Is Infosys Again Headless?

Less than a month ago, Vishal Sikka resigned as CEO and MD of India’s second-largest software company Infosys. Since then the board appointed co-founder Nandan Nilekani as non-Executive Director and Pravin Rao as interim CEO and MD.

Just to recollect in 2014, when Sikka was hired, the company was desperately looking for somebody who can drive the company’s technology vision . And Sikka had in fact played an instrumental role in bringing in the digital transformation with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence and automation into the system.

Since 2007, Infosys was missing a technology visionary like Sikka. The company was more into coders, but was facing competition owing to digital upstarts. The traditional IT businesses needed the much required transformation and Sikka was shaping that well. Infosys at that juncture was looking for a head who could not only drive business, but could drive technology vision too.

But with Sikka’s exit, things go back to square one. Now the task ahead of the search panel, set up to oversee CEO selection and board re-composition, is to look out for someone who holds a big-picture of technology, and has an appetite to take bold decisions.

At the same time, the panel might find it difficult to rope in any external member. As per industry experts, the external members would be now apprehensive of joining the company as Sikka was also an external member, but it was Murthy’s constant interference that led to his exit.

The board had blamed NR Narayana Murthy for the exit of Sikka. Not only that, Sikka’s exit was followed by the exit of Board Chairman R Seshasayee, Co-Chairman Ravi Venkatesan and two Directors Jeffery Lehman and John Etchemandy that showed resentment against Infosys veteran Murthy.

Under Vishal Sikka’s tenure, Infosys’ annual revenues grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 11 percent over the three-year period that Sikka was CEO. Sikka ‘s inclination towards AI, automation was palpable in his resignation letter too where he mentioned  that “a recent demonstration of AI capability where a bot built by the researchers at OpenAI defeated the world’s best players of DOTA2, a multiplayer online video game.” He also wrote: “the force to automate routine, even advanced, activities is an unstoppable and exponential one’’.

According to Thomas George, SVP & Head, CMR: “Infosys’ future still seems to be in doldrums as it’s still clouded that who is actually going to replace Vishal Sikka. While there are chances that Pravin Rao would be elevated to the post. But at the same time, the organization would find it difficult to rope in fresh blood or external members into the system. Sikka’s tenure saw infusion of AI, automation. With his exit, all these initiatives may take a backseat.”

 

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