WITHIN days of Vishal Sikka’s resignation as MD and CEO of Infosys Ltd, the firm’s founders and former senior officials are learnt to have persuaded co-founder Nandan Nilekani to head India’s second-largest IT company. The founders and officials are also said to have planned a major rejig of the board that may include at least three new appointments from the founders’ side, alongside Nilekani.
Speaking to The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity, a source close to the development said that Nilekani, along with some other founders, may soon step out on a road-show to restore investor confidence globally in the wake of the controversial churn at the top of the company.
Significantly, Nilekani had kept himself out of the boardroom battle between co-founder N R Narayana Murthy and the management and board of Infosys that played out over the last six months, often spilling into the public.
This, the source said, is behind Narayana Murthy’s reasoning that Nilekani, despite being a co-founder, is considered neutral. He is also seen as one the most credible faces in the Indian IT industry and, as the architect of Aadhaar, has widespread support within the current political establishment as well. The source said that Murthy feels that Nilekani’s entry will help restore investor confidence in the company.
Another source close to the development said that Nilekani was not in favour of entering the company “until a few days ago.” However, things changed rapidly and Infosys founders have always come together for the company as “they go by what is right for the company,” the source said. An email sent to Nilekani asking if he had agreed to spearhead Infosys at the request of other co-founders and former officials of Infosys, went unanswered.
While Narayana Murthy went public with his criticism of the current management and the board raising issues of corporate governance, a source close to the founders said they were unhappy with Sikka because he did not deliver on “certain conditions” laid down at the time of his appointment. Among these, the source said, was that Sikka was asked to induct Narayana Murthy’s son Rohan Murty on the board of the company and also appoint certain founders and former officials as advisors.
“Some founders and former senior officials at Infosys wanted Rohan Murty to be inducted into the company and this had been communicated to Sikka at the time of his appointment,” said the source. While an e-mail sent to Sikka seeking his comment on the issue did not elicit any response, a source close to Sikka said: “No conditions were set by the founders at the time of his appointment as Infosys MD and CEO in 2014.”
When Narayana Murthy re-entered Infosys as its chairman in 2013, he brought in Rohan Murty as his executive assistant, a decision that attracted wide criticism since it went against the principle enunciated by the founders that that no family member of a founder can come to work at Infosys. Rohan Murty as EA to his father was seen by many as his backdoor entry into the company. An email sent to Narayana Murthy asking about his plans to induct Rohan Murty along with other questions on bringing in Nilekani did not receive any response.