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Ranganath Mavinakere: The man behind Infosys' successful comeback

Last updated on: October 23, 2015 13:35 IST

"There was not a single decision that I took during my second tenure without discussing it with Ranga and getting valuable input from him," says Narayana Murthy.

IMAGE: Ranganath D Mavinakere. Photograph, courtesy: Infosys
 
 

In 2013, Ranganath D Mavinakere was heading on a sabbatical to do research in finance at an Australian university.

But Infosys Founder and Chairman Emeritus N R Narayana Murthy, who was on a comeback stint to revive the company's fortunes, had other plans for him.

Murthy convinced him to defer studies, wrote to the vice-chancellor of the Queensland Institute of Technology for their acceptance and then built a crack team with Ranganath as its dean to revive Infosys.

Murthy's year-long second stint halted the slide of Infosys against peers such as Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant Technology Solutions by shedding flab, cutting costs and improving efficiency, besides improving confidence among its staff.

IMAGE: Ranganath with B G Srinivas, former Infosys president and board member. Photograph: Ranganath/Twitter
 
 

With that, Infosys was set for its first non-founder chief executive, Vishal Sikka, to lead the way.

"There was not a single decision that I took during my second tenure without discussing it with Ranga and getting valuable input from him," says Murthy.

Ranganath, along with Rohan Murty, who was more visible due to his lineage, H R Binod and Deepak Padaki drove changes that brought Infosys back in the reckoning.

"Ranga did a brilliant job of cost control," says Murthy.

"He improved the operating margin by 200 basis points in a matter of nine months. That is about Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion). He did this while working harmoniously with other senior people but taking firm decisions when necessary."

IMAGE: Vishal Sikka with N R Narayana Murthy at Infosys headquarters in Bengaluru. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI
 
 

Ranganath, who was hired by Murthy from ICICI Bank in 2000 after being spotted by friend and colleague D N Prahlad, is known for his strategy as much as for his focus on costs. 

As CEO, Sikka, a former SAP executive who is based out of Silicon Valley, articulated his vision of building Infosys into a next generation services company with automation, artificial intelligence and design thinking.

He naturally turned to Ranganath, who was based in Bengaluru, to execute the strategy.

IMAGE: Ranga did a brilliant job of cost control, says Murthy. Photograph: Amit/Wikimedia Commons
 
 

As head of strategy, Ranganath led risk management, corporate marketing and mergers and acquisitions for the firm.

Since then, Infosys has acquired three firms: Panaya, that owns automation technology software; Skava, a product firm for digital experience solutions; and Noah Consulting, that would help Infosys gain expertise in data management services for oil and gas industry.

"The core values of Infosys, built by the founders, are integrity and transparency. I just need to build on the excellent foundation and the strong finance team that has been created by my predecessors," says Ranganath, who considers T V Mohandas Pai and V Balakrishnan, the company's first two chief financial officers (CFO), as his mentors.

IMAGE: ‘The core values of Infosys, built by the founders, are integrity and transparency’ Photograph: Roshan Rao/Creative Commons
 
 

Ranganath took over as CFO of Infosys on October 12, after his predecessor, Rajiv Bansal, quit to join a startup.

Ranganath, 53, grew up in Bhadravathi, a town in Karnataka and home to the state-run Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel.

He says he still retains the values of a small town, where everyone knows everyone. Ranganath, who has an engineering degree from IIT Madras and finance and strategy degree from IIM-Ahmedabad, knows software programming, says Murthy.

"He achieved his targets on schedule, with quality, and without being unpleasant. I have no doubt he is a CFO material."

Raghu Krishnan & Bibhu Ranjan Mishra
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