Infosys' CEO hunt intensifies as frontrunners leave

With current CEO slated to retire in 2015, India's second-largest outsourcing company is scurrying to find a replacement even as frontrunners leave, including V. Balakrishnan, whose resignation was just announced.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Infosys' hunt for its first non-founder CEO has intensified with yet another top executive announcing his resignation over the weekend. 

Bala, Infosys
V. Balakrishnan will leave Infosys to set up a venture fund.

V. Balakrishnan, board member and head of Infosys BPO, Finacle, and India business unit, has resigned and will leave the company on December 31, 2013, according to a statement released Friday, which also announced several additions to the company's board including retail head Pravin Rao. 

Balakrishnan had stepped down as CFO in October 2012, following lackluster results, and was tipped to be one of the frontrunners to be the company's next CEO. Current chief executive and co-founder, S.D Shibulal, will retire in 2015.

India's second-largest outsourcing company, Infosys has seen several top executives leaving the coop including Mohandas Pai, former CFO and also once a frontrunner for CEO, and Ashok Vemuri, former board member and head of manufacturing and Americas. Amid calls from stakeholders, co-founder and former executive chairman, N.R Narayana Murthy returned to Infosys in June in a bid to beef up the company's leadership team and guide it through the current "challenging" landscape. 

According to local reports, Balakrishnan's pending departure opens new doors for other frontrunners, which is likely to be one of the company's current senior executives, to assume the CEO role in 2015. Some names that have emerged include current head of global delivery, Chandrashekar Kakal, and head of Europe and global financial services, B.G Srinivas.

Although Murthy's son, Rohan, had joined Infosys as executive assistant in the chairman's office when his father was recalled to his position in June, the younger Murthy--who is not on the board or part of the executive team--is considered too inexperienced for the CEO role. 

The selection panel tasked to recommend candidates comprises current board members Ann Fudge, Jeffrey Lehman, and Ravi Venkatesan. 

Balakrishnan told local reporters he never wanted to be CEO and his resignation was "a personal decision". He dismissed rumors that he was joining Infosys rival, Cognizant, and revealed plans to set up a venture fund with former colleague, Pai. "It is time for me to do something outside of Infosys. I want to spend more time with young entrepreneurs," Balakrishnan said. "I am leaving on a good note. There is no room for unhappiness."

Pai himself said he was "surprised" by the resignation. "I thought any organization would have made all efforts to retain him," he said in a report by The Economic Times. "It will be a loss for any corporation to lose someone of Bala's stature. Bala was a great talent, he was Murthy's blue-eyed boy."

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