Murthy's resurrection and the need for speed

Murthy's resurrection and the need for speed

For a man who did not believe in comebacks, the idea of fathering his ‘middle child’, as he called the company he co-founded, was too good to resist. N R Narayana Murthy who returned to the fold of Infosys Ltd on Saturday as its Executive Chairman, after his earlier stint as Chairman Emeritus, described his re-entry as a “second innings”. He touched on many aspects of his new role, including the policy of co-founders exiting the executive role at 66, the future of his venture capital firm Catamaran, and his son’s role in the team. Excerpts from an interaction:

Now that you are back, what happens to Infosys’ stated policy that co-founders retiring at 65 will not return?

If the co-founders are asked (to join back), they can decide what they want. If the board accepts they will come, otherwise they won’t. As for my joining back, you should ask Mr K V Kamath and his board as to why they had invited me. I am not the person to answer that question.

Will there be a change of policy as far as the co-founders joining back after their exit?

If the company deems it necessary to invite anyone, not just a co-founder but anyone who has retired and is a free agent, he or she has the right to say – ‘these are the terms under which I can be effective and add value to the company’. At that point in time, the board has to take a decision if it is acceptable or not.

As someone who has retired, you may choose to take Re 1 as salary, but why your son Rohan, who still has his best years ahead of him?

I think he is an idealistic young man and Infosys is the middle child of our family (not just me) and so they all have an enormous emotional attachment to the company. Therefore, he feels that it is not for money that he will come in, but for satisfying that emotional connect.

Will there be a strategic change in Infosys following your return? Will there be more of Infosys 3.0 going ahead?

It is too early for me to comment on Infosys strategy 3.0 and as I collect more data, I will certainly be participating on what has worked and what hasn’t (so far) with Infosys 3.0. I will be actively participating in such discussions.

Since you are tracking the market and, with the powers to decide, will there be some drastic and radical decisions?

Infosys has always operated as a well-coordinated team. We are like an orchestra; like a symphony. Therefore, every one of us will have to play our role to our satisfaction. So, like I said, after studying the situation, collecting data, I would certainly participate in wider discussions on what has not worked and what needs to be changed.

How will your new role at Infosys affect the other positions you have been holding?

I used to be part of many companies. (Now) I have resigned from HSBC, from Unilever; I completed my term at Cornell, Stanford and Wharton (business school). Some of them I am not associated now. I need to look at what other outside responsibilities I can continue and what I cannot.

Why is the team from Catamaran being drafted into Infosys?

The fastest way for me to start working is to bring back the team from Catamaran (the venture capital firm) and add value to Infosys. I explained to the board that for the past two to three years I have been used to working with these people (at Catamaran). In my retirement I decided to do things that gave me maximum joy. Therefore, I told them that I will be most effective if I can have a team I am used to and the board was kind enough to agree.

Will there be more members of Catamaran who will join your team at Infosys?

It has not been decided yet, but I guess there will be at least one more person who will be joining me.  

Will Rohan be an employee of Infosys?

He will be an employee of Infosys and function as my executive assistant. His role will be to make me more effective. Collection of data, analysis... those are the kinds of things (Rohan) will be doing. Essentially, he will assist me on how best I can add value.

What will be Rohan’s role in the new company? Will there now be a precedent being set (of founders bringing back their wards)?

Up to 65 years, I spent all my time at Infosys. After that I did what brought me joy with people whom I am comfortable. That was my prerogative as a private citizen. Therefore at Catamaran, I created a small team one of whom was my son Rohan. When the company asked me to come back, I explained to them that if I were to be effective, a part of that team — with whom I enjoyed working — should be brought to Infosys and it so happens that my son is one of the members of that team.

How big is Catamaran currently? Now that you have taken a part of the Catamaran’s team with you, how will Catamaran fare?

There are six or seven of them still there and of course, Catamaran still has a very good team and will continue. Some of the projects that are work in progress will slow down and some may not move forward. That is the sacrifice we have to make, because at the end of the day Infosys is more important to us and we have to make whatever sacrifices necessary for it.

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