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Murthy returns to save struggling Infosys

IT major Infosys on Saturday, somewhat dramatically, reappointed co-founder NR Narayana Murthy as executive chairman two years after he had retired from the company. Vivek Sinha reports.

business Updated: Jun 02, 2013 20:38 IST
Vivek Sinha
Vivek Sinha
Hindustan Times

IT major Infosys on Saturday, somewhat dramatically, reappointed co-founder NR Narayana Murthy as executive chairman two years after he had retired from the company.

His brief: revive Infosys, which has been struggling with weak revenue growth, falling market share and sagging employee morale.

He'll be assisted by son Rohan.

"This is, in some sense, like a second innings," Murthy, who co-founded Infosys in 1981 with six others with Rs. 10,000, told the media in Bangalore.

"I did not, even in my wildest of dreams, imagine I'd be back in an executive capacity to Infosys."

He added that the company's chairman KV Kamath, who was appointed independent director with immediate effect, had, on May 4, "invited" him to come back to Infosys and "add value" in a challenging situation.

The appointments will have to be ratified by the Infosys board, which meets on June 15.

Since March 2011, Infosys shareholders have lost about Rs. 47,600 crore in notional wealth as the company's lacklustre performance told on its share price.

As on May 31, rival TCS was valued at Rs. 2.93 lakh crore, more than double Infosys's market capitalisation of Rs. 1.38 lakh crore.

"This calling was sudden, unexpected, and most unusual. But, then, Infosys is my middle child," he said.

File photo of NR Narayana Murthy and KV Kamath in Bangalore. AFP

Over the last couple of months, there have been whispers that Murthy would be returning to an executive role in Infosys.

Insiders said he has again been taking an active interest in the affairs of the company since March-April.

Though Murthy took care to say the "need of the day is to add value to whatever (CEO) SD Shibulal is doing", several analysts said his return, under pressure from Indian and foreign institutional shareholders, has put a question mark over the current management.

Later, Murthy said the management could review the Infosys 3.0 vision authored by the Shibulal-led team and bring about changes if the situation warranted.

There were indications that the Infosys board would put in place a mechanism to select a new CEO shortly. Shibulal's term ends in 2015 and the company wants to ensure a smooth succession.

Within the company, Ashok Vemuri, global head of manufacturing and engineering services, BG Srinivas, head of Europe and global financial services, and V Balakrishnan, member of the board and head of Infosys BPO, are seen as possible contenders for the job.

But outside candidates could also be considered.

The decision to bring Murthy back was welcomed by former board member TV Mohandas Pai, Nasscom president Som Mittal and several other leading industrialists and executives.

In recent years, Infosys, a pale shadow of its former self, has lost the tag of being the second-largest Indian IT company to Cognizant and has trailed the industry in growth.

"The board has taken this step (to bring back Murthy) keeping in mind the challenges that the technology industry and the company faces…," Kamath said.

"The final trigger for his return in an executive role came in after April 12 when company projected a revenue growth below the industry average," said a senior company executive requesting anonymity.

First Published: Jun 01, 2013 11:18 IST