Lux Research is proud to announce that our first-ever Innovator of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Mr. S. D. Shibulal, advisor at Innovations Investment Management India and co-founder and former CEO of Infosys. Mr. Shibulal is one of the leaders of the IT revolution in India due in part to having co-founded Infosys, which he has led in various capacities since its inception in 1981.
That year, a team of seven young, starry-eyed engineers embarked on a journey to build one of India’s most reputed, solid, and profitable companies. From an initial capital investment of $250, the company has grown to become a $14.22 billion company with a market capitalization of approximately $90.25 billion. This 40-year journey has seen many firsts. The culture of innovation is so deeply ingrained in the company’s fabric that the cycle of ideation, creation, sustenance, dissolution, and resurgence of newer ideas continues ad infinitum.
One of the most critical business models that disrupted the service delivery paradigm was the Global Delivery Model (GDM), first advocated by Infosys and a project with which Mr. Shibulal is proudly involved. The standard work model requires that workers travel to a specific work location. Infosys flipped this traditional model, proposing that work opportunities could be handled by professionals irrespective of their geolocation. In GDM, work is conducted using a mix of “on-site” and “offshore” workers. A small percentage of professionals go to work “on-site,” while the bulk of work is handled “offshore” at various Infosys development centers. The company demonstrated that IT services could be delivered to Fortune 500 companies with quality and on time through a professional workforce located in India (and other parts of the world). The success of GDM in the IT sector encouraged business services in domains like healthcare, education, legal, and claims to successfully adopt the same model.
Despite the success of GDM and numerous other projects, Mr. Shibulal and other members of the Infosys management team did not develop innovations only for products, as they considered human resources their most valued assets. They decided to distribute wealth and enhance employee capabilities by providing lifelong learning opportunities, becoming the first Indian company to offer employee stock options. This action built loyalty and trust among the company’s employees while laying the foundation for their financial stability and upward class mobility.
Additionally, Infosys has an innovative learning framework that demarcates technical, domain, and behavioral competencies for every role in the organization. The competency framework for each role is not prescribed by pedagogues but is debated, developed, and chosen by employees in a democratic manner. The competencies and their associated courses are continually evaluated and revamped to aid continuous learning. Using this framework, employees freely choose to upskill their capabilities and pace their careers. Providing agency to employees to choose their career path is a first for any company. It is but one of many innovative HR practices that have made Infosys an employer of choice for many years.
Being socially responsible, Infosys embraced its corporate social responsibility (CSR) long before it was mandated by the government or became a buzzword among the business community. Infosys supports long-term social initiatives after a thorough evaluation of their need and provides short-term relief measures for unforeseen calamities. All CSR work is channeled through the board and operationalized by volunteer teams using stringent processes.
Furthermore, sustainability is a business imperative, and Infosys has been at the forefront of planning actions to combat climate change. As part of its plan, Infosys has taken the following actions:
- Infosys decided to reduce its carbon footprint using global benchmarks and innovations across its infrastructural facilities. By 2014, 12 Infosys buildings were Platinum certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
- All Infosys campuses are committed to conserving and promoting biodiversity by planting and maintaining millions of trees.
- Infosys implemented rainwater harvesting and water recycling across all campuses long before it was mandated.
- In 2014, Infosys became the first IT company in the world to publish sustainability disclosures per GRIs G4 guidelines.
- It was also the first IT company to declare a goal of becoming carbon neutral.
Innovation at Infosys is reflected not just in the company’s balance sheet but also in its influence across society, corporate governance, and sustainability of the planet. The company has shown that it’s not enough to be profitable: Companies must be built on a solid foundation of ethical values leading to sound business models so that businesses are sustainable in the long run. It should come as no surprise that these values and this spirit of innovation at Infosys derive in no small part from S.D. Shibulal and his fellow cofounders.
In addition to his work at Infosys, Mr. Shibulal cofounded seed fund Axilor Ventures—a new generation platform to improve entrepreneurs’ odds of success—in 2014. Axilor provides infrastructure, mentoring, and capital for startups in the areas of e-commerce, healthcare, and cleantech. Mr. Shibulal also serves on the board of several organizations promoting education, including Boston University, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Haverford College, and the Infosys Science Foundation. Furthermore, Mr. Shibulal, his wife Kumari Shibulal, and their children Shruti Shibulal and Shreyas Shibulal have worked tirelessly on their philanthropic endeavors, including the Sarojini Damodaran Foundation (SDF), the Advaith Foundation, and countless other activities undertaken by the Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives (SFPI).
Mr. Shibulal has been an innovator all his life, from his historic part in the founding of Infosys to the work he continues to do through philanthropy and his advisory and board roles. While his innovative work speaks for itself, Mr. Shibulal has also shown through his commitment to societal concerns, corporate governance, and our planet’s sustainability that he has been innovation personified throughout his life and career and is an incredibly deserving recipient of Lux’s inaugural Innovator of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.