Infosys clearly offers all manner of IT services. But tell us a bit about your business platforms division and how it came about.
If you look at the history of Infosys there have been three big sections. There was its early stage, after being founded with $250 of seed capital in 1981. It grew to $5m in revenue but it wasn’t very scalable, and then India faced an economic downturn. But about the same time there was a lot of liberalisation, and Texas Instruments set up an office in Bangalore, connecting to other offices via satellite. It became clear a global delivery model could work and Infosys really pushed that envelope. From 1991 to 2011 it went from $6m revenue to $7bn.
Now we’re on the verge of another shift. Again there is an economic downturn, but also the demand from the business and demand from IT is different. The business wants to invest in technology but it doesn’t want to have to wait. Also, keeping the lights on is taking a significant amount of time and money. Yet the business knows technology can provide things that people haven’t had before: things like social, mobile and cloud. Technology allows for a lot of expansion. So you have economic compression but technology expansion.
The third thing is that consumers have never been so empowered in history as they are today. Their access to information, to different media. Information used to be one-way traffic, but now it’s many-to-many. Just in terms of marketing that’s changed the rules of the game significantly. So you have these three trends all happening at once.
We see our job [in the business platforms division] as putting that in context and brining it all together. There’s been a big shift towards business outcomes. We like to say that a business platform is a business solution to a business challenge, measured through business outcomes.
Hasn’t the business always sought business outcomes though? What’s really changed?
What’s changed is that previously you did a GAP analysis, bought or built some software, and set about building something. There was a business need, but the business outcome was unclear. The more complex the project, the harder it is to do and the more time it takes.
It still sounds a little vague. Can you offer an example?
One bank we worked with had made 31 acquisitions, and they all had their own systems. Keeping the cost of them all alive would have been huge, and bringing them all together into one system would have taken 18-24 months. I have a banking platform that’s already built. The hardware, software, services and integrations needed – we went live in three months.
What about pricing?
The pricing is quite variable but a lot of it is shifting to opex. But you also get a roadmap, so futuristic things get added to the platform, for example new features around mobile. You’re now in the Infosys cloud, and I am responsible for the business outcome. Not, ‘did that application do x, y or x’, but if I’m doing payroll then, ‘did that person get paid, on time, the right amount?’ I’m focusing on the business outcome, not the operation of the system.
What about in other verticals?
Sure. We had a very large UK bricks-and-mortar retailer that didn’t have a great digital platform. They put their entire e-commerce storefront on our platform called Commerce Edge, in our cloud. All the hardware, all the software, all the services. We run it for them, and we did it in three months. The contract was tied to the outcome. Pricing is variable, it’s opex.
We’ve got an offering for mobile wallet, too. We run the largest mobile wallet in the world for Airtel. Telcos are seeing their average revenue per user [ARPU] dropping so they are looking for other ways to monetise customers. Some are bundling in video, or even security systems. Others, like Airtel, are offering customers a mobile wallet. In a market like India where there are 1.2 billion people but only 250 million that have bank accounts, that’s a big deal.
But it was a completely new business line for Airtel and they wanted to get it up fast. It’s all driven on our platform. It would have taken them 24 months to build but we delivered it in one-tenth of that.
You’ve mentioned a number of areas already, which areas are you putting most investment?
There are five. Digital business, commerce and marketing; enterprise buying; micro-commerce; sustainability and Farmer360 [aimed at improving agri-supply-chain efficiency]. In many of these areas the ticket size for a provider might be very small, but the volumes are humongous, and the money soon adds up. Our TradeEdge platform, which brings together credit, mobile wallet and m-commerce, has $22bn of real money running across it in 79 countries.
How is the business platforms group doing relative to the rest of Infosys?
We’re starting from a small base today but we want it to be one-third of Infosys’ revenue. It’s already the fastest growing part of Infosys.