Nandan Nilekani photographed during an interview at his office in New Delhi. (Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • “I’m very confident we will have a large pool of internal and external candidates. In fact in the last few hours, we have received a few emails. We will also look at Infosys alumni for the search,” said Nilekani at an investors’ call.

Newly appointed Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani said on Friday that he would stay at the company “as long as it takes” to get it back on track.

“I will stay as long as necessary. I will not put a time-frame on this. I do hope it happens as fast as possible,” said Nilekani, adding that he would step down the day he felt he was not needed anymore at Infosys.

In an investors’ call in which 600 people participated, Nilekani indicated that India’s second largest software services firm would embark on a global hunt for its next chief executive officer.

Nilekani said Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw would be heading the nominations and remunerations committee (NRC) at Infosys after the resignation of Jeffrey Sean Lehman.

Nilekani also said he had been named non-executive chairman unanimously by the entire board on Thursday and that he enjoyed the full backing of N R Narayana Murthy and the other Infosys founders.

Nilekani co-founded Infosys with Murthy and five others and returns to the company a decade after he stepped down as chief executive officer.

As Mint reported on Thursday evening, Nilekani highlighted that his two most important near-term priorities would be to hunt for Infosys’s next CEO and also help re-constitute the company’s board, which witnessed the departures of four board members following Nilekani’s appointment. R Seshasayee stepped down as chairman on Thursday, while other independent directors Lehman and John Etchemendy also resigned. Vishal Sikka, who stepped down as CEO last week, also resigned as executive vice chairman, while Ravi Venkatesan stepped down as co-chairman, but retained his seat on the board as an independent director.

“We are moving quickly to put in place an architecture to move us forward, including getting the new CEO, and a board structure...On the CEO search, we are going to cast a very wide net. I’m very confident we will have a large pool of internal and external candidates. In fact, in the last few hours, we have received a few emails. We will also look at Infosys alumni for the search,” said Nilekani.

“This decision (to appoint me chairman) happened last night at 7:30-8:00 when I had informal discussion with the board. I also had informal discussion with senior management,” added Nilekani. “I have been very pleasantly surprised and I have received good support. I was invited on the board unanimously.”

Nilekani said Infosys would form a small “strategic group” of key executives, which will include executives such as chief financial officer (CFO) MD Ranganath, merger and acquisitions head Deepak Padaki, deputy chief operating officer (COO) Ravi Kumar S and Mohit Joshi to fix the company’s near-term and long-term strategy.

“One of my goals is that Infosys, Murthy and the founders have a healthy relationship. I want Infosys to be a board-managed company, with a board that will practice the highest standards of corporate governance,” said Nilekani, adding that he and the board would be taking some “quick decisions” over the next few days.

Nilekani said there would be no disruption to business due to the events of last week and that he had already reached out to some customers.

“With customers, I have already had a couple of interactions in the last few hours. There will be no disruption at all when it comes to business,” said Nilekani. “Software, data and machine learning is fundamentally transforming the industry. We are seeing Netflix in media. Tesla in automobiles. Ola and Uber are fundamentally changing the auto industry. My feeling is that there is tremendous opportunity for firms like Infosys.”

He added, “One thing I have learnt from my time earlier at Infosys and at Aadhar, and now is that if you are able to deliver, everything else is insignificant.”

Nilekani said Infosys would also decide on whether to disclose the complete report of the investigation into the company’s acquisition of Panaya — an issue that has been at the heart of the tussle between the founders and the company’s previous board.

“As I have said, I will look into it all this. I am committed to all corporate governance standards,” said Nilekani, when asked if the Panaya report will be made public.

The appointment of Nilekani, a significant victory for co-founder N R Narayana Murthy in his fight against the previous board of Infosys, has soothed the nerves of the company’s largest investors, who have been spooked by the events of the past week, during which Sikka stepped down as CEO.

Shares of Infosys closed 2.01 per cent higher at Rs 912.50 on Thursday on the BSE, while the Sensex edged up 0.09 per cent to 31,596.06 points.

(Mint)

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