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No Fear No Favour

As Nandan Nilekani is back at Infosys, Twitter floods with ‘congratulations’ messages

Eight years after he relinquished all responsibilities at Infosys to take on the task of building the Aadhaar infrastructure, Nandan Nilekani has returned to the company he co-founded in 1981.

The Infosys board on Thursday named him non-executive chairman in what looked like a response to sentiments of a host of investors and others who saw him as best placed to bring stability to a company roiled by controversy over the past year. His phenomenal success, first as Infosys CEO (2002 to 2007) and then in building and operationalising a technically complex national infrastructure like Aadhaar, has provided him considerable global heft.

Nilekani, according to sources, will stay for a minimum of two years at the company though there’s pressure on him to take a five-year term. He will replace R Seshasayee, the main target of attacks by co-founder N R Narayana Murthy for what he described as a sharp deterioration in governance standards at the company. Seshasayee has also quit the board.

Soon after joining Infosys after Vishal Sikka sudden exit, Nilekani twitted “Joined @Infosys at 26, re-joined it at 62. Life does turn full circle!”

Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of outsourcing research firm Everest Group, said Nilekani’s return to Infosys signals a commitment from the board to try and heal the divisions between board members, between board and founders, and internally within the ranks of Infosys employees. But he said the board changes do not by itself self-resolve the underlying issues that caused this split.

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