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Infosys Goes Back To Future With Nandan Nilekani 2.0

"I am here because there was nobody else. Just a joke!" said Mr Nilekani.

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Overall, Mr Nilekani seemed in a combative mood during the press meet.


It is back to the future for Infosys as it turns to co-founder and former CEO Nandan Nilekani to lead it out of a rather messy situation. Mr Nilekani has had a dramatic return to the company, after stepping down as its CEO in 2007. It comes after the resignation of the first non-founder CEO Vishal Sikka, who blamed interference from co-founder Narayana Murthy for his exit. The company's image and stock value suffered, until word spread that Mr Nilekani might be on his way back.

Addressing the media on his first day back in the plush headquarters of Infosys in Electronics City outside Bengaluru, he said, "I am here because there was nobody else. Just a joke!"

More seriously, he said, "I would like to believe I am here not only because I am a founder. I quit as CEO of Infosys in 2007. I was invited by the Prime Minister with the post of a cabinet minister, to head the Aadhaar project in 2009 - Aadhaar which gave one billion Indians an identity. I believe I have a record of success in different environments. My consultative skills may have played a factor. I am here to represent 100 per cent of the shareholders."

A priority for Mr Nilekani will of course be the search for the next CEO.

He said, "We are getting tonnes of emails from potential (CEO) candidates. A committee headed by (Biocon's) Kiran Shaw will look at that appointment. I will be here as long as necessary to fulfil my obligations and goals. And no longer than that."

However, also right up his agenda is making things better between the company and Mr Murthy, who had said that he was anguished by a strongly worded letter from the Infosys board last week attacking him for his questioning of corporate governance in the company, particularly for events related to the acquisition of Israeli company, Panaya. Nilekani said, "The board's relationship with Murthy is important. I began my career under him."

Overall, Mr Nilekani seemed in a combative mood during the press meet - answering many questions very shortly or not at all - particularly when they dealt with trickier issues like Panaya - or how a board which had criticised  Murthy just a week earlier was now meant to be on good terms with him. Only four members of the board have stepped down and many of those who were party to the critical statement against Murthy do remain.

It has been a dramatic time for Infosys - to put it mildly. Mr Nilekani hopes to be a steadying hand to bring Infosys back on course in a challenging environment - as Infosys goes back to its past to head into the future.

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