Clam­our Rises for Nan­dan to Flash Unique In­fosys ID

The Economic Times - - Front Page - INDU NAN­DAKU­MAR

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

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