Banglaore: Signifying the end of an era, Infosys on Saturday decided to appoint KV Kamath as the successor to its current Chairman NR Narayana Murthy. Thirty years from its inception, founder and chief mentor Murthy will step down as Chairman of the Board in August 2011 to give way to Kamath, the current non-executive Chairman of ICICI Bank.
Kamath has been an independent director on the Infosys board since May 2009.
It has also been decided that SD Sibulal will be new CEO and MD and S Gopalakrishnan (Kris) will be Executive Co-Chairman of Infosys, while Narayana Murthy will continue as Chairman Emeritus.
Apart from Kamath, the other contender for the post of Chairman of the Board was Kris Gopalakrishnan, the current CEO of Infosys, who is both a co-founder and the man responsible for making Infosys one of the top three IT firms in the country. Kris has been elevated as the executive co-chairman.
Sixty three-year-old KV Kamath, a mechanical engineer and an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad, is an independent board member but not an Infosys insider.
Kamath started his career in 1971 at ICICI, an Indian financial institution that founded ICICI Bank. He is also credited for spearheading the expansion of ICICI Bank after privatisation and converting it into India's second largest bank. Kamath retired as MD and CEO of the ICICI Bank in April 2009.
Kamath was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2008. He was also the President of the CII for the year 2008-09.
A walk down the Infosys memory lane
NR Narayan Murthy has every reason to smile as the company he co-founded in 1981 with 6 other middle class mavericks has come a long way. Started in a 10x 10 room with Rs 10,000 this IT behemoth is credited with creating 1000's of millionaires courtesy its stock option schemes. Old timers says Murthy's greatness is his humility.
KV Kamath, Non Exec Chairman, ICICI Bank, said "There was a security guard at the door who opened the door for Murthy. And what Murthy asked him is still in my mind today. He says in Kannada 'utay tho' that is have you had dinner?"
Not just his humility, Murthy's dogged pursuit of good governance standards, has been appreciated and imbibed by many in corporate India.
KM Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group said, "The kind of governance that he stood for. The fact that he's speared the team, he has also stepped down and let the team take over and take the company forward which in itself a very big thing to do."
Those leadership skills are something which his professor, who knew him as a student, says he saw in a young Murthy many years ago.
"I think it's the team building capability and the understanding that he showed right at the beginning of Infosys about having to identify values that they were going to maintain," said J Krishna Iyer, NR Narayan Murthy's professor.
Murthy is stepping down at when the company is seeing a lot of flux, at a time when Mohandas Pai has quit, Nandan is not around and peers are outperforming. But is his employees are not complaining.
Ambitabh Chaudhry, Former CEO, Infosys BPO, said, "No I don't think it is very crowded at the top. Everyone at Infosys has understandably and arguably been there for a couple of years but some of that could change."
However the best tribute to NR Narayan Murthy is given from fellow founder Nandan Nilekani. According to Nilekani, Murthy's name will be right at the top when India's corporate history will be written.
"When the history of Corporate India is written Murthy's name will be right up there," said Nandan Nilekani, former Co-founder, Infosys.
Indicative perhaps of how hard it will be for him to step away from Infosys, Murthy could continue as Chairman emeritus at the company for another couple of years.