Apr 15, 2011

Why didn't Mohandas Pai become COO?



After his resignation was announced today, Mint had this story. Shows how much a business (even something as delivery focused as IT services) depends on sales, that a Finance turned HR head can't really hope to land the top job without sales and marketing experience



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Amplify’d from www.livemint.com

In 2006 after steering Infosys finances for more than a decade, Pai abruptly quit his CFO role to take over as the HR head of the company and also its infrastructure expansion and management. Some saw this ‘rotation’ as Pai’s way of teaching himself the nitty-gritties of different roles, so that he could aim for an even higher role in the company. He was both respected and loathed for what his opponents internally saw as ruthlessness.

As the HR head however, Pai had a few stumbles. The iRace controversy of 2009-10 and the way the company handled its people during the 2009-10 recession came in for much criticism. Inspite of that Infosys continued to be among the top companies in numerous lists of ‘best places to work for.’

While he aspires for the top job, he has had no sales experience. Remember all Infy’s CEO’s whether Murthy, Nandan or Kris have spent time in the crucial US market, wearing out leather and selling stuff. Execution is important but secondary and will happen only if you are able to garner business.

Even in 2006, a very senior person in Infosys who wanted to remain anonymous had told your correspondent “Pai has several positive qualities going for him. He is a good capo regime for any Don. He is capable, ruthless and incredibly smart. But he is too ambitious for his own good as he is a bruiser and arrogant. While he aspires for the top job, he has had no sales experience. Remember all Infy’s CEO’s whether Murthy, Nandan or Kris have spent time in the crucial US market, wearing out leather and selling stuff. Execution is important but secondary and will happen only if you are able to garner business.

Mohandas Pai. Photo: Bloomberg
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