Narayana Murthy 2.0

Jan 26 2014, 07:48 IST
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Narayana Murthy Narayana Murthy
SummaryIn his second innings, Murthy is looking younger with the energy and passion of a younger himself circa 1995.

His fellow pioneers from India’s stunning software services revolution have eased away from executive roles in their companies and have moved on to loftier causes. Fellow Bangalorean Azim Premji of Wipro has set up an education university as a philanthropic goal. HCL founder Shiv Nadar has immersed himself in several altruistic social and educational projects. Co-founder Nandan Nilekani transitioned smoothly from the company to set up the gigantic Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) programme for the country and is now poised to reinvent himself yet again by entering electoral politics.

At 67, an age when he, too, should have been chasing his own exalted dreams and playing industry godfather, Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy shockingly returned to what he did for over two decades—steering and directing the company he co-founded in 1981, and then elevated to global standards. Months after his return to launch Operation Resurrect Infosys, investors and employees are doggedly posing the question: when will Murthy’s comeback restore Infosys to its past glory?

Facing scepticism

Earlier this month, it was an overwhelming feeling of deja vu, as Murthy spent the morning unveiling quarterly numbers—and taking hard-hitting questions about customers and margins, the controversial recent top-level exits at Infosys, as also his son Rohan Murty’s role at the firm. Ironically, many reporters asking the questions were likely contemporaries of Murthy’s 30-year-old son, Rohan. Murthy said he wants to take Infosys back to its days of “industry leading growth and margins; when we will get there depends on how well we execute the various initiatives we have started”.

In disclosing impressive numbers for the much-awaited third quarter, Murthy had jumped a critical hurdle six months into his ‘new’ old job. Beating all analyst prophecies, Infosys was growing robustly—a 21% rise in quarterly profits, 54 new customers and a raised revenue growth forecast of 12%. Still, the market reaction was restrained. On the day the company announced its beyond-expectations numbers, its stock moved up by a mere 3%. It was obvious that not everyone was buying into Murthy’s plan to completely shake up and reorganise Infosys. “Investors want to see more and consistent proof that Murthy can restore the pale company to its former brilliance,” said an executive from a medium-sized rival, who did not want to be quoted.

The market’s guarded response was understandable. After all, Infosys had floundered badly in the last couple of years and a single quarterly result could

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