Re­vival Inc: IBM’s Rometty Makes a Quiet Bet On In­dia

Big Blue CEO, in a low-pro­file visit, met em­ploy­ees to dis­cuss plans to push growth

The Economic Times - - Companies - PANKAJ MISHRA

Vir­ginia Marie “Ginni” Rometty, IBM’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, con­veyed a mes­sage of tough love to em­ploy­ees in In­dia dur­ing a low-pro­file visit to Ban­ga­lore last week. Rometty, 56, who is try­ing to win over Wall Street’s scep­ti­cal in­vestors about her ef­forts to rein­vig­o­rate the $100-bil­lion com­pany, spoke about In­dia’s ris­ing im­por­tance as she im­ple­ments her game­plan, em­ploy­ees who heard her said. “If you are un­com­fort­able with what’s go­ing on now in IBM, that’s how I want you to stay. That’s the only way we will trans­form this com­pany to­gether,” an em­ployee re­counted her as say­ing.

Rometty, who trav­elled in a pri­vate jet to In­dia’s tech­nol­ogy cap­i­tal, had din­ner with a select group of women ex­ec­u­tives of IBM In­dia on May 6. The next day she ad­dressed a town hall meet­ing with the top 100 em­ploy­ees of IBM in In­dia.

Af­ter eight straight quar­ters of rev­enue de­cline, Rometty is fac­ing pres­sure from in­vestors keen to bet­ter un­der­stand the di­rec­tion in which Big Blue is head­ing. On Wednes­day, she will be ex­plain­ing to an­a­lysts her strat­egy of bet­ting heav­ily on emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy ar­eas such as cloud com­put­ing and data an­a­lyt­ics. Emerg­ing mar­kets, in­clud­ing In­dia are ex­pected to con­trib­ute 30% of its rev­enue by 2015, up from around 23% cur­rently.

This was her third visit to In­dia since be­com­ing IBM’s ninth CEO in 2012, un­der­scor­ing the im­por­tance of the coun­try in her turn­around plans. IBM em­ployed 164,800 em­ploy­ees in In­dia at the end of March this year. “IBM's se­nior man­age­ment was here to re­in­force the strat­egy and im­per­a­tives with the team in In­dia. IBM In­dia is a mi­cro­cosm of IBM de­liv­er­ing the full breadth of IBM ca­pa­bil­i­ties to its clients,” the com­pany said in a state­ment to ET. Rometty shared plans to set up a new cloud data cen­tre in Ban­ga­lore as part of the com­pany's multi-bil­lion­dol­lar push to fend off ri­vals Ama­zon and Google. The new cen­tre will be part of Softlayer, the cloud stor­age com­pany IBM ac­quired for $2 bil­lion ear­lier this year.

“Sur­pris­ingly, un­like her last visit when she met with top cus­tomers in­clud­ing Su­nil Mit­tal and Aditya Birla, there were no ex­ter­nal meet­ings this time,” added another source. In­dia, and Ban­ga­lore in par­tic­u­lar, have al­ways been high on the scale of im­por­tance for IBM. In 2007, Sam Palmisano an­nounced $6 bil­lion worth of in­vest­ment in the coun­try, rid­ing high af­ter sign­ing what be­came an over $2 bil­lion out­sourc­ing con­tract with In­dia’s big­gest phone com­pany Bharti Air­tel.

ON A MIS­SION IBM chief Vir­ginia Marie “Ginni” Rometty

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