India’s second largest IT company Infosys on Friday announced its board member and HR Director Mohandas Pai, who was once tipped to be the Chief Operating Officer, will step down in June this year.
Mr. Pai said he was demitting office to provide an opportunity to a new set of people to lead the firm and bring it amongst the top three global players.
“We have brought this company, from the time when it was USD 10 million in 1994, to a USD 6 billion company, globally dominating the top 10. It’s time to go to the top three in the next five years.”
Mr. Pai has resigned from the board of directors as well as from the company itself.
“And for that I think, we need a different set of people because we can do it, but leadership has to renew itself,” Mr. Pai told the CNBC in an interview.
Mr. Pai joined Infosys in 1994 and has served as a Member of the Board since May 2000. He was its Chief Financial Officer from 1994 to 2006.
Mr. Pai is the second senior level executive quitting Infosys after Nandan Nilekani. Mr. Nilekani since then has joined the Unique Identification Authority of India as its Chairman.
“People in the system have to understand that they too will get a shot at being leaders when they are still energetic and still passionate about the business and so I think it was the right time for me to step down, so others can come up.”
In 2006, Mr. Pai voluntarily demitted the office of CFO to lead efforts in the areas of Human Resources and Education and Research.
“I stepped down in 2006 from the CFO position and now I handled this (HR Director). I handled a large portfolio and now I think it’s time for others to come up,” he said.
Mr. Pai will be relieved of his services after the company’s annual general meeting on June 11, 2011.
Asked if there were other reasons for his exit, Mr. Pai told the channel: “I have no unfulfilled ambition because being the CEO of this company was not my aspiration.
“My aspiration was to participate in the management and help build a company which sets standards for everybody to follow and which is widely accepted.”
Acknowledging Mr. Pai’s contribution, Infosys chief mentor N.R. Naryana Murthy said, “Mohan has been an early adopter and key anchor builder of Infosys. We know he is taking the painful decision since he has much bigger projects on the horizon — nation building.”
Talking about his future plans, Mr. Pai said, “I’m sad because for 17 years, this (Infosys) has been my life. I will go back to being a shareholder. I will ask questions on everyone’s behalf.”
“About 30-35 per cent of the time I will spend in the corporate world. I will probably join 2-3 boards which are systematically important for this country”, Mr. Pai said.
“I will spend 30-35 per cent of the time on education. I want to help reform the higher education system and also spend time with family,” he added.
Infosys, which has been facing stiff competition from domestic rival Tata Consultancy and newer firms like Cognizant has been undergoing restructuring for the last few years.
“There is a regeneration of leadership and we must do it ahead of time. I think it’s very important to do it ahead of time because you must prepare for the future rather than be faced with the calamity at some point in time and leadership is most critical for companies,” Mr. Pai said.
He added that the new leadership would help the firm in facing competition.
“We are entering a new journey, a new transformation. And for that we require to change many things. We are changing for the last two years and we will change much more rapidly to fight the battle,” Mr. Pai said.
Company Chairman Murthy is retiring in August this year and the Board of Directors will meet on April 30, 2011 to finalise the leadership succession plans.
Earlier, reports had suggested that Infosys COO S.D. Shibulal was likely to take over as the CEO as the current Chief Kris Gopalakrishnan was likely to become the Chairman after Mr. Murthy’s retirement. There were also speculations about Mr. Pai becoming the COO.
Infosys has also formed a nominations committee, comprising Professor Jeffery S. Lehman, Deepak M. Satwalekar (former MD and CEO of HDFC Standard Life Insurance) and K.V. Kamath (non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of ICICI Bank). The committee is responsible for succession planning for the roles of chairman, CEO, COO and CFO of the company.