Look­ing for Scape­goats Not the So­lu­tion

The Economic Times - - Infosys@crossroads -

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.

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