It was only over the last 10 days that there were serious murmurs about Vishal Sikka — Infosys’s rockstar CEO, as described by a company founder — hanging up his boots. But none who know N R Narayana Murthy expected an outcome any different than this. “Mr Murthy quoting independent directors as having said Sikka ‘is not CEO material but CTO material’ suggests loss of confidence. It seems he bought into their assessment. Hitherto, there was comfort within the company’s leadership team that Mr Murthy’s battle was essentially with the current board,” said a senior Infosys executive of two decades.
Over the last six months, Sikka remained distracted with questions being raised publicly by Murthy and through anonymous letters on issues that would generally be seen as pertaining to a large company’s normal operations. “The board did back the CEO every time but it also felt necessary to indulge the promoters. Perhaps, it faltered here,” another senior management executive at Infosys said.
Sikka did not expect the criticism to abate and realized the constraints under which the board functioned. Over-hyping the transformation that Sikka was attempting, setting lofty topline goals ($20 billion by 2020), high salaries and severance packages, and infusing an “American culture,” were some of the broad issues incongruous with the founders’ style of functioning, said a consultant from an independent firm, who worked closely with the current management to smoothen its relationship with the promoters. During the last three years, Sikka did bring about a different work culture, including flexible working hours. But the way he spends, the areas he wants to invest in, all have been very different from the traditional Infoscion’s mindset, said an analyst, who has joined him in roadshows abroad.
With Sikka’s exit, however, analysts say, Infosys also stares at the prospect of veering away from future computing technologies like robotics and AI. “Sikka is a rare IT services company CEO with a strong computer science research and product background and he brought this thinking to Infosys Ltd. With his exit it is unlikely that the company will find another CEO in the same mould. It will probably be a person who will focus on margins and operating costs to make the company profitable,’’ a senior Infosys employee said.
Source: Indian Express