One key trigger for the ongoing Infosys tussle appears to be a pilot plan initiated by co-founder NR Narayana Murthy way back in 2013 to reduce the software major’s dependency on H-1B visas, but this project was reportedly “not monitored” by the Board since his departure as the executive chairman. This alleged lack of action on growing ambiguity around visa issues, precipitated by the potential clampdown by the Trump regime on these work visas, is expected to saddle the Indian software industry an estimated 60-70 per cent rise in costs.
“Visa is such a risk for firms like Infosys. I started the initiative in 2013 since I wanted the company to reduce risks from H-1B visas. We reduced the onsite percentage of work in our pilots from 30 per cent to 10 per cent and our plan was to replace the H-1B professionals performing this 10 per cent with local talent. We made quarterly presentations to the board on the progress of this initiative as long as I was the chair of the board. I am told that this project was not monitored at the board level once I left. This surprises me,” Murthy said in an interview to a newspaper on Friday.
He had recently said that Indian IT firms should focus on local hiring in the US, and that they needed to “stop using H1-B visas and sending a large number of Indians to those countries to deliver services”. Sector analysts have also suggested that in order to tide over the proposed changes in the visa rules, large Indian IT firms could be forced to weigh in the option of hiring locally in the US to control the additional costs.
In the year when Murthy said he began the pilot to revamp the firm’s Global Delivery Model to serve the clients outside India, Infosys was embroiled in civil violation of US employment laws for misuse of visas, for which it had to pay $34 million as settlement.