Vishal Sikka had been losing ground in Infosys for a while

Vishal Sikka, who tried to ingrain the concept of design thinking into the traditional IT services culture at Infosys Ltd in his three-year tenure, indicated that his exit from the company was on account of the continued criticism of his functioning from within and outside the company.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru | Updated: August 18, 2017 12:33 pm
Vishal Sikka resigns, Vishal Sikka, Infosys, Infosys CEO resigns Vishal Sikka resigned as Managing Director and CEO of Infosys on Friday after a three-year tenure. (Express Photo/File)

Infosys Ltd CEO Vishal Sikka, who quit the company on Friday after a three-year tenure, citing “personal attacks” has quoted a 2005 commencement speech made at Sikka’s alma mater Stanford University by Apple’s Steve Jobs in the course of a mail to Infosys employees about his exit.

“Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become,” Sikka said quoting Jobs in his letter.

“I now need to move forward, and return to an environment of respect, trust and empowerment, where I can take on new lofty challenges, as can each of you. As Steve Jobs said, I must follow my heart and my intuition, build my buildings, give my givings, and do something else,’’ he stated.

Sikka, who tried to ingrain the concept of design thinking into the traditional IT services culture at Infosys Ltd in his three-year tenure, indicated that his exit from the company was on account of the continued criticism of his functioning from within and outside the company.

Though he did not directly name Infosys Ltd founder and patriarch N R Narayana Murthy for launching an attack over the past 18 months against his functioning and decision making, as well as that of the Infosys board of directors, Sikka has indicated that he was starting to feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny. Read: Vishal Sikka resigns as MD and CEO of Infosys. Click here.

“After much contemplation I have decided to leave because the distractions, the very public noise around us, have created an untenable atmosphere. I deeply believe in creating value in an atmosphere of freedom, trust and empowerment,” he told employees in his final mail as CEO.

Though a popular figure among the nearly two lakh employees of Infosys for breathing freshness into the functioning of the company and for engaging employees constructively, Sikka over the last 18 months came under severe indirect attack by a group of co-founders led by N R Narayana Murthy who had stepped aside three years ago to allow the company to be run by professionals.

Vishal Sikka resigns, Vishal Sikka, Infosys, Infosys CEO resigns Vishal Sikka, left, with Naranyana Murthy. (PTI Photo/File)

Sikka has been under attack over a huge pay hike he managed to wrangle from the board at the end of his first year in the company, huge exit packages for two top executives, his recruitment of nearly a dozen former associates from SAP at high salaries on to the Infosys senior management team, and for acquisitions like that of an Israeli company called Panaya involving alleged conflict of interest with Sikka’s former employers. There have also been questions raised discretely over the US-based CEO’s extravagance and travels around the world in a company jet. Also read: Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka’s resignation letter; Full text

With a group of co-founders led by Narayana Murthy, in their roles as key shareholders, constantly sniping at Sikka and the Infosys management, Infosys Ltd has over the past months attempted to address various issues raised by Murthy and others through various measures including the creation of a co-chairman of the choice of the founders for the board, but the group of co-founders have not been fully satisfied with the developments inside Infosys.

Last month, Narayana Murthy demanded that the company make public full details of a probe conducted by an independent agency into the Panaya acquisition although the company had told the board at the end of the 2017 financial year that no wrongdoing had been found by the probe.

Murthy has also repeatedly stated that he is not in favour of the top management receiving salaries that are hugely disproportionate to the salaries of the mass of employees of the company. He also recently hinted that Sikka would have made a better CTO than a CEO. Murthy also recently regretted his total exit from the company and his decision to give up the reins completely.

Employees within Infosys Ltd, speaking off the record, say that murmurs of mismanagement at the company at the cost of employees have been swirling around for a while under Sikka’s tenure. There was growing buzz that an old personal values based order would be re-established, sources said.

Vishal Sikka resigns, Vishal Sikka, Infosys, Infosys CEO resigns Employees of Infosys at their campus in the Electronic City area in Bangalore. (Reuters Photo/File)

There has been indication of Sikka losing ground in the company over the past few months with the exit of several of his former associates whom he had brought to Infosys Ltd along with him from SAP.

Despite all the murmurs surrounding him, Sikka managed to steady Infosys Ltd which was going through a choppy phase ahead of his arrival three years ago.

“It is clear to me that despite our successes over the last three years, and the powerful seeds of innovation that we have sown, I cannot carry out my job as CEO and continue to create value, while also constantly defending against unrelenting, baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks,’’ the exiting CEO said in his mail to employees. “We have grown our revenues, from $2.13B in Q1FY15 to $2.65B this past Q1. We did so while keeping a strong focus on margins, closing this past quarter at 24.1% operating margin, beating some competitors for the first time in many years, and improving against most in our industry,’’ he said.

“Perhaps more importantly, our revenue per employee has grown for six quarters in a row. Our attrition has fallen, from 23.4% in Q1FY15 to 16.9% this past Q1, and high performer attrition is hovering at or below the single-digit threshold for a while now,’’ he stated in the employee mail.

Sikka’s resignation has come a day ahead of an Infosys AGM to decide on a Rs 13000-crore share buyback to utilise excess cash in the reserves of the company.

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