Infosys CEO race hots up, six candidates enter the last lap

  • Vivek Sinha and Manu P Toms, Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Bangalore
  • Updated: May 09, 2014 00:17 IST

Who will be the next CEO of Infosys? There is an intense race on with its board under pressure to appoint an outsider to run the Bangalore-based software giant, but this also involves the tricky issue of managing the aspirations of long-performing in-house candidates who are also in the fray.

High-level company sources told HT that the race to head India's No.2 IT services exporter now includes globally accomplished candidates including Salil Parekh from Capgemini and Vishal Sikka, who recently quit as executive board member from German corporate software maker SAP.

A senior Infosys executive who is privy to the developments said that the company's investors have put "tremendous pressure" on the board to name an outsider to run the company which has recently lagged peers like Tata Consultancy Services and HCL Technologies.

Sikka, former head of SAP Products, Francisco D'Souza, CEO of industry rival Cognizant; Parekh, CEO of Application Services at European IT consulting firm Capgemini; and Shankar Annaswamy, former MD of IBM India are among probable candidates from outside Infosys who are in the race. Executive presidents of Infosys, BG Srinivas and UB Pravin Rao, are the insiders in the fray.

In its three-decade history, Infosys has thus far been headed only by its founders. Infosys began its CEO search after the current chief executive SD Shibulal, expressed a desire to step down earlier than the scheduled time in April 2015.

The company has conducted an assessment of 12 internal candidates with the assistance of Development Dimensions International (DDI), a company specializing in corporate executive evaluations. "This is part of a process and may be used for succession planning below the CEO level as well," an industry insider said.

Infosys offered no comment on the issue, which is a talking point in Bangalore, where the company is held in iconic awe.

"The investors feel that an outsider will bring in a fresh perspective to the company's functioning that has been struggling to keep pace up with its competitors," said senior executive at Infosys, adding that Sikka and Parekh have emerged as favourites owing to their respective experience in software products and the European market.

These two areas may be key in future growth strategies. Company Insider Srinivas is also a long-time Europe expert.

"Though Sikka is the preferred choice yet he faces stiff resistance from one of the influential board members," an Infosys source said without divulging further details.

Last June, the company had to recall key founder NR Narayana Murthy from his retirement to once again to lead the company as executive chairman. His main task is to fix a successor for Shibulal in place.

Market pressures are mounting on Infosys as its growth rate has been lagging industry peers. Earlier this week, European brokerage UBS downgraded the rating on Infosys stock.

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