Narayana Murthy, Kris Gopalakrishnan to quit executive posts; Rohan Murty too on way out

In a major break with tradition, India's No 2 IT services firm, Infosys, brought in an outsider as its CEO after keeping the top job among its co-founders ever since its inception, in 1981.

The appointment of Vishal Sikka, former Chief Technology Officer and board member of technology giant SAP AG, on Thursday, ended the much-talked-about hunt for the Chief Executive Officer.

Sikka will be inducted as a whole-time director of the board and will take over on August 1 from SD Shibulal, who will step down as CEO and Managing Director on July 31.

Scholar is special

Announcing the appointment to newspersons, Executive Chairman NR Narayana Murthy said: “In our value system, the highest honour goes to a scholar and Sikka, with his academic credentials, is special to Infosys.”

The decision to appoint Sikka was intensely debated within the company, which has seen a spate of top-level exits the past few months. However, the nominations committee, after meeting several candidates, shortlisted four and finally zeroed in on Sikka.

Lead Independent Director KV Kamath, who is the Chairman of the Nominations and Governance Committee, did not disclose the names of the candidates who did not make the cut but said their interviews were conducted in London and Mumbai. The committee evaluated and benchmarked both internal and external candidates over a two-month period.

Plans to amaze

Sikka, who comes in at a time when Infosys lags peers TCS and Cognizant in revenue growth, said there will be no immediate change in strategy and no disruptions in the work done before.

“I will learn about the company, figure out improvements in the way software can be delivered and put together an amazing plan,” he added.

While a lot of analysts had questioned Murthy’s strategy of giving founder-members a shot at the CEO’s position, Murthy defended his stand saying that it was the best choice under the circumstances.

On the issue of clients not being satisfied with Infosys over the last couple of years, Murthy asserted that he had met 40 clients and all of them had expressed confidence with the work carried out by Infosys. They felt that there had been no deterioration in the quality of service and that it has not impacted relationships, he added.

Other changes

Alongside Sikka’s appointment, there are other changes at Infosys.

The board elevated UB Pravin Rao, President and whole-time director, to the position of Chief Operating Officer.

Narayana Murthy and Executive Vice-Chairman Kris Gopalakrishnan will both step down from the board on June 14, when the company’s annual general meeting is to be held.

Narayana Murthy will, however, continue to be associated with the company as Chairman Emeritus. His executive office will be disbanded from June 14 and Murthy’s son, Rohan Murty, who serves as his Executive Assistant, will also exit the company on that date.

Srinath Batni, whole-time director, will step down from the board on July 31.

(This article was published on June 12, 2014)
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