Founders of Infosys, arguably India’s most respected startup and one that’s known for its integrity, must come out openly and share concerns about ethical standards under CEO Vishal Sikka.
Having set high standards decades ago in the areas of financial reporting, management transparency, and fair work environment, the Infosys founders must now protect the legacy. Unanswered questions about ethical standards at a company known as the flagbearer of these values in corporate India only add to the conspiracy theories.
Over the past few months, executives within Infosys and several people close to the company’s founders have been discussing possible breach of ethics in hushed tones. And media reports have only added to speculation and theories, with comments along the lines of “there’s smoke because there must be fire.”
The issues at the core of this are the severance package for Rajiv Bansal, who’s now the CFO at Ola Cabs, and several acquisitions made under Sikka’s leadership, according to at least two people who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
“It’s Sikka versus Infosys,” described an old-timer. “Everything from acquisitions to the automation push and targets for business units has faced resistance from within.”
One of the other concerns raised by a few company insiders anonymously is how Sikka’s new team consists almost only of his former SAP colleagues. And while this may not be entirely accurate, if one looks closely at the way old-timers such as Ranganath D Mavinakere, executive VP and CFO of Infosys, have melted into the background in recent years, there’s clearly some heartburn.
“It’s Sikka versus Infosys,” described an old-timer. “Everything from acquisitions to the automation push and targets for business units has faced resistance from within,” the person added.
On January 3 this year, I sent the following questions to Infosys seeking responses:
Is Infosys’ ethics committee on the board investigating any breach or complaints regarding an M&A deal involving Ritika Suri?
Is this regarding Infosys’ acquisition of Skava?
What is the scope of investigation?
Are there any top executives being questioned?
A day later, on January 4, the company responded saying, “We would like to categorically deny this news.”
I’ve been meeting three of the Infosys founders — S. “Kris” Gopalakrishnan, Nandan Nilekani and N R Narayanamurthy — quite regularly over the past few years and months. On their part, they’ve always stayed away from making direct and specific comments about Infosys. But the rumours about ongoing differences between the Infosys management and the company’s founders haven’t died down.
Like they say, you can take them out of Infosys, but you can’t take Infosys out of them. No matter how much the founders try and distance themselves publicly from the company they founded, their legacies will not go away. And that’s why they need to speak openly about the concerns, if at all there are any.
That’s why they need to speak openly about the concerns, if at all there are any.
As for Sikka, who was handpicked by Murthy and the then chairman KV Kamath in a move described as a bold one, this is the time to clear any doubts about ethical practices followed at Infosys.
More importantly, if the Infosys management and its founders don’t clear the concerns, corporate India will be criticised even more for its difficulties in managing succession beyond founders. The ongoing tussle between Cyrus Mistry and Ratan Tata underscores exactly that.
The current silence on ethics and questions about corporate governance is absolutely unbecoming for a company of Infosys’ stature. Period.
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