Murthy gets investors' nod to steer Infosys, warns of tough decisions

Bangalore, June 15 (IANS) Investors of India's global software major Infosys Ltd Saturday unanimously approved a special resolution re-appointing its iconic co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy as executive chairman and hoped that he would steer the company's fortunes in these challenging times.

When outgoing non-executive chairman K.V. Kamath moved the resolution at the company's 32nd annual general meeting (AGM) here, about 1,000 shareholders present on the occasion raised their hands in unison and voted in favour amidst thunderous applause.

The 67-year-old Murthy stood up on dais and accepted his re-appointment in all humility and assured the shareholders that he would dedicate himself fully to rebuilding the company and restoring its glory.

The dramatic decision to bring back Murthy, in place of noted banker Kamath, was taken by the company's board June 1.

Thanking the investors for reposing faith in his leadership, Murthy said tough decisions would be taken to rebuild the company.

"The challenge is daunting and the task of rebuilding a desirable Infosys will take at least 36 months. In the process, there will be some tough decisions resulting in pain as we move forward," he said reading from a prepared statement.

Admitting that the company had gone through challenging times, he said during the last two years, the focus got blurred on winning large revenue-yielding outsourcing projects.

"The strategy is to focus on opportunities from consulting-led end-to-end solutions, leveraging technology for higher margins and developing intellectual property-(IP) based solutions to delink revenues from effort," Murthy said.

Noting that the outsourcing business had become commoditised, he said need of the day was to focus on employees, take quick, tough and firm decisions, communicate the decisions with clarity and execute them with speed, imagination and excellence to exceed expectations of customers and investors.

Observing that executing the new strategy would require him to change some of his long-held beliefs, Murthy said improvements required change and the quest for perfection required to change often as necessary.

"We will make our sales force more effective by improving the quality of sales talent, provide them with incentives. We will also adopt a flexible pricing policy, where absolutely necessary, to enhance our growth rate," Murthy added.

Several investors expressed concern over the blue-chip company's declining revenues and profits at a time when its peers were outperforming it and the industry's growth.

"Re-induction of Murthy as chairman augurs well for all the stakeholders as he was instrumental in building Infosys and making it a global software major," a shareholder said at the packed AGM, in sentiments echoed by many others.

Regretting that the company had lost its competitive edge in attracting top talent, another investor said about 5,000 techies who were given job offer did not join the company.

Sharing the anxiety of shareholders, Murthy admitted that the company had lost focus on winning large outsourcing business, which was its "bread and butter".

A few investors questioned the board's wisdom in recalling the veteran to run the company again when he had accomplished his task and was leading a peaceful retired life.

"Though we are happy to have Murthy back at the helm to steer Infosys in troubled times, it is unfortunate the board could not find any other qualified person within or outside the company for the top executive post," a long-time shareholder lamented.

Earlier, Kamath, who chaired the AGM at Murthy's request, said Murthy would provide strategic direction to the company at this time.

Murthy's entrepreneurial and leadership record coupled with his long experience as a technology pioneer made him eminently qualified to lead Infosys again, he added.

Murthy's return abruptly cuts short the five-year tenure of Kamath who will be a lead independent director on the board.

The meeting also endorsed Murthy's request to have his son Rohan Murthy as his executive assistant in the chairman's office during his five-year tenure.

As Murthy's only son and a blue-eyed boy, 30-year-old Rohan will take a sabbatical from Harvard University in the US where he is a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows to assist his father in the chairman's office.