Process is King for Bansal, But Many aren’t Lov­ing it

Ex-Infy CFO is known for cre­at­ing pro­cesses that have in­ad­ver­tent ef­fect of slow­ing down ops

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech -

Ben­galuru: In the glare of me­dia spot­light on Mon­day, In­fosys chair­man R Se­shasayee was at pains to clar­ify that In­dia’s sec­ond largest soft­ware ex­porter had put in place a new plan for sev­er­ance pay­ments to en­sure there are “no more (cases like that of) Ra­jiv Bansals”.

The ex­pla­na­tion — re­lated to what has been termed an out­size sev­er­ance pay­ment made by In­fosys to its for­mer chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer (CFO) Ra­jiv Bansal — turned the fo­cus once more on the 44-year-old fi­nance pro­fes­sional, who most re­cently quit his po­si­tion as CFO of In­dia’s largest ride-hail­ing app Ola.

Bansal — a vet­eran In­fosys em­ployee who put in a 17-year stint at the Ben­galuru-based IT gi­ant — was given a sev­er­ance pack­age of .₹ 17.38 crore, only a por­tion of which (.`5.2 crore) has been paid out, ac­cord­ing to the In­fosys chair­man.

Both the quan­tum and the sub­se­quent ces­sa­tion of pay­ment is at the heart of a slew of con­cerns on cor­po­rate gover­nance at In­fosys raised by its founder NR Narayana Murthy. “Per­haps that judge­ment (on the sev­er­ance pay for Ra­jiv Bansal) would have been dif­fer­ent if cir­cum­stances were dif­fer­ent or if the pro- cesses had been there,” Se­shasayee told re­porters at a meet­ing on Mon­day in Mum­bai.

Bansal, has re­mained silent in the high-deci­ble bat­tle be­tween In­fosys and some of its founders. He did not re­ply to email queries from ET on the is­sue.

“He has al­ways been me­dia-shy at In­fosys in the mould of (ex-CEO) Shibu­lal, though more ar­tic­u­late,” said a for­mer em­ployee of In­fosys.

ET spoke to a num­ber of in­dus­try mem­bers and a few of his for­mer col­leagues to sketch out a pro­file of the char­tered ac­coun­tant and com­merce grad­u­ate from St Xavier’s Col­lege who is in the eye of one of cor­po­rate In­dia’s big­gest storms.

“He (Bansal) is to the point, means busi­ness — a trans­ac­tion-ori­ented per­son rather than one who cul­ti­vates re­la­tion­ships,” said one per­son fa­mil­iar with his work­ing style at Ola.

“He could be a tough boss,” said an em­ployee who had worked with him at the ride-hail­ing com­pany.

Hav­ing moved from a blue-chip Nas­daq-listed com­pany to a startup, Bansal of­ten came across as a mis­fit to many of his col­leagues the sources said. All the peo­ple ET spoke to re­quested anonymity. Un­der Bansal, the fi­nance team at Ola cre­ated pro­cesses that had the in­ad­ver­tent ef­fect of slow­ing down op­er­a­tions.

“If one set of clear­ance was needed, they (Bansal’s fi­nance team) in­creased it to four. This in­creased con­fronta­tions in the (Ola) of­fice across de­part­ments, and many threat­ened top man­age­ment that it is ei­ther us or them,” said an Ola ex­ec­u­tive.

In­dus­try ex­perts say this is af­ter all, what a CFO is tasked to do — ask tough ques­tions of the CEO.

NOT A PER­FECT FIT

This is also why Bansal is now in the news with re­gard to In­fosys. Vishal Sikka, In­fosys’ first non-founder-CEO is an un­con­ven­tional CEO, said an em­ployee who has worked with the soft­ware com­pany for more than a decade. “Vishal’s man­date is more per­for­mance-ori­ented, where he fo­cusses more on a work mech­a­nism that tracks risk and re­wards. His teams are more driven in pur­su­ing busi­ness,” the In­fos­cion said. Ac­cord­ing to five in­de­pen­dent sources who spoke to ET, Bansal was un­happy about the qual­ity of ac­qui­si­tions made by the soft­ware-ser­vices com­pany which they cite as the rea­son for his exit. He headed the fi­nance func­tion of In­fosys’ busi­ness units and had been iden­ti­fied in the sec­ond line when V Balakr­ish­nan was CFO. Bansal be­gan his ca­reer at ABB.

Shash­wati Shankar & Ku­nal Tal­geri

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