The outsider is in. Vishal Sikka, former SAP executive board member, will be Infosys’ first non-founder CEO, the company said in an announcement on Thursday. The 47-year-old Sikka, a technology whiz, will take charge at the Rs 50,133-crore software firm on August 1 with UB Pravin Rao as his chief operating officer. In a complete overhaul of the top management, all the founders of Infosys will give up their positions in the company after 33 years. Executive chairman NR Narayana Murthy, who returned to the firm in June last year to try and arrest the slide in the company’s performance, will be appointed chairman emeritus. Incumbent CEO and MD SD Shibulal will demit office and step down from the board on July 31.
A US citizen and likely to be working out of California, Sikka has not indicated whether there would be any major change in the way Infosys pursues business. “There is no change in strategy and my message will be to work with all the leaders, learn the business and work closer with the customers,” the MD and CEO designate said at a press conference. Emphasising the learning quotient as a key requirement for any leader, he promised to restore to employees a sense of pride and confidence.
While some analysts have expressed concern at Sikka being more of a ‘products’ person and his lack of experience at running a services business, others have pointed out that the elevation of president and director Rao to the position of COO should help forge a strong combination. Sikka’s strengths in the field of technology, some believe, could help Infosys become a thought leader.
“We view the new CEO announcement positively as it resolves the longer-term leadership issue. Further, with the strong technological background of Mr Sikka and services background of Mr Rao, we believe Infosys could be uniquely positioned for its next leg of growth,” Barclays analyst Bhuvnesh Singh wrote in a report.
Commenting on the appointment, Partha Iyengar, country manager (research), Gartner India, said, “The news of Sikka’s announcement is extremely important for Infosys since it ends the uncertainty that was the main enemy of Infosys. The new CEO will have to move very quickly to first calm the three key stakeholders, employees, customers and the investors, in that order.”
Sikka’s credentials clearly impressed the nominations committee; on Thursday Murthy too applauded his academic qualifications. “I am the son of a teacher and in