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Infosys seeks CEO ready to enter war between board, founders

[Bangalore] Infosys Ltd begins the search for a new chief executive officer this week with a tough set of requirements for any candidate: The person must be capable of leading a 200,000 employee organization, willing to tackle sweeping changes in the outsourcing industry and brave enough to drop in the middle of open warfare between the company's board and co-founders.

The bedlam cost the company its current CEO, Vishal Sikka, who said on Friday he would step aside after escalating criticism from the co-founders over his compensation and strategy. The board defended Sikka and took the highly unusual step of calling out by name ex-Chairman Narayana Murthy for what they called his "inappropriate demands" and destructive involvement. The billionaire responded with a dire warning that he would respond "in the right manner" in the future.

The open hostilities will make it difficult to draw top candidates from outside the company and likely increase the chances an internal executive will be elevated to CEO. The Bangalore-based company, India's second-largest outsourcer with more than US$10 billion in revenue, also faces deep business challenges, from slowing growth and automation to hostility from the Trump administration in its most important market.

"It's a tough one," said Ashutosh Sharma, the New Delhi-based vice president and research director at Forrester Inc. "They'll find it hard attracting global talent of Vishal Sikka's caliber." Fifty-year-old Sikka, a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University and the former chief technology officer of SAP SE, is credited with fostering innovation at the company, stemming attrition, boosting margins and pulling in a growing roster of large corporate customers. He helped increase Infosys's revenue by about 25 per cent since taking the helm three years ago.