It is not easy to take up immense responsibilities as inheritors of high-achiever dads who run publicly-listed companies. And more so when these companies happen to be in high-technology areas where ambitious, well-educated engineers and managers need to be herded.
But there is no doubt that the R factor is dominating discussions on the future of three of India’s top information technology firms — Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies.
Rohan Murty, Rishad Premji and Roshni Nadar are raising their profiles in the software companies founded by their fathers.
Insights pieced together from conversations with insiders and management consultants reveal that these scions who are media shy and understated in their styles are doing critical work, even if their style is not flamboyant.
Rohan Murty (he spells his surname without the ‘h’) is now the eyes and ears of his father, assisting him in taking key decisions as executive assistant to the man who came back from retirement to revive the sagging fortunes of Infosys as executive chairman.
Rishad Premji is being groomed for a board slot . Roshni Nadar is already charged with running “Brand HCL” and taking it to the next level.
Smitha Sarma Ranganathan, who teaches in Bangalore’s IBS Business School, said blood tends to run thicker than merit sometimes, but the challenge was immense.
“When the baton gets passed on to the next most eligible person for the top job, it takes a humongous amount of effort to fill in the leader’s shoes both in the eyes of internal and external stakeholders — particularly, if the head has been larger than life like in the case of NRN or Premji,,” she said.
At Infosys, the family spirit remains.
The story goes that it was the founder’s wife Sudha who suggested that the son could be a Man Friday with an understated title.
“What position he will hold in Infosys, that is not for me to decide...who knows he may change his mind, he may do something else in India,” Murthy said cryptically on Friday.
There are those who think these scions are good enough to run the show as leadership need not mean micro-management.
“It’s more about pride and maintaining the company’s momentum,” said an IT industry veteran.
Some say similar thinking patterns and bonding are good for leadership.
“Azim Premji and his son Rishad Premji are both nature lovers and go for long walks with senior executives,” said an industry executive.
When the elder Murthy fretted about top-level talent leaving Infosys, Rohan is said to have reassured his father at the dinner table.
“Look for young talent, even the Indian cricket captain is looking for fresh faces. And we will continue to create leaders,” he told the elder Murthy.
The elders may have wisdom, but the young have confidence.