Monday, 28 August 2017 09:40

Relevance deprivation syndrome causes unrest at Infosys

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ANALYSIS The founders of well-known Indian outsourcing firm Infosys appear to have been hit by relevance deprivation syndrome. Nothing else can account for the fact that the founder N.R. Narayana Murthy has rallied a group to try and take back control of the company.

Installed as chairman again is Nandan Nilekani, a bloviator of no small ability, who left the company in 2009 to head Aadhar, the Indian government body that is in charge of allotting digital identities to the billion or so in that land.

Infosys was the first Indian company to make the concept of outsourcing popular in the mid-1990s; Narayana Murthy capitalised on his profile as a "humble" person, pushed along by similar descriptions provided by his family members.

One Vishal Sikka took over the reins from Nilekani and functioned as executive vice chairman with R. Seshasayee functioning as chairman. Now both have been pushed out by Narayanamurthy and his mob, with three other directors also being forced to quit.

Questions have been raised about Sikka's remuneration, the company's performance and corporate governance, the usual smokescreens that come up when one group wants to topple another in the company boardroom.

Infosys shares took a pounding when Sikka made his exit, with a fall of more than 7% when he quit. Analysts, the usual rent-seekers, added fuel to the fire with dire forecasts of further downgrades.

Sikka had started turning the company around and focusing on more modern technologies as the demand for expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning grows among companies that take up staff from the bunch of Indian outsourcers who hog the US H-1B visa allotments each year.

The ascent of US President Donald Trump has slowed the growth in the US of the foreign technology services business as more emphasis is laid on hiring American workers.

It is probably difficult for people like Narayana Murthy and Nilekani to leave businesses that they have founded and which have become so well-known; neither would be the first to try and return to such a business, with the driving factor being relevance deprivation syndrome.

But as has been seen numerous times in the past, such returns normally do little good. When this pair were in charge, the market demanded skills in cargo cult programming; today's demand is quite different.

There is a time for everything but this was not the time for men who are close to completing their allotted three score and ten to return and try to haunt the company that they once nurtured. That era has passed, that bus has long gone.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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