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Murthy silences his critics with Sikka's appointment

June 13, 2014 13:24 IST

Murthy silences his critics with Sikka's appointment

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Surabhi Agarwal

Infosys co-founder has shown that he has not lost his acumen. But what lies ahead for Infosys?

Murthy's back. That's what I thought when I read the early morning press note by Infosys. But, hasn’t the company appointed a new chief executive officer (CEO) and its co-founder N R Narayana Murthy hanging up his boots by the end of this week?

Yes, that’s right. Don't get confused. 

The content of Thursday morning’s press note defines a clear timeline for transition. Infosys has not only announced a new CEO but has also said all its founders would relinquish executive roles very soon.

The succession strategy has an unmistakable stamp of Murthy’s sharp management and leadership acumen - a trait he has been regarded for all this while.

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Image: Newly appointed Infosys CEO & MD, Vishal Sikka.
Photographs: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI
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The exception was, of course, the last few months when people doubted his ability to turn around the company due to the bloodshed that followed after his return last year. So, in a sense, it is a comeback for a man and a firm who and which was almost written off. 

So, what does the announcement mean for the troubled company? Many good things in my opinion, apart from the obvious one, which is bringing in stability. 

By announcing the appointment of former SAP executive Vishal Sikka, an outsider, as the chief executive of the company, Murthy has killed the conception that only founders or insiders can succeed at the firm.

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Image: Infosys Executive Chairman N R Narayana Murthy with newly appointed CEO & MD Vishal Sikka arrives to attend a press conference at Infosys headquarters in Bengaluru.
Photographs: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI
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Along with Sikka’s appointment, he has announced that he is retiring (though for a second time).

Now, critics can question that Murthy had promised to stay until he turns around the company (for which he had given himself three years).

So, has he left the job unfinished? Not at all. In fact, he has addressed the root cause of the decline of the company - leadership - and has now left it for the new CEO to complete the task.

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Image: Newly appointed Infosys Chief Executive Officer Vishal Sikka speaks during a news conference at the company's headquarters.
Photographs: Reuters

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This will also silence critics who said that until Murthy was there at Infosys, any new CEO will only be titular and would not really have a free way to run the company.

Moreover, Sikka can now restructure Infosys in his own way or devise new strategies to bring it back. Plus, in the last one year Murthy has done enough to identify the pain points at Infosys and even addressed some of them.

Over the last few months, the positives had already started trickling in. Sikka is smart enough to pick the cues from where Murthy left.

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Photographs: Reuters

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By announcing a clear timeline for the exit of S D Shibulal and S Gopalakrishnan (Kris) and himself, Murthy has signalled the exit of all the founders of the company, not to forget that of his son, Rohan, often speculated (rather feared) to be the next chief of Infosys. 

By elevating U B Pravin Rao as the chief operating officer and 12 others as executive vice-presidents, the company has tried to reward loyalty in an environment where they originally created several of CEO hopefuls only to disappoint them later.

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Image: S D Shibulal
Photographs: Reuters

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So, is it going to be all hunky-dory at the erstwhile bellwether of the $100-billion information technology industry? It will be naïve to assume that Infy will be back in the race from tomorrow.

On the other hand, it will be prudent to brace up for some more rejigs and exits after Sikka takes over (as he may have his own vision of how to run the company).

However, Thursday’s announcement is definitely a good start. Murthy has not quite lost his acumen, after all.


Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Sikka , Murthy

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