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Narayana Murthy's biggest regret: Quitting Infosys in 2014

July 18, 2017 16:15 IST

A lot of my decisions are based on idealism, says N R Narayana Murthy

Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy has said his biggest regret in life is the decision to leave the company in 2014 - after his second stint — and hand over the reins to a non-founder management and board.

“Well, you know a lot of my founder colleagues told me not to leave Infosys in 2014 and to stay a few years. Generally, I find that I am a very emotional person. A lot of my decisions are based on idealism. Probably, I should have listened to them,” Murthy told CNBC-TV18 news channel.

In June 2013, Murthy came out from retirement of two years to take charge of the software services firm as S D Shibulal, a co-founder and then chief executive officer, struggled to implement his vision of Infosys 3.0 and grow the business in an uncertain environment.

Murthy was helped by son Rohan, who joined as his executive assistant, to revamp the organisation. He focused on productivity and rationalising costs, beside reviving relationships with clients.

The nearly one-year stint also led to the exit of eight top executives, including V Balakrishnan and Ashok Vemuri, contenders to succeed Shibulal as CEO.

In the process, Murthy readied the firm to bring in an outsider as CEO.

A global hunt zeroed on Vishal Sikka, a former SAP board member, to head the company. Murthy and Rohan decided to leave Infosys, as also Shibulal and vice-chairman S Gopalakrishnan, the last two of the original seven founders.

Murthy had then insisted that he had played his role in the company, which he started in 1981 and built as India’s second-largest software exporter.

Murthy did not respond to e-mails sent by Business Standard for his comment.

While Sikka was settling down, Infosys saw its chairman K V Kamath quit to join the New Development Bank.

R Seshasayee was appointed Infosys chairman in June 2015, transitioning the firm to a board and management completely run by non-founders.

Over the past year, Murthy raised concerns over governance issues in the company, the core being a hefty severance  package offered to former chief financial officer Rajiv Bansal and general counsel David Kennedy.

He also demanded the current board chairman step down over “governance lapses”.

While Seshasayee has maintained the board was the trustee of all shareholders, the company obliged Murthy’s requests, including appointing former Infosys colleague D N Prahlad on the company’s board and elevating another board member, Ravi Venkatesan, as a co-chair.

It also changed policies to assert the company would comply with disclosure norms and be more transparent.

At a recent annual general meeting, Infosys shareholders backed Sikka’s vision of taking the company forward, but also asked it to buy peace with Murthy.

Photograph: Reuters

Ayan Pramanik in Bengaluru
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