Forbes Asia has named Nandan Nilekani, CEO of Infosys Technologies Ltd., its Businessman of the Year for 2006. The 51-year old co-founder of the Bangalore-based IT major was picked for his track record in keeping Infosys nimble and ahead of its peers in the global outsourcing phenomenon.
Though Nilekani has been the CEO since 2002, he took sole charge in August this year when lead founder, Narayana Murthy, retired. Under his tenure, Infosys has achieved sustained profitability – after-tax profit grew by 30 per cent in each of the last three years.
Tim Ferguson, Editor, Forbes Asia, said, “Nilekani is an outstanding example of what the Asian entrepreneurial spirit can achieve. More remarkable is his leadership in Infosys, which has been influential in reshaping and leveling the global business landscape.”
Infosys has come a long way from its humble beginnings 25 years ago when Murthy, Nilekani and five other partners set up the company on a shoestring start-up capital of $250, much of it borrowed from their wives.
A quarter of a century ago, the founders of Infosys dreamt that the company could tap India’s underutilised talent to help meet the world’s growing need for software. Now, 25 years later, with an employee headcount of over 66,000, Nilekani has promised Wall Street analysts that Infosys would be a $3 billion company by April 2007.
Nilekani attributes Infosys’ success to its strategy of constantly inventing new, value-added services for its clients instead of competing on costs. “We don’t really do call centres,” he said. . In fact, such white collar outsourcing work comprises only 4.5 per cent of Infosys’ revenue.
Thomas Friedman, columnist with the ‘New York Times’, credited Nilekani for showing him that “the world is flat,” after the Infosys CEO told him in 2004 that “the playing field is being leveled.” Infosys now alludes to Friedman’s best-selling book of the same title when they market to prospective clients and urge them “to win in the flat world.”
Nilekani will receive the Businessman of the Year award at a ceremony to be held in Hong Kong on January 18, 2007. The ceremony, supported by presenting sponsor DHL and corporate sponsor Invest Hong Kong, will also honour companies on Forbes Asia’s Fabulous 50 list.