New Delhi: Astatement early on Friday from the country’s third largest technology firm, Wipro Ltd, threw up more than just disappointing quarterly numbers. Without a warning, it also announced the exits of its joint chief executive officers (CEOs)—Girish Paranjpe and Suresh Vaswani, both Wipro veterans of at least two decades.?The?dual role was created less than three years ago.
In a phone interview soon after the announcement, Paranjpe denied any internal rift with Vaswani or the promoters as reasons for the exits. “It was a measure to simplify the organizational structure,” he maintained through the conversation. Edited excerpts:
There is a lot of talk on the Street about an internal rivalry between you and Vaswani, and unrest due to the elevation of Azim Premji’s son Rishad Premji.
Lot of this is speculation. We are a much more forward-thinking company. We will think what is the type of leadership required and move forward on that basis, instead of getting carried away by what we hear in the environment.
Exit mode: Paranjpe says the organizational structure had to change in keeping with new economic scenario, and it had to start at the top. Hemant Mishra/Mint
What triggered the decision?
There wasn’t a trigger point. The timing was right. The organizational structure had to change and it had to start at the top. We had to have a simpler structure. Timing was right because this is the quarter we make our operating plan for the next year. It’s best that the new leadership makes the plans for themselves rather than somebody else doing it for them.
What makes you think the timing is right when there is still a lot of uncertainty in the environment?
We have a fair idea of what 2011-12 is going to look like in terms of clients’ budgets, etc. We are getting into less turbulent times. If you see, the future is much more predictable, it gives you the comfort to start with the new leadership.
When did you decide? And what was Premji’s reaction?
It was a collective decision. We were debating with the board for months and we all came to the conclusion that this was the right thing to do. Ultimately, it culminated in a board decision last week.
Didn’t Premji try and stop you or suggest a way in which you could stay on in a different role?
There were multiple discussions, multiple options, but both of us felt this was the best way. And Wipro has a strong bench of people with experience.
But you two were CEOs.
I think other people should also get a chance, otherwise we will keep blocking the way.
So what was the problem with that model?
Anybody will tell you that and you were the first ones to write that it is a more complex model, which is true to a certain extent. But it also has advantages. We took over in April 2008. By then, the clouds of the (financial) crisis were already on the horizon. So we needed more bandwidth at the top. Now that you are seeing a more simplified life in an environment which is essentially about growth and efficiency, then perhaps you don’t need that structure.
But you didn’t have to quit to simplify the structure.
This joint-CEO model was built on strong collaboration. So you can’t have collaboration and say that only one of you will succeed in this job. That does not foster collaboration. So it was either both of you will survive, succeed, or both of you will go. And that was always the understanding.
Do we see you joining some other firm or starting something of your own?
I have to figure it out. Today is the first day that I can think of something else.
So you haven’t decided at all?
I don’t know. I have to think of a brand new path, very different from what I have done so far in my career at Wipro. But I am sure it will be exciting. The CEO’s job is a 24-hour job and you can’t do anything else, but do that job.