Sunday, December 28, 2014

Wipro spending $200 million on building next generation platforms

Wipro is spending more than $200 million annually on building next generation platforms that focus on disruptive technologies including cognitive technologies.
 Wipro is spending more than $200 million annually on building next generation platforms that focus on disruptive technologies including cognitive technologies, automation and machine-to-machine learning as the country's third-largest software firm seeks to edge out competition in winning large deals.

Over the past two years, the company has ploughed $400 million in developing about ten intelligent solutions, some of which it has started using internally and a few it is using for customers, said a senior executive. "Wipro has significantly stepped up its funding of the R&D projects in the last couple of years," said chief technology officer RK Sanjiv.

"This is to not just ensure that we become the next generation services firm of future, but also to be future-ready for our customers," said Sanjiv, declining to put a number. But he said the company invests more than the industry average in these initiatives.

This focus on building intelligent platforms coincides with the stint of Rishad Premji, son of chairman Azim Premji, as head of strategy, making some believe the younger Premji could be potentially driving this change at the Bengaluru based company.

Incidentally, it was Azim Premji who brought Tata Consultancy Services veteran Satishchandra Doreswamy, now chief business operations officer at Wipro, in 2011 to help transform the company by putting together a team of engineers to focus on these technological platforms. Wipro's thrust on building internal intellectual property-led platforms comes at a time when cross-town rival Infosys, under new chief executive Vishal Sikka, too is aggressively talking about building platforms.

Homegrown technology companies invest on an average 2-3% of revenue on building platforms. Wipro's revenue for the fiscal through March 2014 was $6.7 billion, and if it invests more than the industry average, it is putting in $200 million every year in new solutions.

Wipro is now a team of "hundreds of engineers and research scien tists", according to Sanjiv. His mandate is to focus on three key themes: cognitive technology, machine-to-machine learning and in building smart devices.

According to some experts, information technology companies are investing internally in building these solutions because of the desire to win large outsourcing deals as every customer is looking to its IT vendor to bring in more valuegeneration business rather than merely maintaining the back-end technology infrastructure.

Doreswamy last month told ET that Wipro's energy and utilities vertical managed to bag its $1.2 billion, 10-year outsourcing deal with Canadian utilities firm ATCO on account of the "transformational benefits" it could help offer.

"(Two other) examples of Wipro's solutions are Base and Fixomatic suite of tools," said Tom Reuner of London-based IT research firm Ovum. "The direction of this journey is to protect margins by automating low-level tasks while hiring and retaining talent for value-creating activities."

Reuner and other experts said the focus of software exporters on intelligent solutions is also driven by their desire to increase revenue without increasing headcount.

In September, ET reported about Wipro's plans to start with its most ambitious reorganization exercise, under which it aims to become a leaner 1,00,000-strong company from the current levels of 1,52,000 in three years.

The company plans to do this without resorting to mass layoffs but by "selectively filling" in roles of executives who leave.

As Wipro seeks to embrace automation and artificial intelligence, the company can do away with engineers who are currently doing basic-level repetitive work. Already, Wipro has started using, internally, a cognitive platform for its help desk system, thereby simplifying work process for employees. One other intelligent technology platform which the company has started work on for its retail clients is "Wipro Sight."

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