Infosys’ OpenAI Investment: A Testament to Sikka’s Forward-Thinking Vision

Sikka said Infosys would greatly benefit from OpenAI’s research.
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ChatGPT has caused much sensation on the internet, propelling OpenAI, the maker of the chatbot, into the limelight. Now, a social media post revisiting Infosys’ investment in OpenAI is leaving everyone awed. 

Back in 2015, Infosys donated around USD 1 billion to OpenAI, which was a non-profit back then. Infosys, along with Elon Musk, AWS, YC Research, among others, joined hands to make the USD 1 billion donation to OpenAI.

Why did Infosys invest in OpenAI?

The donation to OpenAI, which none of us knew about, was made when Vishal Sikka was still at the helm of the IT giant. The former Infosys head was bullish on AI and much of the credit for the donation to OpenAI goes to Sikka. He also served as an adviser to the folks at OpenAI along with Yoshua Bengio, Sergey Levine, Pieter Abbeel, and Alan Kay.

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“Our wish is that together the OpenAI team will do unfettered research in the most important, most relevant dimensions of AI,” Sikka said in an Infosys blog post in 2015.

Explaining further, Sikka said that the research ‘to be done’ by OpenAI is not time-bound, nor is it limited to just identifying dancing cats in videos. The real motive is to create ideas and inventions that amplify humanity.

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Back then, Sikka felt that there was a lack of fundamental progress in the field of AI which fuelled his decision to support OpenAI’s initiative. 

Another factor that may have influenced Sikka’s decision to invest in OpenAI was its open-source philosophy. However, this aspect of the company has undergone significant changes since then, as OpenAI transitioned from a non-profit organisation to a for-profit entity with a capped return in 2019.

“If complex systems are not open, not open to be used, extended, and learned about, they end up becoming yet another mysterious thing for us, ones that we end up praying to and mythifying. The more open we make AI, the better,” Sikka said.

What happened to the investment?

However, in August 2017, Sikka resigned from his post as the managing director and chief executive at Infosys. With his resignation, the plan to integrate OpenAI technology into Infosys also came to a rather abrupt end.

The current CEO at Infosys, Salil Parekh, confirmed that Infosys supported OpenAI through a donation. Addressing any further involvement with OpenAI in the future, Parekh said that there were no plans for any investments or involvement in any related activities with OpenAI.

Sikka was a visionary

Parekh has confirmed that Infosys is currently using ChatGPT with client situations, and that is starting to further increase productivity in automation.

This makes us wonder, what if Sikka was still at the helm of Infosys and they had continued to expand their partnership with OpenAI? Would Infosys have back door excess to OpenAI research and their products and services, similar to Microsoft?

In 2015, Sikka also said that Infosys would greatly benefit from OpenAI’s research. He believed that AI would radically change how IT firms like Infosys operate in the future.

It is evident that Sikka understood the potential of OpenAI at an early stage and was ready to embrace it, highlighting this as a testament to the fact that he was a true visionary. Narayan Murthy, founder of Infosys, himself described Sikka as a technology visionary.

Sikka began his tenure as the CEO of Infosys with the goal of transforming the company through the use of technology such as AI and machine learning, with a focus on software and innovation.

He believed automation could decrease surplus workforce and increase efficiency and productivity. Further, Sikka also implemented programmes such as ‘Zero Distance’ and ‘Design Thinking’ to enhance sales growth and prioritise automation and operational effectiveness.

In fact, by leveraging the power of modern technology, Sikka’s vision was to achieve USD 20 billion in revenues by 2020, which Infosys failed to achieve.

Where is Vishal Sikka now?

In 2019, Sikka founded ‘Vianai’ with USD 50 million in initial funding. The startup developed its own programming language to enable more developers and organisations to utilise AI and machine learning techniques.

In 2021, Vianai raised USD 140 million in Series-B funding with SoftBank Vision Fund 2. They have a range of products, including the Vian H+AI Monitoring & Continuous Operations Platform and Vianai Studio, an AI-based platform for creating and managing machine learning models. 

The company also provides services such as AI-based business transformation along with consulting development and training for AI products, and AI-based operations and governance.

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by Vijayalakshmi Anandan

The Deep Learning Curve is a technology-based podcast hosted by Vijayalakshmi Anandan - Video Presenter and Podcaster at Analytics India Magazine. This podcast is the narrator's journey of curiosity and discovery in the world of technology.

Pritam Bordoloi
I have a keen interest in creative writing and artificial intelligence. As a journalist, I deep dive into the world of technology and analyse how it’s restructuring business models and reshaping society.

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