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Moving Up the Labor Value Chain

When Vishal Sikka last summer became CEO of Bangalore, India-based Infosys, what he found was “extremely depressing.”

Infosys, which provides outsourced IT consulting and custom software, has 182,000 employees and $8.2 billion in revenue and is basically India, Inc. But Infosys is facing a big challenge: Cloud-based software and easy-to-use smartphones and tablets mean that big companies simply outsource less than they used to. While revenue has grown over the past three years, profits have been flat at about $1.7 billion each year.

But what particularly upset Mr. Sikka, who joined from enterprise giant SAP, was how Infosys operated. The company employed tens of thousands of people grinding through dull, repetitive tasks such as processing forms for loan underwriting requests. Mr. Sikka worried that unless the Infosys workforce could become more creative and productive, using data to help clients build their own businesses, they were in danger of losing their jobs to software automation.

The Information chatted with Mr. Sikka about his plans for re-tooling a massive workforce for new challenges in technology business. Edited excerpts follow.

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