Narayana Murthy’s return signals vacuum in Infosys’ top leadership: Industry

Venkatesh Ganesh Bangalore | Updated on March 12, 2018

N. R. Narayana Murthy

Narayana Murthy’s return has raised concerns in the industry, which interprets the move as a dearth of talent in top management and a way to buy time.

Infosys, India’s third largest software exporter, in the first week of June recalled N. R. Narayana Murthy, along with his son Rohan Murthy, as the company continued to struggle with growth in the last two years. This has raised questions around succession planning in the company, which has always maintained that it has a strong cadre of top management talent.

“The way I look at it, they don’t seem to have a strong top line of management,” says R. Vidyasagar, senior HR professional who coaches top management executives in Indian companies. Most HR professionals Business Line spoke to feel that apart from a CEO, the company lacks quality top management talent and this is being seen in the weak results posted quarter after quarter.

After S. D. Shibulal stepped into the role of CEO, the position of chief operating officer (COO) has been vacant since 2011. Murthy recently said the decision to fill this position will be taken after consulting with all the stakeholders.

leadership institute

This also raises questions around the Infosys Leadership Institute, which was launched in 2001 as an advisory body that would take strategic decisions regarding the company. The company has a dozen or so leaders in executive roles, apart from the founders. Why not pick someone from the institute rather than bring your son in wondered a CEO of a mid-sized IT company on condition of anonymity.

HR professionals and industry watchers opine that Infosys’ management view till date has centred on an India-focused workforce and say that this has to change. “Senior people at VP or AVP level are looking at other options as it puts a break in their career path,” said Kris Lakshmikanth, CEO of Head Hunters India.

Better planning needed

With all the founders having taken a shot at the CEO role, Infosys should have put in a stronger succession management plan in place. “They have not put together a clear succession plan and with Murthy bringing in his son. It muddies the waters,” said C. K. Guruprasad, Principal, Heidrick & Struggles.

However, others believe that the younger Murthy has the credentials. “As an executive assistant, it will help him to get a bird’s eye view of the company,” said Santhosh Babu, Managing Director of learning and development consultancy firm Organisation Development Alternatives.

Published on June 10, 2013

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