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Who will be next CEO? Infosys should be open to outsiders

The latest resignation in Infosys of head of Americas Ashok Vemuri, has put the spotlight back on competing aspirations of top-level executives while seeming to reduce the choice of the next CEO into a two-horse race. Manu P Toms reports.

india Updated: Sep 02, 2013 01:59 IST
Manu P Toms

The latest high-profile resignation in tech bellwether Infosys, of board member and head of Americas Ashok Vemuri, has put the spotlight back on competing aspirations of top-level executives in India’s second largest IT company while seeming to reduce the choice of the next CEO into a two-horse race.

Of the old guard said to be in the race to run the company, only former CFO and India head V Balakrishnan -- who is said to have the blessings of chairman NR Narayana Murthy -- and financial services head BG Srinivas remain on the rolls.

Given the current mood, a few more exits in the lead up to the appointment of the new CEO cannot be ruled out, Infosys watchers say.

Vemuri is expected to join as CEO of mid-sized infotech rival iGATE Corp. Murthy said in a statement that Vemuri quit because he had “wanted to be the CEO of a company as early as possible” while he felt that there was only a one-third chance of his making it to the top at Infosys. This indicates that the race is down to the other two.

Two years ago, the sudden resignation of human resource chief Mohandas Pai, which coincided with the elevation of SD Shibulal as Infosys’ chief executive officer, had given a glimpse into the leadership challenges within the company. Critics say the founding members are too strongly entrenched to encourage the ambitions of those who joined later.

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Pai’s departure seemed to have opened the floodgates at the top levels, as a series of exits followed. Co-founder K Dinesh, consulting and system integration head Shaji Farooq, head of client services Balaji Yellavalli and sales head Subhash Dhar were among those who left the company, sending out the message all was not well with the outsourcing giant, whose phenomenal journey is often described as synonymous with the growth of post-liberalisation India.

As Infosys lagged peers in growth, founder Narayana Murthy returned as executive chairman two years after his retirement, and also brought in his son Rohan as executive assistant, stirring speculation on whether the son may be groomed for the top job – though Murthy has categorically denied any such move.