Narayana Murthy will be able to show results within the next 3-4 quarters and his return is the best thing that could have happened to Infosys now, says T. V. Mohandas Pai, former CFO and head of human resources of Infosys.
“I don’t believe there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the company. What the company went through was a crisis of leadership,” said Mr. Pai in an interview to The Hindu.
Mr. Pai is reputed to be close to Mr. Murthy, and he was a key part of the core executive team that piloted the company during its heady growth phase of the late nineties and early part of the last decade. He stepped down as CFO in 2006, and left the company in 2011.
“If he has to acquire companies to build revenue, he will do it. He will push people, and if he has to let go some people to fine-tune the organisation, he will do that too,” Mr. Pai said of Mr. Murthy, pointing out that he was “ruthless in executing his vision in all matters except the founders.”
“I’ve worked with him for 17 years, and I know him very well. His only weakness is his loyalty to his founders and that has let him down,” Mr. Pai said. He gives Mr. Murthy a 90 per cent chance of succeeding in turning around Infosys, attributing the 10 per cent “doubt” to the chance that Mr. Murthy might tilt in favour of his son or his co-founders. Mr. Pai also pointed out that the policy of passing the baton amongst the promoters was flawed.
“I think the next generation should have been put into place as leaders and the founders should have taken a back seat when Murthy left.”
Asked if it would be awkward at the top level of management now, Mr. Pai was categorical: “When Narayana Murthy is there, there is only one boss, and that is Narayana Murthy. That is very clear. Except when he was the non-executive chairman, there has always been only one boss.”
On whether the present top executive set-up will step down ahead of their terms, Mr Pai said: “That is for the board to decide. I strongly feel that the board should take accountability for what has happened in the last two years.”
Defending the entry of Rohan Murthy into the company, he said that in a desperate situation one cannot stand on niceties. “You have to solve the problem and if that demands a little bit of compromise in what is not core, then you do it. Murthy has said he wants his son to help him because he has been out of touch. An executive assistant’s post may be one of power but is not one of control. It is also not client-facing and is not business leading. Don’t read too much into it.”
Mr. Pai is sure that he will not return to Infosys. “What is the point of my going back? The problem with the company is not one of leaders. They have excellent people in Ashok Vemuri, B.G. Srinivas and Bala. Why do they need someone like me? If someone like me goes there, I will be overriding their ambition making them feel inadequate and they will all leave. It’s a bad idea for me to go back,” he said.
He refused to comment when specifically asked if Mr. Murthy had sounded him out on a return.
“I will categorically state that in 2-3 years Mr. Murthy should walk into the sunset, along with his son so that his legacy remains. He has taken on an unbelievable burden at the age of 68. That’s why you must admire him and empower him,” he said.