How LTI Came Into Its Own
Forbes India|March 12, 2021
With Sanjay Jalona at the helm, the IT services company is winning against bigger rivals, stepping out of its larger parent’s shadow, and forging an identity for itself
HARICHANDAN ARAKALI

When Larsen & Toubro Infotech (LTI) listed on the stock exchanges in Mumbai in July 2016, it wasn’t the most auspicious of beginnings for Sanjay Jalona, who had quit Infosys to take over as CEO and MD of the company the previous year. The stock ended lower on debut, even though the issue had been subscribed 11 times over.

Reports from the time suggest that the fall had more to do with the overall lackluster performance of the IT services sector then, and not anything specific to LTI. Not long after, Jalona proved that right, leading the company to the biggest order win in its history at the time—a $150 million contract to build much of the IT needed by a South African bank that was separating from its UK-based parent. At the time, LTI was not far from a billion dollars in annual revenue.

That large contract wasn’t a one-off either. The company has continued to win big contracts since then. During the three months ended December 31, 2020, LTI won two large contracts, including an enhanced partnership with Abu Dhabi-based cloud services provider Injazat, which could bring in $204 million in revenue over six years, and a net increase of $74 million over a five-year period from an existing global 500 customer.

“I like being an underdog,” says Jalona, speaking over a video call from his home in New Jersey, US. “I might not have the balance sheet to bid for a billion-dollar deal, but I have the capability to bid for a $200-300 million deal because now we are a $1.6 billion revenue company.”

Over the last four years, investors have bought into the LTI promise to the extent that the stock has become the most expensive among India’s IT services companies. It almost tripled from its debut to nearly ₹2,000 by September 2018. Then, as it became apparent that the world would see a strong ‘upcycle’ of technology spending in the post-Covid-19 recovery, the LTI stock more than doubled from its Covid-19 low on April 3, 2020, to ₹4,287.85 on January 15, 2021.

LTI’s recent inclusion in the Morgan Stanley Capital International’s index for Indian equities also helped, according to media reports, citing analysts at brokerages. By revenue, LTI is about a third of Tech Mahindra, India’s fifth-biggest IT services provider, but by market cap it’s more than threequarters the value of its bigger rival.

Pretty much every large contract that LTI wins today is in competition with bigger companies, Jalona says. One of the reasons is his personal commitment to do everything possible for the customer. For example, recalls CMO Peeyush Dubey, the CIO of the South African bank decided in LTI's favour after Jalona answered his midnight call when the CIO couldn’t reach anyone at a larger rival of LTI that was also on the final shortlist for the contract.

After 15 years at Infosys, where he built two billion-dollar units, Jalona, 51, quit leading LTI in August 2015. He had met L&T Group’s Chairman AM Naik and learned about his ambitions for the IT subsidiary. “I was not looking for a job,” Jalona says. He was attracted, however, by the chance to leave a legacy and transform an operation that had started out as the IT unit of the better-known engineering group into a world-class tech services provider in its own right.

Cloud Ready

At the time of the IPO, when a fund house called LTI a “me-too company… don’t subscribe” in a report, “it really hurt,” Jalona recalls. Instead, he unearthed a hidden gem, and after its 2016 listing, rebranded the business as LTI to give it an identity of its own, and grew it faster than the industry, year after year. “The same fund house became the biggest proponent of ours in three years.” Now, aided by the world’s transition to cloud computing and the accelerated investments in technology because of the pandemic, Jalona is pushing LTI, with its 34,000 software engineers, to punch above its weight, and win.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FORBES INDIAView All

‘The Middle Class Buys Dreams. The Businessman Sells Unrealistic Ones'

Anand Kumar starts the interview by setting the context. “Let’s get the math right,” says the mathematician.

4 mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

The Home School of Thought

Concerns over a monotonous, formal education system coupled with edtech’s innovative approaches bolster the homeschooling proposition. But is India ready for it?

10+ mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

The Big Small Question

As Byju’s and Unacademy grow at breakneck speed, what will it take for smaller edtech players to survive?

