Narayana Murthy’s ‘response’ to Vishal Sikka resigning shows Infosys patriarch still doesn’t get it

DailyBiteAug 19, 2017 | 16:55

Narayana Murthy’s ‘response’ to Vishal Sikka resigning shows Infosys patriarch still doesn’t get it

The high-voltage board room drama that has followed since the former CEO and MD of Infosys, Vishal Sikka, left a trailblazer letter of resignation and quit from the coveted but extremely challenging post, has now led to the company patriarch to finally come up with a response of sort. Narayana Murthy, who has been dubbed the “villain” and the “meddler-in-chief” in this sorry saga of corporate infighting, has said that he’s “anguished by the allegations”.


Murthy has said that he’s “anguished by the allegations, tone and tenor” of the Infosys board’s statement, with the latter punching a huge hole into Murthy’s account that “corporate governance” standards had fallen within the company, and the Board was as liable as ex-CEO Sikka in dragging the work culture down.

Murthy’s email response says:

"I am extremely anguished by the allegations, tone and tenor of the statement. I voluntarily left the board in 2014 and am not seeking any money, position for children or power. My concern primarily was the deteriorating standard of corporate governance which I have repeatedly brought to the notice of the Infosys board."

Earlier, the Infosys board had taken a strong exception to Murthy’s interferences, saying: "Mr Murthy's continuous assault, including this latest letter, is the primary reason that the CEO, Dr Vishal Sikka, has resigned despite strong Board support."

It’s excruciating to watch the festering rot in corporate culture and India’s tech export sector, as exemplified in this high-decibel theatre of malicious gossip, rumour-mongering and general air of salacious innuendoes that led to Sikka’s resignation.

In his own letter, Sikka had outlined how tormented he had been in dealing with the “negativity”, and how that was impinging on his work, focus and the job at hand, which was to transform Infosys from merely a client-servicing behemoth to an innovation-driven tech giant.  


In his very denial has Narayana Murthy indicated what has been on his mind.

Murthy wrote in his email:

“It is below my dignity to respond to such baseless insinuations. However, several shareholders who have read the whistle-blower report have told me that it is hard to believe a report produced by a set of lawyers hired by a set of accused, giving a clean chit to the accused, and the accused refusing to disclose why they got a clean chit. They say that this is not the way an impartial and objective investigation should be held. "

What is striking is the clash of two worldviews emanating from the letters from the different factions. While Murthy stands for middle-class austerity and simple living, still believing in the company as a “family” etc, the jet-setting ways of ex-CEO Sikka could, however, be explained as the changing nature of the tech sector the world over.


This Silicon Valley-driven compulsion to network and build new customer base was a far cry from what Murthy had to build Infosys for – as the back channel of the global tech sector, the warehouse and garage of the world’s IT revolution. However, black swan events like the election of Trump, the changing visa regime and immigration tightening, as well as the ingress of automation meant that work culture had to respond to the changing times.


It’s also significant to note the wider slump in India’s tech export sector. According to Bloomberg, “the malaise is much deeper and threatens to become a faultline for Asia’s No. 3 economy. Software services exports are experiencing their longest slump in seven years, which could blow the current account deficit to the widest since 2013 and pressure the rupee. Policy makers are also bracing for a hit where it hurts the most: jobs.”

In fact, the chief economic adviser to PM Modi, Arvind Subramanian, too has a similar opinion, not on the Infosys crisis, but the larger challenge facing tech:

“Indian service companies gained scale over the last decade as the disrupters, creating the modern offshoring industry, but they are now the incumbents, challenged by a slew of specialised and niche start-ups bred in this new environment.”

In addition, the larger protectionist, anti-globalisation tendencies also threaten to derail the long and healthy run of the Indian IT gravy train. In that light, Sikka is right to attempt a sweeping transformation of Infosys, in order to stay ahead of the curve. That requires drastic overhaul, which Murthy either doesn’t approve of, or simply refuses to acknowledge, trying to create hindrance in the garb of “corporate governance standards”.

It’s important for the Infosys patriarch to step aside and let the younger minds take the lead. Because otherwise, India’s iconic tech company might be in danger of falling victim to quasi-feudal ownership wars and a clash of vision for the future of India’s tech sector.

Last updated: August 19, 2017 | 16:55
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy