Infosys' CEO hunt continues: Ashok Vemuri seen as frontrunner

Ashok Vemuri
Former Infosys executive Ashok Vemuri is said to be the frontrunner for the chief executive’s post at India’s second-largest software exporter.

Infosys, which has tasked executive search firm Egon Zehnder with shortlisting candidates for the top job, has met over a dozen executives, but a final decision has yet to be made.

Another candidate is B G Srinivas, also a former Infosys executive, who has declined to take the role of CEO according to a person familiar with the development.

At present, Vemuri is the CEO of Conduent, a Xerox company, and Srinivas is group managing director of Hong Kong’s PCCW Group.

At Infosys, interim CEO & managing director U B Pravin Rao and two presidents – S Ravi Kumar and Mohit Joshi – are said to be the likely internal candidates for the CEO post.

Both Vemuri and Srinivas had quit Infosys after founder N R Narayana Murthy overlooked them and hired Vishal Sikka as the first non-founder CEO of the company. In the three years at the helm, Sikka attempted to transform the company into a software-plus-services firm, but it the work was only half done when he quit in August following Murthy's campaign against corporate governance issues at the company.

Murthy had questioned the $200-million acquisition of Israeli tech firm Panaya and the subsequent severance payout to former chief financial officer Rajiv Bansal. Despite an independent forensic probe that ruled out any violations, Murthy had insisted on making the findings public.

This had led to a public spat between Murthy and the then Infosys chairman R Seshasayee, who later quit along with two independent directors.

The spat also hurt Infosys, with investors dumping the company’s stock, before co-founder Nandan Nilekani was brought in to stem the crisis and bring stability back to the organisation.

While retaining Rao as interim CEO & MD, Nilekani had said his first task would be to find a replacement for Sikka. He also outlined that the company would invite former executives leading global organisations.

Since then, Nilekani has given a clean chit to Sikka and maintained that the forensic probe report would not be made public, drawing Murthy’s ire. Yet, this also looms large on executives looking at the top job at Infosys but concerned over interference from founders.

Nilekani has not set a timeline for finding a CEO and retained Sikka's strategy for driving Infosys’ future growth.

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