …