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Monday, July 23, 2018

Sikka, the Kshatriya

Infosys CEO’s assertion of his caste only hurts his case and the company’s image.

By: Editorial | Updated: February 15, 2017 12:08:22 am

N. R. Narayana Murthy may claim that there is no battle between the founders of Infosys and its chairman and board, but Sikka palat gaya.

And in his declaration of war, CEO Vishal Sikka chose to announce that “I am a Kshatriya warrior, I am here to fight” in an interview to

The issue of Kshatriyahood as a suitable qualification for leading arguably India’s most widely respected IT company does, of course, need closer examination. If a caste qualification is, indeed, necessary, shouldn’t Sikka replace himself with a Baniya? Many of the Khatris of Punjab, like Sikka, have moved to white-collar professions. Perhaps they should have moved to the army, or at the very least, adopt a combative attitude at work. And then there’s the problem of Parashuram — the (mythical) sixth avatar of Vishnu who killed all the Kshatriyas as revenge for the death of his mother, forcing Kshatriya women to marry Brahmins to produce a new line of “warriors” — move over post-truth, say hello to post-myth.

Infosys has been the face of compassionate capitalism in the story of post-liberalisation India. One of the “issues” flagged by Narayana Murthy was about that image and ethos being diluted by the salary that Sikka receives. Any response to that must focus on the company’s performance under Sikka’s leadership, not on his caste. Infosys, like so many other corporate giants, counts among its employees and shareholders people of various castes, and the CEO’s statement could make many of them uncomfortable. It is unlikely that in his previous stint at SAP, the German tech firm, Sikka would have used his caste as evidence of his ability to weather opposition. He should apply the same standard to Infosys. After all, Murthy has not chosen to throw down the gauntlet with a response about his Brahmin ancestry and allusions to Chanakya.

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