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Hunt for next Infosys chief executive intensifies

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-06-2014 Anirban Sen

Bangalore: Infosys Ltd has stepped up efforts to find external candidates to take over as chief executive officer (CEO) as scrutiny from impatient investors increased after president B.G. Srinivas suddenly left last week.

Executives who have been interviewed include Salil Parekh of Capgemini and Vishal Sikka, former global product head at SAP AG. At least half a dozen additional candidates will be interviewed in the next few weeks, two people familiar with the matter said, requesting anonymity.

Infosys is unlikely to announce a new CEO before the annual general meeting of shareholders on 14 June. The process could take another few months, the people said.

“Infosys is without doubt facing a leadership crisis. The challenge for Murthy has been to put in a brand new succession plan in place ever since he came back because that didn’t quite go according to plan under the last two CEOs,” said one of the people.

Executive search firm Egon Zehnder has been asked to prepare a list of external candidates by the end of next week. At least a dozen company executives have been screened, including Sandeep Dadlani, Mohit Joshi and Manish Tandon, the people said.

Srinivas’s exit has increased the likelihood of the company naming an external candidate as its first non-founder CEO.

Meanwhile, calls to bring back co-founder and former CEO Nandan Nilekani have intensified. Two other people familiar with the development, including one close to Nilekani, said he has no plans of returning to Infosys, despite having been “informally approached”.

The larger concern for Infosys is that if an external candidate is chosen, it may trigger further exits from the company, experts say.

“Infosys is facing a bit of a Hobson’s Choice. While an outsider may bring in fresh thinking to the organization, he will take time to figure out Infosys’s issues, culture, ways of working—all of which will take time to show results,” JP Morgan India analysts Viju George and Amit Sharma said in a 29 May note to clients.

The hunt for Infosys’s next CEO is easily the most-tracked leadership transition in India’s $118 billion information technology industry. Infosys said the company was yet to make a decision. “Infosys today reiterated that the company’s search for its new chief executive officer and managing director continues and no decision has been taken in this regard as of date,” the company said in a statement on Saturday. “Any other reports or rumours are merely speculations at this point.”

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