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‘Infosys gave me power to believe in oneself’

Dinesh was among a group of engineers who left Patni Computers in the early 1980s

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | Bangalore | April 17, 2011 3:12:45 am

On Friday at Infosys Technologies Ltd,at the announcement of the exit of two stalwarts from the company’s board,CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan,55,was dwelling long on a question on how the company would fill the big shoes of TV Mohandas Pai,one of the public faces of Infosys,when he leaves on June 11.

When he finished,the company’s co-founder K Dinesh,the second stalwart leaving it,piped up and said “Kris,even I will be around till June 11’’ — almost worried the CEO had forgotten him — setting off peals of laughter in the Infosys conference room.

The genial,amiable 57-year-old Dinesh despite being among a group of four original founders still at Infosys,is little known outside of the corporate world.

Dinesh was among a group of engineers who left Patni Computers in the early 1980s to the piper tune of entrepreneurship played by NR Narayana Murthy. He joined Murthy,Kris Gopalakrishnan,Nandan Nilekani,SD Shibulal,NS Raghavan and Ashok Arora in creating Infosys.

With Arora having the quit the company in 1989 and Raghavan retired in 2000,Dinesh who has been on the board since 1985,will be the first co-founder who has stayed the course with India’s second largest software company to lose out on the CEO baton that has been ritually passed on from one co-founder to the other since Murthy.

Though he has cited health concerns,part of the reason for Dinesh’s exit announcement despite having three years of service left at Infosys is believed to be the closing of the door to the CEO’s post with SD Shibulal,55,strongly favoured to take over when Kris Gopalakrishnan,also 55,is tipped to be pushed further upstairs on the board later this year when Murthy leaves the board at the age of 65.

“It’s a very emotional decision for me after living at Infosys for 30 years. Who I am today is because of Infosys,’’ said Dinesh who is currently director and head,communication design group,information systems and quality and productivity at the company.

Assessing the reasons behind the exits the company’s CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan said,“In Dinesh’s case I felt that he wanted less stress in the future.’’ His colleague Mohandas Pai,52,however suggested that the Infosys co-founder was leaving for similar reasons as his – to make way for a younger leadership. Though he is known to walk up to 10 km at a good speed,sources in Infosys said that Dinesh had recently suffered heart problems and was finding it difficult to handle work pressure.

Dinesh and his family through their stock holdings in Infosys are valued at Rs 4,300 crore. The Infosys co-founder himself holds 1.44 crore shares which garnered a dividend of Rs 86 crore last fiscal.

“I studied in a Kannada medium. My English,even today,may not be very great. But I learned a lot of things and what Infosys gave me was the power to do what is required by believing in oneself,’’ he said.

Originally a masters degree holder in Mathematics from the Bangalore University,Dinesh got a doctorate in literature from the Karnataka State Open University in 2006 at the age of 52. He became a co-founder of Infosys in 1981 after working in four different government jobs and at Patni.

He says Murthy initially did not make him an offer to join Patni. “Murthy later told me why he had not initially invited me. He was thinking why would a guy from Bangalore come and join in Mumbai leaving a government job in those difficult days,’’ says Dinesh.

At the nascent Infosys all founders brought different skills. Murthy,Shibulal and Kris were focused on systems software,K Dinesh and Ashok Arora were key project managers.

“Dinesh has been one of the co-founders of the company. The company has turned to him whenever there were any complex projects to be undertaken. He has handled each of his responsibilities with extraordinary diligence,quality and professionalism,’’ Murthy said on Friday.

From 1981 to 1990 Dinesh managed Infosys software projects in the US. He has also subsequently been involved in worldwide software development initiatives,headed Infosys Australia and also the Human Resources Development and Education and Research functions at the company.

“There is no discord in my exit. We have all been together. I have stayed a Kris’ home in the US and eaten the food they served when we could not afford to have separate houses. I have eaten so many times at Shibu’s house,’’ he said.

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