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What Infosys must remember before hiring a new CEO

April 15, 2014 11:29 IST

What Infosys must remember before hiring a new CEO

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The new CEO of Infosys must be a figure easily recognised by the industry globally and should be able to easily access other global industry and client leaders. 

Infosys, India's second largest software services firm, has initiated a process to find a successor to S D Shibulal, the current CEO and a co-founder of the firm.

This is a crucial step for Infosys' future since the new CEO will be the first non-founder to take over the leadership of the company. 

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Image: S D Shibulal, CEO of Infosys, attends the company's quarterly earnings at their headquarters in Bengaluru.
Photographs: Reuters

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Infosys is unique in many ways and it is the founders who have made it so. Under the leadership of the first two, N R Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani, the company had thrived; however, it fell behind under the leadership of the next two founders. 

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Photographs: Reuters

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What Infosys must remember before hiring a new CEO

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It can be said with the benefit of hindsight that the firm should have initiated the process of looking at outsiders for the top job earlier, after Mr Nilekani's departure, so that Mr Murthy would not have had to come back to steady the ship - a task in which he has made commendable progress. 

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Image: Nandan Nilekani (left) with Bill Gates
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

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But now that the delayed process is under way, every effort must go into making it a success.  

As a firm with a clear governance system in place, Infosys can be expected to go through a sensible process.

But that is different from conducting the exercise in the right spirit and preventing a foregone conclusion from being merely rubber-stamped. 

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: CEO , Infosys

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For that, the first mental block that has to be overcome is the temptation to restrict the choice to insiders.  Murthy has already said that "all of us would like one of these two people [presidents] to become the next leader, but that's for the nominations committee to decide". 

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Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff
Tags: Murthy , CEO

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Therefore, everything depends on the signals that the nominations committee, which is undertaking the search with expert outside assistance, gets from people who ultimately matter.  

The second mental block that has to be overcome is the temptation not to widen the choice to include not only outsiders but also non-Indian outsiders.

Infosys is now run by Indians and is staffed almost entirely by Indians - but is majority foreign-owned.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: CEO

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What Infosys must remember before hiring a new CEO

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There is every need for Infosys, which earns most of its revenue from outside India, to become a truly global company - the only way to do so is to have a global management team. 

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Image: Infosys' earlier board of directors.
Photographs: Courtesy, Infosys
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There cannot be a restriction on where the leader of this team can come from.

There is a strong political sentiment in the United States, the largest market for Indian software firms, to create more jobs in America; tighter visa norms are being contemplated to restrict the number of non-Americans who can be inducted for onshore work. 

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Image: Infosys office
Photographs: Reuters

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So there is a need to send the right signals to the US public and legislators.

Apart from this, going by Infosys' recent performance, the firm had become a bit complacent and overly sure of itself. It needs to be shaken up a little.

Murthy has already done that by returning to the helm. 

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Murthy , CEO , US

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The task must now be carried forward by the next CEO. He or she must be a figure easily recognised by the industry globally and should be able to easily access other global industry and client leaders. It shouldn't matter what passport he or she holds.

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Photographs: Reuters
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