Conservatism, status quo pegging back Infosys: Pai

IT giants outgoing Human Resource chief denies aspiring for CEO post

Conservatism, status quo pegging back Infosys: Pai

These words of praise on Tuesday came from Infosys board member and director of the company's Human Resource, education and research operations, TV Mohandas Pai. It doesn't perhaps require Pai to say all these nice things about a company which has been the most visible face of the country's booming IT sector as it is used to getting that kind of compliments from across the globe for well over a decade.

Pai, who announced his decision to leave the company last Friday amid speculation that he was doing so after knowing he would not be considered for the top executive post of CEO, however, said many things that have never been part of any public perception about Infosys.

In the course of a 10-minute interview to NDTV on Tuesday, Pai said the company was in danger of losing its growth momentum. “In the last three years, competition has overtaken us in some areas; we have declined from a unique position (and) have seen conservatism in the corporation.”

Much as Pai acknowledged the contribution of the founders in the Infosys growth over the years, he said the time has come for them to step aside and make way for new talent to sustain its growth over the next five to ten years. He seriously doubted if this was happening in the company, right now.

The problem with Infosys is that its management has tended to be status quo oriented, he said. “If some people have come together to set up a corporation and over a period of time they create tremendous value…they (then) start defending the value. That is the time when you must step aside and let a new generation of people to come, start with that base and go further three to five times,” he said.

He emphasised that the only force that ensures success for any corporation is constant renewal. Those who remain for a long time in management positions "start defending status quo" and tend to be conservative. But “to grow, we have to change the status quo, destroy the status quo. To do this, you need fresh ideas and fresh blood,” he said.

Big companies like GE and Microsoft have floundered or stagnated because they tend to be conservative in the face of tremendous successes, he felt.

According to Pai, it all boils down to choosing the right people who do not look at yesterday but plan for tomorrow. Does all this mean he was expressing his disappointment at not being considered for the CEO or the COO positions in the company? Pai insists that he was just following his ideas for the company's future. He said he had made up his mind to quit because he wanted to make way for young blood.

At no point in the interview did Pai say anything for or against his colleague Shibulal who is widely tipped to take over from Kris Gopalakrishnan as the next CEO. But there were enough hints about his disagreement over top appointments.

He said his disagreement with company mentor N R Narayana Murthy was about the appointment of a CEO.

“I only joined issues with Murthy just because he spoke about technical terms…I have a valid point of view too. When you choose a CEO, choose somebody who should not be experienced. It (the criterion) should be what he is going to do for the next five years, because, life is about tomorrow and not about yesterday. Yesterday’s meal is digested, but tomorrow’s meal is important.”

As a company that has public stake, he said, Infy’s governance and appointment processes should be very transparent. Though it is the prerogative of the company’s board to choose CEO and COO, in Corporate India the whole idea of CEO’s succession requires more transparency, he asserted. Unfortunately, he said, in Infosys, experience and longevity are taking precedence over merit in top appointments, he said. He said Infy’s future lies in inducting fresh and energetic persons to leadership positions.

He said there were many talented people in the company for future challenges and named a few of them - Srinivas, Ashok, Bala, Swaminathan, Prasad, Sadagopal, Manish and Anand.

Parting shots

*To destroy the status quo, fresh blood needs to be injected
*Denies having aspired to be CEO or to run Infosys
*Unhappy with the succession process in the company
*The idea of CEO succession requires more transparency
*The need of the hour is fresh ideas, new things

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