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April 28, 2006

Second part of Premji's interview with K@W

Knowledge@Wharton has published the second part of its interview with Wipro's Azim Premji.

Aron: You already have a strong footprint in IT design, development, maintenance and operations. Now, as you said, you are trying to deepen your skills at the top -- in the consulting area -- so that you can be proactive in serving your customers and not just reactive. But the kind of person who goes into consulting -- say, my students at Wharton who might join a consulting firm after graduation -- is very different in profile, personal style, culture and expectations than someone who might join a technology firm. Do you see a contradiction here? Can you manage a panther and an elephant from the same menagerie?

Premji: Of course this is a challenge, and we have to rise to it. We did this very well in AMS. We did it less well in NerveWire, where we had a higher attrition level. We are learning from this. One good thing we have been able to do in Wipro based on our experience over the years is to have a diverse approach in terms of compensation and policies to diverse pieces of our business. We first started this when we went from consumer care into the IT business; you can't imagine anything more drastic than that. Before we went into IT, our consumer care business was highly commoditized, though now it is becoming much more sophisticated.

Compared to other software companies in India, which have had more uniformity in their profile of people and the way they have integrated them, given incentives to them and built policy frameworks around them, we have had a culture with a much greater ability to manage diversity.

As for our approach to compensation, we deal with the consumer care business very differently than the IT business. Within the IT business, we approach our overseas employees differently than we do our Indian employees. And even among our overseas employees, we deal differently with our programmers who are abroad on assignment than we do with the careerists there. Our approach in these cases is completely different. I am not saying managing this diversity is not a challenge. It is. But we also have a high degree of comfort in being able to manage this challenge.


Arun Natarajan is the Founder of Venture Intelligence India, which tracks venture capital activity in India and Indian-founded companies worldwide. View sample issues of Venture Intelligence India newsletters and reports.