For the first time ever since the company began its operations, Infosys Chairman and Co-founder Nandan Nilekani has made public his intentions of handing over reins of the tech giant to a non-founder.
Speaking at an event organised to mark completion of 40 years of journey of Infosys on Wednesday, Nandan Nilekani stated, “I am the last joker left and the challenge is little more acute. I am handing over the post of the chairman to a non-founder.”
“There is no plan B,” he underlined. “If I hand it over to somebody and it doesn’t work. I can’t come back at 75 and I don’t think any of the founders want to come back. We are all mortals. We don’t know whether we will be attending the 50 years celebrations,” he said.
The challenge is how do you create an ownership model to a professional model? “I have not found a person whom I can hand over,” he stated when asked if there is anyone on his mind to head Infosys.
Referring to the statement of founder Narayana Murthy that Infosys should flourish for at least 100 years, he stated that the mandate is something in place for 100 years.
“I am the last joker (referring to founders of Infosys) standing and there is no plan B. Even 40 years later, the company is still flourishing because of three ‘R’s.
Relevance, Responsiveness and Resilience. You need to be relevant in business and Infosys has ensured that it is relevant to customers by offering the latest services. Massive investments have been made for reskilling and there is no drama and no surprise.”
“Secondly, attempts will always be there for responsiveness and ensure bureaucratic cholesterol does not seep in as it is a kiss of death. Decisions are made quickly.
Resilience is how well a company faces challenges. When the country faced the challenge of Covid posed stress tests, in a couple of weeks Infosys got on to the speed and scale which no one could match.
Work from home was implemented, after that getting them back to work was a challenge. We have to ensure value addition. Sudden surge in demand as Covid facilitated digital acceleration.
Later, faced with a high attrition rate and now its economic slowdown. In a short span of three years, we experienced all this. How we respond to these situations is important. A structure has to be created and great leadership would ensure efficient management not only for the next generation but for the next 60 years,” he said.
Nilekani explained his vision that he will work on similar lines with Narayana Murthy. “Will I be able to earn the respect of all the stakeholders 20 to 30 years from now? When you think of respect everything falls in place. Happiness is a positive cash flow. If you are burning cash, you lose discipline,” he said.
Commenting on startups he maintained, the young founders are ambitious, strategy, thinking, some are experienced. What worries me is whether they will be able to build an institution which will be there for 30 years from now on. The concern is about their stamina to play long, he said.
Too much money is a curse. Once you lose respect over capital, managing expenses becomes frugality, the game is over, he noted.
He praised Infosys CEO Salil Parekh for his relentless work. He even narrated a recent incident. “Client had requested for a Zoom call from the CEO’s two competing firms. Salil Parekh was travelling in the US. The client wanted a presentation at 2 a.m. there. Another CEO was based in the US and he refused the call. Salil Parekh did the call.” This shows the customer focus of Infosys, he stated.