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Mohandas Pai | Murthy asked if I wanted to be COO or CEO

Mohandas Pai | Murthy asked if I wanted to be COO or CEO
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First Published: Fri, Apr 15 2011. 11 20 PM IST

Bidding adieu: T.V. Mohandas Pai. Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Bidding adieu: T.V. Mohandas Pai. Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Updated: Fri, Apr 15 2011. 11 20 PM IST
Bangalore: In conversation with reporters after the earnings press conference, T.V. Mohandas Pai said that his decision to quit Infosys Technologies Ltdafter 17 years was premeditated and there was no disagreement between him and the board. Pai will divide his time between working in the area of higher education, serving on the boards of few firms and devoting time to his family. Pai was a member of the board of directors, and head of human resources (HR) and research among other functions at Infosys. Edited excerpts:
Why this sudden decision to quit?
Bidding adieu: T.V. Mohandas Pai. Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
This...announcement is not a sudden decision. I decided this one year ago and spoke to Narayana Murthy nine months back. He did ask me to stay and also if I wanted to be COO or CEO and I said no. I decided this is the best time as the new year is starting. I sent an official mail to Murthy at 10.30pm last night. We discussed it in the board meeting today and informed the stock exchanges. It is a well-considered decision and there is no discord among any of us.
What are your future plans?
I have some views, but right now I am very devastated. It was a courageous decision, but it is beginning to sink in now—I won’t be walking around this campus, or seeing the people in this company. I handled many portfolios. Two business units, HR, education, facilities, infrastructure. I was also the voice of Infosys, because I started way back in 1994. Narayana Murthy, Nandan (Nilekani) and I were a team, and they have left now.
I want to spend 30% of my time in the corporate world. Whatever I join should have a systemic impact on India. But I won’t work full time. Fourteen hours a day for 17 years now is a bit much. Another 30%, I will work in policy for higher education, for young people in this country to get better training, better jobs. I will hopefully help some universities to come up. I already sit on the board of four-five universities. The remaining 30% I want to spend with my wife and children.
You had a large role to play in this company all these years—who will handle this after you?
I don’t know whether there will ever be a replacement for Narayana Murthy or Nandan or me. But there will be others who will step into our shoes and each one has his own unique traits. I can think of five people who can step into my shoes if they are asked. This company has an enormous leadership talent pool. There are over a 100 people who can be CEOs of small and medium companies. All of us have to make sure this company carries on, which means you have to vacate the chair after sometime. You have to let other people stand under the sun.
Will this lead to an exodus in the company?
This will not lead to any exodus. We don’t build personal loyalties as a policy. We are a professional company, we work with each other, but we are loyal to the company.
What will happen to the initiatives you started?
Those were company initiatives, started by teams and not just by me. For example, last year, we started an initiative called Spark. Last year 187,000 young people from schools and colleges across India spent time on our campus. By 2015, we want to reach out to one million people who will want to visit the company. Will all this continue after I leave? Of course, it will.
The information technology (IT) industry has seen many pioneers leave of late.
Yes, the IT industry has seen the exit of people who have been the pioneers of this industry, and rightly so. Every revolution consumes its own children. What we brought about in the IT industry was a revolution. But it also gets you—14 hours a day, global delivery model, travelling on work, no sleep. You can only do this for some time.
Any unfinished agenda as you leave?
My unfinished agenda is to make Infosys No. 1 in the world. When I joined the company, I was sitting as a shareholder in a shareholder meeting, asking questions. Murthy asked me to join him on the dais and answer those questions. So, I did that all these years. Now I will go back and ask the same questions— when will you be No. 1 in terms of profitability, people, market value. Maybe not in revenue because that is not our model.
priyanka.p1@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Apr 15 2011. 11 20 PM IST