10+ mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

Beating Bharat's Edtech Blues

On the other side of the billion-dollar edtech boom are children who have been unable to access the most basic forms of online education, and people who have been trying to bridge the digital divide

10+ mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

Handa's New Funda: From Academy to Unacademy

How IITian Ravi Handa scaled up his seven-year-old online venture for MBA preparation, and eventually sold it to an edtech major

5 mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

Six (and more) Degrees of Fakery

How inaction against the rash of fake universities across the country may be incentivising the mushrooming of more such institutions

6 mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

Meet The Headmasters

Sequoia Capital has bet big on edtech, with over a dozen investments, including in industry giants Byju’s and Unacademy

10+ mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

A Billion-Dollar Dream For Freshworks

Girish Mathrubootham is taking a cue from the rapid growth of Silicon Valley software startups to reach scale and velocity

10+ mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

Changing How Small-Town India Shops

CityMall founders Angad Kikla and Naisheel Verdhan are building a network of micro-entrepreneurs through their app in smaller cities

10 mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021

Liberal Arts: A Road Less Travelled

Colleges offering these courses in India have begun to gain ground, but for them to truly shine on the global map, they must be cognisant of the country’s culture and challenges

7 mins read
Forbes India
April 23, 2021
RELATED STORIES

A New Pipeline

The global tech company Infosys wanted to diversify its hiring. But to get it right, it needed to rethink a lot more than just its recruiting methods.

3 mins read
Entrepreneur
October - November 2020

WIDENING DIVERSITY

As job description and roles across sectors transform based on digital goals of companies, diversity and inclusion have become more holistic

7 mins read
Business Today
April 04, 2021

“Execution is Fundamental to Creating Value; Capital Cannot Substitute Speed and Innovation”

Learnability, having a strong organisational foundation, commanding leadership and thorough professionalism births legendary organisations

5 mins read
Entrepreneur magazine
March 2021

Share Buyback by Companies – Should the Investors Go For It?

Indian companies both private and public have gone on a shopping spree for the buyback of their own shares putting investors in a dilemma.

8 mins read
Investors India
February 2021

The Conversation KRIS GOPALAKRISHNAN

Infosys co-founder Senapathy ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan is a very private person behind a public face. The 65-year-old billionaire entrepreneur, who has channelled his passion for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship by backing projects at academic institutions and funding startups, says his investments are not just for returns, but to create an innovation-led economy.

7 mins read
Fortune India
February 2021

नस्लभेद खत्म करने की मुहिम में देसी दिग्गज

कार्यस्थलों पर नस्लभेद खत्म करने की मुहिम के लिए टीसीएस और इन्फोसिस विश्व आर्थिक मंच की पहल में शामिल

1 min read
Business Standard - Hindi
January 26, 2021

INTERVIEW INTERVENTION INTERVIEWERS NEED TO EQUIP WITH INTERVIEW TECHNIQUES

Abstract: Human assets are the most precious assets in an organization. Interviewers need to do a lot of homework before an interview. They need to keep the industry and age syndrome at bay, while shortlisting resumes. First impression of a candidate though great but should not be given too much weightage, rather go deep into the career to observe the kind of value creation they can bring to the organization. Interviewers should be able to establish whether the candidate is a real one, reliable and can be trusted upon and not a good actor. The key to have a successful interview is to test with situational level questions. Candidates who have got quality work experience and possess the right skill sets will be able to respond adequately with solutions and separate themselves from others. Do an ethical test to figure out honesty. Interviewers should be futuristic rather than focusing on the past.

8 mins read
The Management Accountant
December 2020

The Suave Mrs Sudha Murthy

These are not the traits or achievements of Mrs Sudha Murthy… These are just a few of the countless outcomes of her being herself.

6 mins read
The Teenager Today
December 2020

A Global Technology Services firm

Established in 1981, Infosys is a NYSE listed global consulting and IT services company with more than 239k employees.

4 mins read
Business Sphere
November - December 2020

इंफोसिस ने अमेरिका में स्थानीय लोगों की भर्ती बढ़ाकर वीजा पर निर्भरता को कम किया

सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी (आईटी) कंपनी इंफोसिस अमेरिका जैसे बाजारों में वहीं के लोगों को काम पर रखने पर ध्यान दे रही है। इससे कंपनी 63 प्रतिशत कर्मचारियों के मामले में वीजा की आवश्यकता से छुटकारा पा चुकी है।

1 min read
Dakshin Bharat Rashtramat Chennai
November 16, 2020