There is a lump-in-the-throat moment when you realise that there will be an Infosys without NR Narayana Murthy, as was announced last week.
The leading co-founder of Infosys has even declined to take the “Chairman Emeritus” title for the software bellwether he founded. Only a year ago, he was executive chairman, son in tow in a controversial stopgap arrangement, trying to resurrect his corporate baby in a second coming.
Vishal Sikka, the new CEO, has taken the baton with just the right ingredients that Murthy would love: Simple Indian roots, global exposure, futuristic technological vision, a good quarterly performance to start with and a congenial appeal to its army of engineers, who number about 165,000.
I often ask myself what is the larger significance of Narayana Murthy for India. It may be this: through the 1970s and 1980s, India’s general public had questioned successful corporate figures because they thrived on political connections and the Licence Permit Raj.
Murthy’s iconic status changed that as he batted for success that was legal, ethical, global and socially conscious.
Infosys is also the only company in the current Sensex (30-share benchmark) whose origins lie neither in a foreign founder, nor in the public sector or in any traditional business family.
And its shares are widely held in the truest sense of the term. By not installing his son as successor, and by foregoing the title of Chairman Emeritus, Murthy has proved himself to be arguably the biggest icon of good, clean first-generation entrepreneurship and shareholder democracy in post-reform India.