"I'm confident that we are now entering a period where we will go forward in a positive manner," Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, told the shareholders in his very first conference call after joining Infosys as the non-executive chairman. Nilekani's appointment comes in the midst of an organisational chaos at the company that had already parted with its CEO Vishal Sikka and chairman R. Seshasayee. But how would the new move bring positivity?
Nilekani, 62, co-founded Infosys with six engineers, including IT industrialist N.R. Narayana Murthy, back in 1981. Years after serving its board, the Bengaluru-born co-founder became the CEO of Infosys in March 2002 and continued his first stint with the company until July 2009 when he joined the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as its chairman. The cabinet-ranking position helped Nilekani to kick-start the national-level project called Aadhaar that was aimed to provide a unique identification number to all residents of India. In March 2014, the executive moved from his entrepreneur role completely and joined political party Indian National Congress to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Though he didn't succeed as a politician, that experience would be a part of his new tour at Infosys and help him make things untangled strategically.
The board has decided to give the command to Nilekani for a certain set of reasons. Firstly, Infosys is currently in a search for a new CEO after departing Sikka earlier this month. The co-founder is the best selection to expedite the search process. A day after joining the board in the non-executive role, he even selected Zurich, Switzerland-based Egon Zehnder to find the appropriate CEO face at the earliest.
Secondly, Nilekani has a huge influence not just on the board but also on a large share of the entire Infosys' employee base that would work together coordinately to achieve profitability going forward. Many former employees at the IT behemoth often compliment his triumph while talking to the media.
Thirdly, the differences that had emerged recently between Murthy and few board members, including Sikka and Seshasayee, are likely to be contracted through the amiability of Nilekani. This is the most vital need for the company since it's been hitting the headlines for the fractions in the board for the last few months.
In his first conference call, Nilekani even mentioned Murthy as his admirer and called him "one of the iconic visionaries of the post-independence India." These words evidently reflect his concern about the conflict between the 71-year-old co-founder and the board.
Technological enhancements as the key plan
Bengaluru-headquartered Infosys was primarily aimed to offer business consulting and adding information technology (IT) to the Indian market. However, with the rapid growth in the IT world, the company requires an expert who can help make it updated with the ongoing trends. This is another avenue where Nilekani is the most relevant match.
Although Sikka, from his prior CTO experience at SAP, had attempted to bring some technology upgrades to Infosys, he failed to convince the board for those adoptions. The company, as a result, is still figuring out its developments in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) that both are driving the next-generation of enterprises.
However, Nilekani is expected to enable the board to approve upgrades across all major technological advancements. He is also likely to leverage his knowledge from the Aadhaar project to broaden Infosys' overall presence.
"Nandan is the ideal leader for Infosys at this stage in the company's development. His appointment will allow Infosys to focus on the strategic changes it needs to make in order to capitalise on the attractive opportunities in the years ahead," said Seshasayee, who stepped down from the board on the same day it appointed the new non-executive chairman.
Staying as long as necessary
To achieve all the key objectives of his appointment, Nilekani has decided to lead the board for as long as necessary. He might leave the operational power following the entry of a new CEO. Nevertheless, he would continue to provide his guidance to the company to make it a role model for enterprises of the future.