Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Lala" Infosys

Infosys was , is , and will be a great company. Unarguably. But even great organisations suffer from malaise. Surprisingly, Infosys suffers from the malaise that you would not normally attribute to it - the Lala problem. Yes, I know, I am throwing mud at a great company, but you have to expect it if you lose 20% of your market value in one day.

Wait a minute. Isn't Infosys one of the most professional of companies ? A company that sets the standard for corporate governance. The company that raised the bar on ethical business. The company with the middle class values ? All true. But Infosys suffers from the same problem that family run companies have - the company is handed down from one  "family" man to another.

Only in Infosys' case, the "family" is not blood related, but the group of founders who set up Infosys. The peerless Narayana Murthy established it. The relentless Nandan Nilekani drove it to the status of a world leader. Kris Gopalakrishnan then took up the baton and reaped the boom years. And then , just like in a family,  the company was handed over from brother to brother, to Shibulal, the last of the founders. And as we all know, second and third generation families are never the same as the first generation.

In all this, quite a few senior managers stepped away, knowing they had reached the end of the road - not just that they could never lead the company, but that in the set way of things, they had done all that they could.

Infosys is not known in the market as a great company to work for. This, despite its undoubted brilliance, its strong values, its untarnished reputation and its incredibly strong balance sheet.  It simply does not attract the best quality talent that a leader in the industry should. And it loses talent far faster.

Calling it a "Lala company" is an insult to a great institution. But a staunch admirer of the company, and its founders that I am , I am usurping the right to be unfair.  A classic response of an organisation that is in the situation that Infosys is in now, would be to make an acquisition - especially since there is a mountain of cash burning a hole in its pocket. If its does that, it surely is then a Lala company. For that's what Lalas do.

Infosys will bounce back. It is suffering from the middle age blues - as all of us in our personal lives do too. It has reached middle age perhaps a little earlier than its peers - even in that it is a trail blazer. But its bounce will be faster if the founders leave. Lock their doors and go.

Its time for Infosys Gen 2 to emerge. One where there are no more "Lalas". 

An unfair post this one. For sure.  But you are only unfair to somebody you admire.