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Yusuf Bashir, head of Infosys corporate venture arm, resigns

LiveMint logoLiveMint 26-07-2017 Anirban Sen

Bengaluru: Former SAP SE executive Yusuf Bashir, who used to head Infosys Ltd’s $500 million corporate venture arm, has resigned from the Bengaluru-based company, according to three executives directly aware of the development.

Before joining Infosys, India’s second largest outsourcing firm, in April 2015, Bashir was the vice-president of new products and business development at German software giant SAP SE. He was one of at least 16 executives who were hired from SAP at the rank of associate vice-president and above since Vishal Sikka took over as chief executive officer in August 2014. Since March last year, at least nine of these executives have quit.

Bashir, who was based out of Palo Alto, California, is learnt to have put in his papers earlier this month, according to the executives mentioned above. All three executives requested anonymity. Prior to his exit, Bashir spearheaded Infosys’s Innovation Fund, which has a corpus of $500 million and has backed start-ups such as Unsilo, Waterline Data, ANSR Consulting and CloudEndure.

News of Bashir’s exit comes less than 10 days after Bashir’s boss, and the former head of mergers and acquisitions, Ritika Suri, quit. Mint could not independently confirm the reason behind Bashir’s departure.

Infosys did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. An email sent to Bashir on his Infosys ID could not be delivered.

During his time as head of Infosys’s corporate venture arm, Bashir was charged with the task of helping Infosys tap into disruptive new technologies offered by start-ups, which in turn could be taken by the company to win more business from Fortune 1000 clients.

Experts tracking Infosys said the recent executive departures would pose significant challenges for the company in the near future.

“Executive churn is no surprise as Infosys’ solution-led delivery framework remains fragile and the company tries to balance growth and innovation,” said Bozhidar Hristov, an analyst at US-based research firm TBRI, adding, “Seamless execution remains a challenge, resulting in flux results, executive exodus and stakeholders’ gloom.”

Since Sikka expanded its venture arm five-fold to $500 million in January 2015, Infosys has spent over $62 million in nine startups and two venture capital firms. Some of those investments have not worked out. For instance, Infosys wrote off a $15 million investment in DWA Nova—a spin-off from film-making company Dreamworks Animation—after the startup shut down. Infosys invested in DWA Nova in February 2015.

Bashir was a board observer at Unsilo and Waterline Data—two startups in which Infosys made a minority investment through the $500 million startup investment fund. Mint could not immediately verify if Infosys has appointed a successor to Bashir to oversee the Innovation Fund and represent the company on the boards of these two startups.

Over the past 12 months, Infosys has witnessed a number of exits from its M&A team and corporate venture arm—Zuben Mathews, a former managing director of M&A at Infosys, left the company in 2016, while another executive, Burhan Jaffer, who headed corporate finance in M&A, left the company in October last year. Other executives to have quit from the M&A team and the corporate venture arm include Uday Disley and Arun Anand.

Infosys has set an ambition of generating $1.5 billion in new revenue from acquisitions by March 2021—a target that according to executives and experts seems to be out of reach for now.

At present, revenue is less than $110 million from startups that Infosys has invested in and companies that it has bought, according to data compiled from the company’s quarterly and annual reports.

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