24 Aug 2017 13:28 IST

Infosys investors bat for return of Nandan Nilekani

DIIs want former CEO to be inducted into the board

In a move that could soothe the nerves of Infosys investors and boost employee morale, the drumbeat to bring back former CEO Nandan Nilekani is increasing.

It is learnt that domestic institutional investors (DIIs) have written a letter to the Infosys board seeking Nilekani's return. These included a dozen investors including Franklin Templeton, IDFC AMC, DSP Blackrock Investment Managers, Birla Sunlife AMC, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, SBI Funds Management, Kotak Mahindra Asset Management, HDFC Asset Management, HDFC Life Insurance, Reliance Nippon Life and ICICI Prudential AMC.

BusinessLine has a copy of the note.

The letter pointed out that after considerable thought and mutual deliberations, we strongly feel that the Infosys board should invite Nilekani to join the board in a suitable capacity. “In our opinion, he enjoys confidence of various stakeholders and given Nilekani’s credentials, it will restore the confidence of stakeholders in the company and also facilitate resolution of the contentious issues that Infosys faces at present.”

Currently, R Seshasayee and Ravi Venkatesan are the chairmen and most likely Nilekani will be inducted as an independent director.

When asked to comment on DIIs’ writing to the board, an Infosys spokesperson said the company does not have any further updates to share at this point of time. Email sent to Nilekani did not elicit any response.

Earlier in the day, co-founder NR Narayana Murthy has deferred his call with investors due to health reasons and has been rescheduled to August 29.

The ‘consensus candidate’

According to market sources and industry watchers, Nilekani, who headed the company from 2002-07, seems to be the ‘consensus candidate’ to take over at the helm of affairs, after former CEO Vishal Sikka abruptly resigned.

The move to bring Nilekani back is being seen in many quarters as an effort to stabilise the poster boy of Indian IT, at a time when the company has seen its market capitalisation erode by more than ₹34,000 crore in the past few days.

As a result of this, some of them have been baying for board’s blood, which they have been insisting is weak and does not take into account the interest of shareholders. “If at all he comes back, he should take over as chairman, which means the existing chairman and co-chairman have to step down,” said V Balakrishnan, former CFO Infosys. Others agree.

Kris Lakshmikanth, CEO of Headhunters India, said that Nilekani has an outgoing personality, has a mind of his own and strong client connects, which would help in aligning the interest of all the stakeholders. Others such as Mohan Lavi, Partner at CA firm KP Rao, said the sticky point could be the existing board which he has to navigate.

Market watchers say that SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya is being considered to be on the board of Infosys.

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