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Kamath reveals his plans for Infosys

Last updated on: May 4, 2011 11:24 IST

Kamath reveals his plans for Infosys

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Bibhu Ranjan Mishra and Pradeesh Chandran

K V Kamath says he can never step into Narayana Murthy's rather large shoes, but would do his best to ensure Infosys continues to adhere to the highest standards of corporate governance.

A day after being named its non-executive chairman, Kamath, 63, who has the same responsibility at ICICI Bank, spoke to Bibhu Ranjan Mishra & Pradeesh Chandran on his plan for one of India's largest software services companies.

Edited excerpts:

In an interview with Business Standard in January, you denied any possibility of becoming Infosys chairman. What made you change your mind in just three months?

That, I thought, was the right approach because I didn't know till yesterday that this is going to happen. Internally, the selection process started 16 months ago.

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Image: KV Kamath says he can never step into Narayana Murthy's shoes.
Photographs: Reuters
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We looked at the various models and took a decision that was the most appropriate for Infosys at this point of time.

So, there was a whole evolution that happened during all these days. It would have wrong on my part to make any other statement before the decision was taken.

Isn't it a complicated structure at the top - chair, co-chair, MD & CEO? Why is it the most appropriate one at this point?

It is appropriate in today's context. You have leaders in Infosys who are professionals; who set up this company and are slowly going to hand over responsibilities to younger professionals as they go along.

The board feels at this crucial juncture, we need the CEO to strengthen customer, employee and investor-connect.

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Image: Kamath says he will try to implement Murthy's vision.
Photographs: Reuters
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The executive co-chair will also look after certain key responsibilities such as mentoring a whole lot of people who will become the leaders of tomorrow. In this context, this was the most appropriate structure.

What exactly will be your role?

I am very much humbled that this company has asked me to chair the board.

My role has been defined to look after the corporate governance and ensure proper planning to find the right people in the organisation who can take the responsibilities required for growth.

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Image: Kamath says he will look after corporate governance.
Photographs: Reuters
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You are known for your adherence to corporate governance. In recent days, some of Infosys' board members have openly criticised the board and the management for failure to have a transparent selection process for the CEO. How will you solve the issue?

All I can say is that there were very clear internal processes, not instituted a day or two days ago.

The board and the nomination committee know what they were doing. Whatever was being done was thought through over a very long period of time.

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Image: Kamath says there are clear processes at Infosys.
Photographs: Reuters
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There was an engagement process within the board and within the nominations committee.

Will Infosys' gain be ICICI's loss? You will be able to spend that much less time at the bank.

I will have to spend just 30 days in a year on work related to Infosys. ICICI will require slightly more time because of the committee meetings, etc.

Don't forget, I am only a non-executive chairman (laughs).

You brought in a lot of aggression into ICICI Bank. Will you bring that to Infosys as well, given that the performance has been indifferent of late?

I see a lot of positive aggression in Infosys. There is no need to tinker with that.


Image: Kamath sees lots of positive aggression at Infosys.
Photographs: Reuters
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Kamath reveals his plans for Infosys

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In any case, we cannot look at such a company as a slice in time.

You are the first outsider in a top position in Infosys and one without any technology background. Do you see any problem there?

I will have only a light touch on the controls. We will all work together. There are people with knowledge at the executive level and there are people with specialist knowledge at the non-executive level.

I don't see any problem. In any case, the board has known me long enough.

What are Infosys' top priorities?

It's time for execution of the vision that has already been articulated by the management - getting into new geographies, setting up new verticals, getting into new areas like cloud, new applications.

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Image: British Prime Minister David Cameron at Infosys campus.
Photographs: Reuters
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Kamath reveals his plans for Infosys

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All of us know the importance of execution. I see the vision being implemented in 18 months.

How will you step into Mr Murthy's rather large shoes, specially when Infosys' current growth rate is disappointing?

One can never step into Murthy's shoes. I am just stepping into a position called chair of the board. Only he could have created such an enterprise by investing his intellect.

If you leave that aside, the task isn't that complicated. As a non-executive chair, my job is to look after governance practices - making sure there is a strong leadership for the future and that strategic plans outlined by the management are executed.

This is a limited role the chair plays.

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Image: Kamath says his role is not that complicated.
Photographs: Reuters
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The company has increased the retirement age of chairman (not applicable to co-founders) from 65 to 70. Don't you think a similar change in policy is required to allow the family members of the founders to join as employees?

I look at the founders as professionals. In the course of time, if we find a professional and it so happens that he/she is related to a founder, I don't have any issue personally.

To me, it is a merit-driven company, driven by professionals. Everything else is secondary.

Will Infosys have a COO (Chief Operating Officer), with Shibulal set to vacate the position soon?

At this point in time, the COO position has not been articulated in the structure.

Going forward, if the management feels the COO position is required, the board will consider.


Image: Kamath says Infosys is a merit-driven company.
Photographs: Reuters
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