Clamour Rises for Nandan to Flash Unique Infosys ID
Nandan Nilekani may have lost to BJP’s Ananth Kumar from Bangalore South, but if he were to contest for the job of Infosys CEO, Nilekani will have support from the unlikeliest of quarters — ex-Infy director V Balakrishnan, who joined rival Aam Aadmi Party, and former Infosys HR head Mohandas Pai. A day after one of Infosys’ two presidents, BG Srinivas, resigned, former board members and senior industry executives have begun to openly endorse Nilekani for the top job in the company.
The endorsement for Nilekani comes even as the Bangalore-based software company evaluates both internal and external candidates as part of the CEO selection process. “I think Nandan has a moral obligation to come back to Infosys because he founded the company and helped it grow,” said Pai, also a former chief financial officer and director of Infosys. He resigned in 2011 to join Manipal Education Group as chairman. Pai said Infosys’ biggest challenge has been its inability to grow sales and the company needs someone like Nilekani who can connect with large customers. “Nandan can come and stay for two years, it doesn’t matter. He will bring stability.” A graduate of IIT-Bombay, Nilekani, 58, co-founded Infosys in 1981 with six others, including NR Narayana Murthy and Kris Gopalakrishnan, and became the CEO between 2002 and 2007. During this tenure, Infosys’ sales grew nearly 40% compared with the 2011-2014 period when revenues rose 20% under CEO SD Shibulal. Balakrishnan was of the opinion that he does not see anyone other than Nilekani being able to handle Infosys as CEO at this stage. But the only way Nilekani would return is if Murthy makes an “emotional pitch” to him, he said. “Nandan does not have a political future for another 10 years at least. So he should get back to Infosys," Balakrishnan remarked. But sources close to the former Unique Identification Authority of India chairman who joined the Congress party earlier this year said Nilekani has no plan to go back to corporate life. “There was growing clamour to bring Nandan back even when Murthy returned to Infosys last year. But that wasn’t his plan,” said a source. Nilekani did not reply to an email and text message seeking his comment. The call for Nilekani’s to return to Infosys comes at a time when India’s secondlargest software provider is undergoing a turbulent internal transition after the former chairman returned to the company in June last year. Under Murthy, Infosys has been cutting costs and making operational changes to help Infosys return to industry-leading growth after underperforming the Indian IT sector for nearly two years. Including board members Srinivas, Balakrishnan and Ashok Vemuri, at least twelve senior execs have quit in the last eleven months. On Thursday, Infosys shares fell over 3.4% to Rs 2,921 on the National Stock Exchange as concerns about the ongoing senior management exodus put investors on edge.
Equity analysts said Srinivas’ resignation leaves a significant gap in the leadership team and will cause uncertainty among customers. “No external CEO would appreciate Murthy’s interference in corporate matters. Nandan, on the other hand, knows Murthy, his work and expectations,” an analyst at a Mumbai-based brokerage firm said on condition on anonymity. Brokerage JM Financial on Thursday downgraded Infosys stock to “hold” from “buy” saying top management exits could put its turnaround efforts at risk. “In our view, the CEO transition has been handled poorly by the company,” analysts Govind Agarwal and Arshad Pervez said in a note. An analyst with a foreign brokerage firm, however, said Infosys needs look beyond its founder-members and internal candidates if the company wants to prepare itself for future. “Infosys needs much more than Nandan. They need someone younger with fresh thoughts and not Nandan who has spent over 25 years at the company.”
WILL HE, WON’T HE? Nilekani