Narayana Murthy to steer Infosys as chairman again (Roundup)

Bangalore, June 1 (IANS) India’s iconic figure N.R. Narayana Murthy Saturday returned to IT bellwether Infosys Ltd as executive chairman to steer its fortunes in challenging times.

“This will be my second innings at the company. It is exciting to be back though somewhat a new challenge. It is a unique opportunity to add value to the company again,” Murthy said hours after the board appointed him to the top post he retired from 22 months ago and became chairman emeritus.

The dramatic announcement took the industry and the stock market by surprise as the $7.4-billion Infosys lost its long status as India’s second largest global software major to the US-based but Indian-run Cognizant, which posted $7.66 billion revenue in calendar year 2012.

“It is not my strategy (to come back) but that of the board and the company led by (chief executive) S.D. Shibulal. I decided to accept the request of the board after I discussed with the family,” Murthy told reporters at a hurriedly convened press meet in his sprawling green campus on the city’s outskirts.

During his five-year term, Murthy will draw a token compensation of Re.1 per year in his second avatar at the helm.

Admitting that the 32-year-old company was going through challenging times, Murthy said there was need to be optimistic as it had overcome tougher and bigger challenges in the past.

“We have built this company through hard work, sacrifice, intelligence and execution from a small-room apartment at Pune in 1981 to global software major with about 150,000 employees, presence in 30 countries across the world and got listed on Nasdaq/NYSE,” Murthy nostalgically recalled.

In the present context, Murthy said the need of the day was to focus on employees, take quick, tough and firm decisions and communicate them with clarity and speed to execute them to exceed expectations of its customers and investors.

“A few weeks ago (May 4), outgoing chairman K.V. Kamath met me and requested to return to Infosys as executive chairman. I pondered over the issue carefully. I have spent most of my adult life with a single-minded focus on the company and worked with the same passion and enthusiasm till the day I retired in August 2011 as I did on the first day in 1981,” Murthy pointed out.

Reiterating that he decided to suspend his retirement and several works-in-progress in which he had been involved during the last two years, Murthy said his parental attachment to the company and the board’s keenness to have him back made him accept Kamath’s request to return as executive chairman.

“This calling was sudden, unexpected, and most unusual. But, then, Infosys is my middle child. Therefore, I have put aside my plans-in-progress and accepted this responsibility,” Murthy said in statement later.

The co-founder, however, requested the board to permit him to make his son Rohan Murthy as his executive assistant.

“My request to Kamath and the board was that I be allowed to bring Rohan to assist me during my tenure. Given his credentials, Rohan would add value to me and Infosys,” Murthy said.

The board agreed to Murthy’s request on Rohan, who will also receive a token compensation of Re.1 per year as his father.

“I have requested Rohan to take sabbatical from Harvard and join my office to assist me. His charter is to be my executive assistant and not to aspire to become the next CEO (chief executive),” Murthy clarified.

Observing that his prior experience would help him to add value to the company, Murthy said he would lead the board and assist the chief executive (Shibulal) in implementing the strategy with speed and alacrity.

In a regulatory filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the company said the incumbent chairman (Kamath) would step down from the board and would be an independent director from Saturday.

“Murthy’s election as a director (for five years) will be placed for the consideration of the shareholders in the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Bangalore June 15,” Infosys said in the filing.

The decision to bring Murthy back into the executive leadership was taken by the company’s board at a meeting earlier in the day.

“The board has taken this step keeping in view the challenges the industry and the company faces and in the interest of all stakeholders who have asked for strengthening the executive leadership during this challenging time,” Kamath said in a statement later.

In addition to being executive chairman, Murthy will focus on large projects in application, development and management, IT infrastructure, remote infrastructure management and guide the company’s 3.0 version strategy.

“It is always good to invite someone like him (Murthy) keeping in mind the interests of internal (employees) and external shareholders (investors). Institution comes first and age comes later in a particular context,” Kamath added.

Co-founder S. Gopalakrishnan has been re-designated as executive vice-chairman and will focus on key client relationships and broader industry issues.

S.D. Shibulal will continue as the chief executive and managing director.

Like Murthy, co-founders Gopalakrishnan and Shibulal will also draw a compensation of Re.1 per year.

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