All is well at Infosys under Nandan Nilekani, says Narayana Murthy

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Bengaluru: Weeks after expressing his unhappiness with the board of Infosys Ltd, founder N.R. Narayana Murthy on Wednesday struck a conciliatory note and reiterated his confidence in chairman Nandan Nilekani’s leadership.

The latest comments from Murthy will soothe the nerves of Infosys’s largest investors, who were spooked by the long-drawn-out battle between Murthy and the previous board led by R. Seshasayee.

“Absolutely, all is well,” Murthy told reporters when asked if he was satisfied with Infosys under Nilekani’s leadership. “Remember in my speech to the investors I said now that we have Nandan as the chairman we can all sleep well and he is a very organized person; his strength is simplification of complex ideas. There were lots of complexities. So therefore he has his hands full. So let’s leave it to him. So let’s all keep quiet so that he does his job well.”

Nilekani returned the compliment. “Mr Murthy has been the custodian and steward of the company for the last 40 years and we all look up to him greatly and believe that we will always seek his advice and counsel to make sure Infosys stands up to the highest standards,” said Nilekani.

Murthy’s assurance is important. Last month, Infosys, while declaring its second-quarter earnings, said that it found no evidence of wrongdoing in the contentious $200 million acquisition of Israeli automation technology firm Panaya Ltd in 2015, and that the management did not intend to make a probe report on the purchase public.

Nilekani reiterated Infosys’s previous stance on the investigation, effectively handing a clean chit to former chief executive officer Vishal Sikka and the previous board. This drew an immediate riposte from Murthy, who said he was disappointed.

Mint in a report dated 26 October had said that Murthy expressing disappointment at the board’s decision did not mean that the two co-founders were at odds, and that it was primarily to shield the company from any potential legal blowback.

At the time, experts including Amit Tandon of proxy advisory firm Institutional Investor Advisory Services (IiAS) had said the company’s leaders had realized that it was in everybody’s interest to put the past behind and move ahead.

In the 18 months to August, Murthy repeatedly alleged poor corporate governance at the company he and six friends, including Nilekani, founded in 1981.

Earlier this year, Murthy had publicly lambasted Seshsayee, and then in August even took a dig at Sikka by writing an email, saying three independent directors told him that Sikka was not CEO material but chief technology officer material.

Infosys was thrown into chaos when Sikka resigned on 18 August, citing an unending stream of criticism from Murthy, and Seshasayee quit, along with two other independent directors, a week later.

Nilekani was later named non-executive chairman. Infosys elevated chief operating officer U.B. Pravin Rao as interim chief executive. A search for a successor to Sikka is still underway.