Infosys, long identified as the bellwether stock of India’s information technology (IT) sector, has appointed as its CEO and MD, Vishal Sikka, a top executive at the German business software firm, SAP AG. This is the first time that Infosys will be led by someone who was not present at its creation. When veteran Narayana Murthy started his second innings at Infosys in June 2013, he gave himself 36 months to complete the tasks of finding a new leader and building the platform to take the company forward. That he could fulfil both the tasks, by his own admission, in about a year and relinquish his office speaks volumes about his commitment to the values and ideals around which Infosys has grown over the years.
It must be noted that the era of the founders, first by design and then by troubled default, is now over and well-wishers will look forward to a new dawn that will restore the company to the position of a thought leader in India’s IT industry. The excitement generated over the choice of Sikka centres primarily around his credentials. He is an outsider who will help initiate new thinking in a company that has been weighed down by its storied past and, therefore, slow to change with the times in an industry that changes at the speed of Moore’s law, if not light. His Indian origin will ensure the necessary cultural fit in a company that is decidedly Indian.
The old order is clearly changing at Infosys and not a day too soon. An iconic company can ill afford to make timid moves in the face of an uncertain future. Much as it did 33 years ago when a few young men decided to write a fresh page in India’s corporate history, Infosys now has the opportunity to lay down the law on managing succession from the founders to the professionals. It is a lesson for those companies which have a long association with certain families.