Two companies in the Indian IT space are scheduled to hold their annual general meetings (AGMs) on Tuesday. While Wipro will see an end of an era as Azim Premji will retire as the Chairman of the company, Mindtree, which was recently taken over by conglomerate Larsen & Toubro (L&T), stares at a rather stormy session. The former may see shareholders holding an emotional farewell, while the latter will have shareholders looking to seek answers from the management - old as well as the new - on what the future of the company holds for them .
The cafeteria of Wipro's electronic city campus in Bengaluru plays host to the company's stakeholders each year as the venue for its Annual General Meeting (AGM). This year, the venue will bear testimony to Azim Premji chairing the last AGM as the Chairman of Wipro, two weeks ahead of his retirement from his current position as Executive Chairman and Managing Director of the company. Premji has spent over 50 years with the company. Earlier last month, the company announced a change of guard. While Premji senior would continue as a non-executive and whole time director of the company, his son Rishad Premji, who is the chief strategy officer and a board member of the company, has been appointed as the Executive Chairman with effect from July 31, 2019.
With the total value of the philanthropic endowment corpus contributed by him at $21 billion, which includes 67 per cent of economic ownership of Wipro, Azim Premji has been the face of India's compassionate capitalism. Occasions to see and hear him have been fewer over the past six-seven years. AGM is perhaps the only opportunity for shareholders to meet the legend. The meeting, which usually lasts for a couple of hours, begins with his speech appraising shareholders on the progress of the company and the direction in which Wipro is moving. While Premji is presumed to maintain a poker face, at AGMs it is hard to miss his smile. He also poses for photos with enthusiastic shareholders. Even though he will continue to guide the company in a different role, his speech tomorrow will catch attention, with his eldest son now stepping into his shoes.
After construction major L&T completed a successful takeover of Mindtree by buying over 60 per cent equity in the company, the 20th AGM of the company is expected to be action-packed with shareholders expecting to raise several questions around what has transpired over the last few months. The company will also seek shareholders' approval to appoint three of L&T's insiders, namely SN Subrahmanyan as CEO & MD of L&T and Jayant Patil and Shankar Raman as non-executive directors on the board along with two independent directors Deepa Wadhwa and M R Prasanna.
However, it is still not clear if any of the L&T board members seeking induction will be present at the meeting. Last week CEO Rostow Ravana, Executive Chairman Krishna Kumar Natarajan and COO Parthasarathy had indicated that they would continue on the board till July 17, the day when the board will meet to discuss results, among other things.
For shareholders, the AGM could be the best opportunity to know what will happen to the company in coming days and who would wear the leadership mantle and navigate it through a period of uncertainly. Earlier in a statement, when the stock of the company took a beating, L&T's CEO SN Subrahmanyan had said, "Continuity will be the key theme in the management transition. Mindtree will continue to provide top quality services to its clientele through committed engagement of the Mindtree Minds." While he assured that no position was sought to be disturbed at Mindtree, and no changes were being contemplated, resignations by remaining founders including Kamran Ozar tell a different story. L&T, however, made it clear that there will be a new CEO for Mindtree and the announcement will be made in due course. Shareholders will definitely seek answers to a few of these questions at the AGM.