Infosys: Nandan Nilekani may be returning; did Arundhati Bhattacharya get an invite to the board?

There is strong opinion from the investors and former Infosys executives in favour of getting Nandan Nilekani back

FP Staff August 24, 2017 08:27:55 IST
Infosys: Nandan Nilekani may be returning; did Arundhati Bhattacharya get an invite to the board?

After NR Narayana Murthy, it may be the turn of Nandan Nilekani to return to Infosys, a company they co-founded along with others.

Nearly a week after CEO Vishal Sikka's exit, speculation is rife that Nilekani may be taking up a role at the company to steer it through the rough weathers.

Infosys Nandan Nilekani may be returning did Arundhati Bhattacharya get an invite to the board

Nandan Nilekani. Image: company website

CNBC-TV18 was the first to report the development citing sources. Neither Nilekani nor Murthy has responded to the news, but the report said an announcement is likely by Friday.

Meanwhile, there are indications that Nilekani may be preparing for the role of a non-executive chairman on the board. According to a report in The Economic Times, though he is yet to make up his mind, he has cancelled a two-month trip to the US.

"He is seriously considering it. But he will come back as non-executive chairman, not in an operations or business role," one unnamed source has been quoted as saying in the report.

The development comes after 12 domestic institutional investors wrote to the company asking it to bring back Nilekani, who was its CEO earlier. He quit Infosys in 2009 to head UIDAI, after the UPA government gave him the mandate for the controversial Aadhaar project.

"The recent developments are very concerning to each one of us," the investors, comprising large mutual funds and insurance companies, said in their letter, adding Infosys should consider inviting Nilekani to the board in a "suitable capacity," Reuters reported.

"Given his credentials, we feel, that his joining the board at this stage, will restore confidence of stakeholders in the company and also facilitate resolution of the contentious issues that Infosys is facing presently," said the funds in the letter.

The investors, who wrote the letter include HDFC Asset Management, ICICI Prudential Asset Management and Birla SunLife Asset Management. They together own 10 percent in the company, while the promoters and their families own 12.75 percent.

Meanwhile, Infosys ex-CFO V Balakrishnan has favoured bringing in Nilekani as the chairman of the company, saying his experience and understanding of clients made him a "good face" to lead the organisation in the current situation.

Speaking to PTI, Balakrishnan said that given the current situation, the board should consider getting Nilekani at the helm and asserted that the current chairman (R Seshasayee) and co-chairman (Ravi Venkatesan) need to step down.

"Nilekani is a good global face and is most respected. Moreover, he has worked in large government projects... Aadhaar... he has the right credentials to come to the board," Balakrishnan told PTI.

Even as rumours of a major board reshuffle continues to do the rounds, Fortune has reported about 10 days back SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya was offered a seat on the company's board. According to the sources cited by the reports, this happened before the resignation announcement by Vishal Sikka on 18 August.

The report also said Bhattacharya has approval from both the board and the management but may be willing to take up the role only after she retires on 6 October.

In a sudden move, Infosys first non-founder CEO, Vishal Sikka resigned last week citing slander by founders. The Infosys board issued a stinging statement blaming co-founder N R Narayana Murthy for the CEOs resignation. Infosys has said it will find a CEO replacement by this year-end.

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