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KV Kamath says Infosys is a positively aggressive company

KV Kamath says Infosys is a positively aggressive company

K.V. Kamath, the newly named chairman of Infosys, tells Business Today in an interview that three new executive directors are coming on board from the internal slate.Listen to K.V.Kamath's interview

K.V. Kamath, the newly named chairman of Infosys K.V. Kamath, the newly named chairman of Infosys
K.V. Kamath , the newly named chairman of Infosys , sits at a narrow desk in his office at ICICI Towers in Mumbai's Bandra Kurla Complex. It is the ICICI Bank chairman's office, and was occupied till the other day by N. Vaghul, Kamath's mentor and predecessor. "Vaghul never had a desk; at least I have one," says Kamath, insisting that the two-feet wide table-top is all he needs. It has a dozen odd Ganapati idols on it, apart from Kamath's laptop. Excerpts from an interview with Suman Layak:

On the transition at Infosys: Infosys is at the start of a transition. You have seen a few professionals who started the company and then left, and some more leaving. In early June, three new executive directors are coming on board from the internal slate. The board is being formed as we speak. New expertise is coming and the nominations committee is working on that. We already have two new faces - R. Seshashayee [of Ashok Leyland] comes with an auto background and Ravi Venkatesan [formerly with Microsoft India] from software but with diverse engineering experience before that. In the next 12 to 18 months, we will have a new-look board at Infosys.

On his own role: I think the chair's position is more of understanding. To make sure that you understand what is being done at the board level, you need to have a better understanding of what is being done at the company level. I would say you are available as a sounding board for the executive management. That is from my experience at ICICI. I see that as one role I can play. The other thing could be if there are certain deliberations that we need to prepare for the board - to basically think about them and discuss them. It is not a daily oversight of management. The co-chair's position is an executive one and the primary functions would be client relationship for a select set of clients and building the Infosys Leadership Institute.

On Infosys founders succeeding one another to the top positions: These people were professionals first and founders second. They came out and set up this company as professionals - they invested their savings and built a professional company. But they took a great degree of care to make sure that as founders they did not stand anywhere in preference to professionals. So, in a way they subjugated themselves to professionals. I think that brings them enormous respect. The second point here is meritocracy. What has happened about selection of leaders till now is a merit-based process and that is how it will be going forward.

On N.R. Narayana Murthy: I first got to know him when I was a student at IIM Ahmedabad and he was working at the lab 41 years ago. But our real association started in 1996 when I came back to India and when he joined the ICICI board. As Infosys's chairman emeritus, he has said he is available for anyone to go and have a talk. I feel it means he would be a friend, philosopher and guide. And given his long experience in this business, and in building this company up, he would be a welcome friend, philosopher and guide.

On Infosys not being the 'technology bellwether' any more:
Infosys is a positively aggressive company. There is a positive streak and the company has been a trendsetter all along. Its strategy on tapping the markets, US listing and conforming to the US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) standards for declaring results has been ahead of others. It has also been a changing business model. The application-development-maintenance model would account for 90 per cent of its business 10 years ago but now it is 45 per cent. There is also a clear strategy on margins. It is playing to a game plan. It has weathered a huge amount of turbulence. Infosys will position itself to meet whatever challenges crop up. There has been a clear articulation of strategy on how it will reposition itself going forward and the execution of that strategy has already commenced.

The morale in the company: Sensing the mood of the company is not a small dip-stick. It is an exercise that the company management will do. But whenever you show continuity and performance, the mood improves. I don't think in terms of performance Infosys will lag. Clearly articulating the way forward in terms of leadership structure will create a lot of enthusiasm. The way I look at it is: in none of these is the company behind the curve. Most of these changes will be happening with Murthy retiring in August. So action is being taken well ahead of the curve.

Selected audio of the interview at www.businesstoday.in/kamath