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Vishal Sikka gone, Infosys founders set stage for Nandan Nilekani to lead firm

Significantly, Nandan 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.

Written by Sandeep Singh | New Delhi | Updated: August 24, 2017 6:52 am
Infosys, Vishal Sikka resigns, nandan nilekani, Vishal Sikka, nilekani infosys, NR Narayana Murthy, Indian Express Nandan Nilekani is considered neutral in Murthy-board battle, also most credible face in IT industry and with govt. (Source: Express File)

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.

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  1. R
    Rodya
    Aug 24, 2017 at 10:46 am
    This is surprising ... why are people getting hyper at the departure of the CEO of an outsourcing firm. What is the big deal here ? Infosys is just another outsourcing company making their money our of cheap labour in India. Media and folks discussing the matter are showing as if it is Apple's CEO who is going to be replaced. What is the challenge in deploying armies of cheap engineers to maintenance kind of work. Its is mediocre company, doing mediocre work, led by mediocre but super greedy people. It has nothing to do with Indian pride as is being shown. No one should surprise even if it closes tomorrow. The engineers will be grabbed by the acquiring firm. And that is not uncommon in IT industry.
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      Eve Fernandez
      Aug 24, 2017 at 1:51 pm
      Yes. a Rs 25000pm ry company. All mudane work in the west pushed to India. A sort of white collared slavery.
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    2. Paapaarao B.A palukooru
      Aug 24, 2017 at 9:42 am
      It is a welcome move considering the re tion of Mr Nandan.Mr Murthy is right in questioning as no one can see the company diluting the sk.tandards which Mr Murthy and other co-founders built the empire brick by bric
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        Rodya
        Aug 24, 2017 at 10:52 am
        Empire ! .. This is bit hard to digest. Empire of exploitation of cheap labour. And what 'standards' are you talking about ? Haven't they settled the cheating charges in US out of court. They duped clients, the engineers, everyone and you are talking about Murthy as if he is some semi God. Have you seen the code written by Infosys engineers. And I am not even blaming the engineers, but rather the culture of mediocrity. Don't worry too much have a glass of water. Take deep breath and a good sleep in the night.
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        TIHAEwale
        Aug 24, 2017 at 9:20 am
        Dr. Vishal Sikka had been treated fairly by NRN. yes Sikka took over when Infosys was not delivering as per investors expectations in comparison to TCS even as NRN's second stint as CEO was largely forgettable one except for his efforts to bring in a new CEO from outside. Dr. Sikka academic record and credentials at SAP was a big plus and strategic skills with right vision in tune with Infosys tagline "Powered by Intellect and Driven by Value. Sikka's skills and intelligence had upticks but for values. Dr. Sikka was an hit with staff and investors with vision of $20 bln organisation by 2020 but Dr. Sikka could not live upto them. Awarding CFO Ravi Bansal a huge severance pay and Infosys boards refusal to disclose the contents from an external law firm was a stick long and strong enough for NRN to thrash Dr. Sikka and board members blue and black in public and in June 2017 the board scrapped the $20 bln target and this resulted in support of vital ins utional supporters.
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          rajan
          Aug 24, 2017 at 8:49 am
          Return of the old guard but quite a competent one.
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            Ramana
            Aug 24, 2017 at 8:46 am
            We thought Infosys was trying to redeem itself after Sikka's exit. But trying to bring in Nandan Nilekani, the Congress man? This man chose to join the Congress party after all the scams and disastrous rule of the UPA government. No wonder, Mr Murthy too praised Sonia Gandhi as clean at that time!
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              rajan
              Aug 24, 2017 at 8:52 am
              Don't view everything politically. Isn't he a competent hand? Jumping to conclusions without insight is inadvisable, more so when one has one's opinions coloured by political affiliations.
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