Infosys hires from Silicon Valley to strengthen AI platform Mana

India’s second-largest software exporter Infosys is betting heavily that its new artificial intelligence (AI) platform Mana will help the company potentially generate billions of dollars in revenue, even as it puts together a core team of key executives and technologists around the platform which has been built into a separate organisation of sorts.
Infosys has hired a number of executives from some of Silicon Valley’s largest companies, as it attempts to build a top-notch cognitive computing system that it believes can potentially rival IBM’s flagship cognitive computing system Watson .
Some of these include former Google executive Sudhir Jha who has been hired as a senior vice president to head product management and strategy around Mana, according to an executive familiar with the development who requested anonymity .Jha is reporting to current Infosys platform’s head and former SAP executive Abdul Razack.
“We’ve already hired a few guys from the Valley, we are hiring a few guys from here. (Mana) Requires a different level of skill,” said Samson David, global head of cloud, infrastructure and security, who has now also been tasked by Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka to head the Mana team. “Mana is fundamentally the core platform of transformation for us -it encapsulates everything that we stand for and everything that we’re betting on.”
Infosys launched artificial-intelligence system Mana earlier this year in April with the single-minded goal of automating repetitive and commoditised software maintenance tasks that previously required an army of engineers, but now can be taken over by software bots. Infosys claims that Mana also helps build knowledge using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Mana also pulls in elements from three of Infosys’ most important software platforms — the Infosys Automation Platform, the Infosys Information Platform and the Infosys Knowledge Platform.
Infosys believes Mana can help free up several thousands of engineers from repetitive, commoditized software projects all across.
For instance at Infosys’ cloud, infrastructure and security business, the company has already been able to free up several hundreds of engineers from projects.
“At CIS — for fixed price projects, we have been able to reduce 20-25% headcount across shifts. And that will only get deeper and deeper,” David told ET. Currently, Infosys has put together a team of a few hundred people to work on Mana, including executives from the company’s elite Expert Track unit, which is a team of so-called “supercoders” and highly talented and specialized programmers.
“There are two killer activities in the software industry that take up the most amount of time -one is to find out what the problem is. The whole thing of impact analysis — what all has to be touched. That takes up a lot of time. In maintenance, you have to scan the entire thing to figure out the impact. Actual change doesn’t take much time. Second is when I make the change, how do I ensure nothing is broken? Testing takes a lot of time. Mana allows you to completely squish this,” said David.
He added that Mana has been structured like a separate organisation of sorts within Infosys, with dedicated engineering, sales and delivery teams, and also a separate a P&L (profit and loss) structure.
“The whole idea is to disrupt the traditional model of the software industry. We want to disrupt ourselves. If you look at how war has been fought over the years, we have gone from a wooden spear to a metallic spear to a gun to a cannon to nuclear to a drone -so this is about that. The whole idea is to use technology and amplify what the same human being could do,” said David. “100,000 people will not disappear today. But everything will get calibrated.”
Infosys believes Mana can compete directly with IBM’s Watson — a claim that experts tracking the industry are still skeptical about.

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