Infosys appoints independent director Ravi Venkatesan co-chairman

Infosys Ltd on Thursday appointed independent director Ravi Venkatesan as co-chairman, a move seen as a step taken by the company board to end the public spat with the IT firm’s founders, mainly N.R. Narayana Murthy. Infosys co-chairman Venkatesan has been on the Infosys board since April 2011.

“Ravi Venkatesan will help me enhance the board engagement in supporting the management in execution of the company’s strategy,” Infosys chairman Seshasayee said, asserting that his name was not mooted by the promoters. “I wanted the bandwidth to be increased and the board said let us get Ravi to take part of your load and so there we are together on this.”

Seshasayee said the move should not be interpreted as being a response to Infosys founders’ alleging corporate governance lapses and demanding restructuring of the board. Asked if he would play peacemaker between the two sides, Ravi Venkatesan told that he did not see the need for an “official peacemaker role”.“I live in Bangalore and most of the promoters have been friends of longstanding. We regularly and routinely run into each other. So, that sort of friendly relationship will continue. But I don’t see the need for an official peacemaker role,” he said.

Seshasayee said the need for such a role arises only where there is a war.“I have consistently said there is no war, the Infosys chairman said. In a statement, Infosys highlighted Venkatesan’s “valuable contribution to the development of strategic direction of the company during his tenure”. The appointment of Venkatesan as Infosys co-chairman comes against the backdrop of a tussle between Infosys founders and the management over contentious issues such as CEO Vishal Sikka’s salary, severance package to former employees and corporate governance standards.

Sikka, meanwhile, declined to make specific comments on whether the management expected the expansion of the board to address founders’ concerns.“I have no idea whether it will get worse, get better or remain the same. We (management) have had a very strong relationship with the board. Board’s primary function is governance and our job is strategy execution,” he said.

Emphasizing that he enjoyed a “great working relationship” with Venkatesan, Sikka said “running the company is our responsibility and that is what we focus on”. Sikka highlighted that “unanticipated execution challenges and distractions” as partly affecting the company’s performance in the March quarter. He, however, declined to elaborate on the statement, merely saying, “I need not tell you what the distractions have been. It is our job to manage the company to lead the company in the times that we are in.”

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