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Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

Last updated on: April 21, 2011 08:13 IST

Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

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One of Infosys's stalwarts, Mohandas Pai took a tough decision to leave the company he served for 17 years while speculation was rife that he was a front-runner for the chief operating officer's post.

In 17 years, Infosys has lost three generations of leaders, Mohandas told television channel, NDTV.

Mohandas brushed aside rumours that say he quit as he did not get the opportunity to be the chief executive officer of the company.

He said it was not a sudden decision and one must leave when others feel 'you should stay on'. "I am quite emotionally devastated," said Pai after his announcement.

Pai, who leaves Infosys on June 11, said that his dream of making Infosys the world's number one IT firm remains unfulfilled.

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Image: Infosys HR director Mohandas Pai who has announced his decision to quit the IT major.

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Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

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"I was the voice Infosys because I started off in 1994 when N R Narayana Murthy was the CEO, Nandan (Nilekani) was COO and I was CFO (chief financial officer). We were a team. Then Nandan left, Murthy is leaving, I am leaving. It is time for a change," he said.

Mohandas said when Narayana Murthy asked him if he wanted to be COO or CEO, he said, 'No'.

Describing his relationship with Murthy as that of a father and a son, an emotional Pai said: "I lost my father around the time I joined Infosys...he treated me like a son."

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Image: Mohandas Pai.

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 "It has been a fantastic journey. He has been great leader. He has been a great mentor," Pai said speaking in glowing terms about Narayana Murthy.

"I am not joining politics", he said. "I am politically neutral ... my ideology is of an open society under a very liberal democracy," said Pai, who never hesitated to be part of civil society voice on various issues.

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Image: British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during his visit at the Infosys campus.
Photographs: Reuters
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Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

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Pai believes that Infosys needs him.

"The point is all the leaders have to make sure that this company carries on and that means that if you are in leadership position after certain period of time, you have to vacate the chair for others to come."

 "Like (former India cricket captain and master batsman) Sunil Gavaskar, it is best to go when all of you (media) want to talk to me and ask why are you going? Does not Infosys need you?" said Pai.

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Image: Infosys.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

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"Mohan has been an early adopter and key anchor builder of Infosys...We know he is taking the painful decision since he has much bigger projects on the horizon - nation building," Narayana Murthy said.

In an interview with NDTV, Pai says he had never eyed the post of the CEO.

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Image: Narayana Murthy.

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"I keep telling people for the last many interviews I had no aspiration to be CEO or run this company. My trip in life has been creating a group of people who can do great things when they work with me. That is not my aspiration -- if I wanted to be CEO, I would have stepped up and said 'I want to be CEO'."

According to Mohandas Pai, companies must have a clear and transparent succession plan in place.

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Image: L-R: Nandan Nilekani, S Gopalakrishnan, N R Narayana Murthy, K Dinesh, N S Raghavan and Shibulal.
Photographs: Courtesy, Infosys.
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Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

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"When you choose a CEO, you should have a very transparent process and you choose the best person for the job whatever it is," Pai said.

"In corporate India, the whole idea of CEO succession requires more transparency" he told NDTV.

He highlighted the need for the company to look at young and capable leaders.

There are over a 100 people who can be CEOs of small and medium companies, he said.

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Image: Setback for Infosys.

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Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

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 "We should not lose the next generation too because they may feel that they may not get a shot at sitting in the seat. But the fact remains it has got nothing to do with my decision to step down," Mohandai Pai said.

What worries him is how Infosys has become very conservative.

Experience should be just one of the many conditions while selecting a person for a top job, he said.

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Image: Infosys CEO S Gopalakrishnan and colleagues at the Nasdaq listing.

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"In my view, the determinant would be what kind of energy, focus and thought you bring to change the corporation for the next five years. We have seen in the last three years, competition overtake us in some areas. We have seen the unique position we had decline. We have seen maybe conservatism in the corporation," he told NDTV.

Pointing out the need for the young generation to takeover and bring in fresh changes, he citied the example of GE.

"There is tremendous value created, but now it is too late, and that company is just floundering. That's why there has to be constant renewal," he said about GE.

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Image: Infosys, Bengaluru.

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Why Mohandas Pai quit Infosys

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On his future plans Pai said, "I want to spend 30 per cent of my time with corporate world, I will join boards, I have not made my mind which company, but whatever I join should have systemic influence on India. I am not going to work full time."

Pai now wants to keep his workaholic tag aside.

"About 30 per cent of my time I want to spend with my wife and children," he added. He said the IT industry was seeing a change of old guard. "The IT industry is maturing... it is seeing an exit of a set of people who were pioneers who built this industry."

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Image: Mohandas Pai.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Mohandas joined Infosys in 1994 and has served as a member of the board since May 2000.

He was the chief financial officer from 1994 to 2006. In 2006, he voluntarily demitted the office of CFO to lead efforts in the areas of human resources and education and research.

As the CFO, he played a strategic role in transforming Infosys into one of the world's most respected and widely known software services companies, says Infosys.


Image: Infosys.

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