It finally happened. The kind of shareholder activism we are used to seeing in the more developed markets, but which is largely absent in India, today led to the CEO of the country’s second-largest information technology company yield to the pressure and resign. Only, in this case, it was quite the opposite, with the shareholder making the noise being the founder himself, and the resigning CEO being the one fighting a battle to keep up with the changing market realities.
In his resignation letter to the board and his letter to the employees, Vishal Sikka, the outgoing Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer squarely put the blame for his resignation on N R Narayana Murthy’s relentless attacks undermining the work and causing distraction. The usually calm Vishal Sikka, who always seemed to be making efforts towards placating the founders through the entire period, today seemed to be making it plain that their campaign is only hurting the company and the work being done.
In his letter, while Vishal Sikka acknowledged the support of, and thanked board members, close colleagues, and several other co-workers, notably absent was a mention of the name of any of the seven co-founders of the company, including that of N R Narayana Murthy. Here are the key statements from Vishal Sikka’s two letters which take a shot at Narayana Murthy, without naming him, of course:
- I have resigned from my position as your MD & CEO effective today… after much thought, and considering the environment of the last few quarters, I am clear in my decision.
- It is clear to me that despite our successes over the last three years, and the powerful seeds of innovation that we have sown, I cannot carry out my job as CEO and continue to create value, while also constantly defending against unrelenting, baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks.
- I am proud of how our Board has worked, tirelessly, selflessly, these past quarters, despite intense, unfair, and often malicious and personal, criticism, in not only upholding our standards of governance and integrity, but also indeed raising these. None of our successes would be worthwhile for a moment, if this was not the case.
- I was, and remain, passionate about the massive transformation opportunity for this company and industry, but we all need to allow the company to move beyond the noise and distractions.
- I have decided to leave because the distractions, the very public noise around us, have created an untenable atmosphere.
- Life is too short to engage in battles of opinions in the public, these add no value, take critical time and focus away from the business, and indeed add more to the noise, to the eardrum buzz.
- Steve Jobs, in his famous commencement speech at my alma mater, said: “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice.”
- I now need to move forward, and return to an environment of respect, trust and empowerment, where I can take on new lofty challenges, as can each of you.
- Even in the midst of all of the distractions, even as the tendency was to return to the familiar, we still managed to persevere and make wonderful progress.
- The distractions that we have seen, the constant drumbeat of the same issues over and over again, while ignoring and undermining the good work that has been done, take the excitement and passion out of this amazing journey.
- Over the last many months and quarters, we have all been besieged by false, baseless, malicious and increasingly personal attacks… Allegations that have been repeatedly proven false and baseless by multiple, independent investigations.
- But despite this, the attacks continue, and worse still, amplified by the very people from whom we all expected the most steadfast support in this great transformation.
- This continuous drumbeat of distractions and negativity over the last several months/quarters, inhibits our ability to make positive change and stay focused on value creation.
- Addressing the noise by itself is damaging; hundreds of hours of my own time has gone into this recently. But the structural challenges this engenders within the organisation, has a very damaging effect on our ability to carry out any kind of a transformation, especially one that is as fundamental as transforming from a cost-oriented to an innovation-oriented value delivery to clients.
- If these types of attacks continue, I hope each of you will continue to be the voice of fairness and reason – providing the active, emphatic and unequivocal support that the company, the management, the employees, and all of the stakeholders and friends of the company need in order to succeed.