You played a significant role in the bringing the next generation leaders on the Executive Council (the apex body that runs the operations of Infosys). Will your leaving have any impact on that process?
The project of bringing in younger leaders on the EC and giving them more responsibility will continue, it is now part of the formal structure of the organisation. The reason I pushed for the concept was that you have to give these leaders an enterprise view of the business. So far all they had was the business unit view. When we discuss thee business - we look at it from the enterprise view but they would look at it from their unit’s view. So that was to be expanded. Plus we needed to start handing over responsibility to the next generation leaders and this was a good platform to induct some of them. The Board needed to look at the next generation leaders to understand who among them could be the next CEO or COO.
Has it worked?
I would say it works fairly well, but these things are fairly complex. For people who are still used to thinking about their own business units to start thinking of the organisation is a complex learning process. But I think the new leaders have internalised the process. The EC structure will be expanded in time and more leaders will be inducted. Some of them might even have to step down because it is still linked to performance of the individual. All that will be part of the restructuring that is going on and will be clear once the process is completed.
With three people leaving the Infosys Board (K. Dinesh, Pai and N.R.N. Murthy) will there be new faces on the Infosys Board?
My personal view is that the Board needs to be smaller; we are a very large Board. 15 people on it. Part of it is historical - because there were seven internal members, there had to be an equal number of independent directors too. But in my view it should be more compact, about seven to nine. I have discussed this with the Board too. When the Board is too large, it means many more discussions, more handling etc. I personally think there should be not more than 2-3 people internally on it. It has pros and cons. There are a lot of people internally who have the aspiration to be on the Board and it is never easy to manage that. In this company there is also a lot of precedence to that. But the number of internal people will now come down to three, it is up to the Board to decide whether they want more people from inside or not.
Why did you resign?
I have been on the enterprise side for 17 years, so even though I’m not old in age I’m certainly old in experience. I strongly believe that we need to bring in the next generation of leaders now to take over our responsibilities. I could have stayed on as a Board member but there are people inside who have the aspiration to be on the Board and my staying on would have blocked that.
Plus when the Board draws up succession planning - they would have to consider me for the CEO and COO role. I don’t have aspirations to be the CEO, so if I had turned it down it would not have been right. If they didn’t offer it to me then it would be highly awkward for me.
So are you leaving because of your principles?
I wanted to see to a corporation which was run by younger leaders when the founders were still around. It has been my dream to see a non-founder run the organisation before all the founders retire. I have been saying this to the Board as well. I could have stayed on till 60, but I felt that was not right. My leaving now will accelerate the process for someone younger to take over my role and perhaps be in the running for CEO/COO.
There are four reasons why I am stepping down -
1. My personal desire to step down and make way for younger leaders.
2. Murthy is retiring in August, and it has not to do with my personal equation with Murthy. But when he leaves it will bring in a new management and a new era and I feel that other leaders should be part of that era.
3. My desire to stand for my principles. I strongly believe that every so often there should be a change in the organisation and that new blood should be inducted.
4. I have completed five years in my present role, I came to this new role (HR) five years ago and it is the right time to go.
It’s a combination of all the factors. Everything came together at the right time.
But Kris and Shibu are still here and they are older to you?
I can’t speak for anyone else, I stand for my principles. There is a view that handing over the corporation to someone younger carries a risk, and I don’t deny that. But 4-5 years later when the founders retire, this will be a bigger corporation and then the risk will be greater. The Board has to therefore start the process now and the person who comes in can then have a longer tenure.
When did you first tell N.R.N. Murthy?