If Infosys is to regain its mojo, then it may need not one comeback, but two.
So after a failed experiment with dynastic succession, Infosys has gone back to being a meritocracy. That’s the opposite of what is being generally said, but I’m not trying to make a provocative statement — it really is true. A dynasty is not just a genetically pre-ordained line of succession. You could call any pre-determined succession a dynasty.
At some point in the remote past, perhaps as far back as when the company was founded, Infosys’ founders made a pact that some of them would, one after the other, become the CEO. In effect, they set up a dynasty, a line of succession that had nothing to do with merit. Basically, at the level where it arguably mattered most, its meritocracy was not much more than a PR position.
However, this is probably of lasting interest only to historians of Infosys. The more important question is what happens now. There are two parts to Infosys’ troubles. One is execution competence, which one can expect Murthy to tackle. The other is the problem of going on trying to be a high-margin outfit in a world which may have no need for such a thing.
However, in the hands of a good management team, all problems can prove to be shallow. And therein lies the question that is just not being discussed now — that of team. Those who have known this company for a long time know that it isn’t that it was first run by Murthy, then by Nilakeni but that it was run by the two together with a gradually shifting balance of responsibilities. Arguably, the worst thing that happened to Infosys was not that Murthy exited when he did but that Nilekani exited suddenly, and a full decade before he was expected to.
If Infosys has to regain its mojo again, then it might just need two comebacks.