Looking for Scapegoats Not the Solution
Don’t get me wrong. Despite all the criticism that the Infosys cofounder NR Narayana Murthy seems to be facing (and some of it rightfully so), it’s not an easy task to let go an entire generation of young leaders who didn’t measure up against other CEO probables. It’s a bold move and congratulations are in order. But the question that Murthy needs to answer is whether the same benchmarks were applied in earlier CEO successions. Why single out internally groomed leaders who Murthy himself described as contenders for the job of CEO? Did the board exercise similar rigour and process while evaluating other Infosys CEOs in the past? It would also serve to understand how Infosys got in this situation. How did the bellwether lose all its sheen and became a laggard when compared with TCS and Cognizant? When Murthy retired and passed on the baton to KV Kamath (to help find and groom next leaders) and SD Shibulal, everything seemed perfect. The board led by Kamath articulated support for Shibulal’s strategy and vowed to restore Infosys’ lost glory. But even back then, the company had already started losing revenue growth. And that slide continued, worsened during CEO Shibulal’s tenure. The board kept watching until investors and even company insiders decided to lead a charge against Shibulal, demanding a change in executive leadership. The board went back to Murthy, who accepted the offer and returned with the mandate to build “a desirable Infosys” in 3-5 years. But he persisted with CEO Shibulal, and even continued his faith in Kamath by again making him a member of the nominations committee that would look for a new CEO. Who was made accountable for Infosys’ fall? Why the heads didn’t roll? And why subject only the non-founding, next generation leadership to this scrutiny? Even as I write this, there are growing clamours about bringing another Infosys cofounder, Nandan Nilekani, back to the company. But how long can Infosys be governed and led under parental supervision? Isn’t it a failure on founders’ part to have built a company that keeps looking to be saved with their help? Infosys needs to move on, grow up. Infosys is not just another company. In many ways, it established the core processes, corporate governance and branding for what’s now over a $100 billion industry. There are entrepreneurs and rivals looking to learn from every single move Murthy and Infosys make. It’s time for Infosys to start feeling the pressure from not just its investors and customers, but also the bigger IT industry that looked up to it all these years.