Friday, 26 June 2009

Infosys chairman to run India ID card scheme

(By Anthony Miller – Friday 26th June 2009 8:15am). Infosys co-founder and co-chairman, Nandan Nilekani, is to step down from the board next month to take charge as the Chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), in the rank of Cabinet Minister. The Indian government has set aside around $20m this FY to kick off the scheme, which will provide social-security like numbering and smartcards to all of India’s 1.1b citizens. Nilekani is reported as saying that he expects the first ID cards to be issued within 12-18 months.

Now there’s obviously several stories here, but for now I will just comment on the more ‘superficial’ one, and that is the changing of the guard at Infosys. One of the many aspects I have always liked about Infosys (besides margins to die for) is the constant promotion of senior management into top positions in the company. When I met Nilekani in my first jaw-dropping visit to Infosys’ Bangalore campus in 2000, he was COO. He was promoted to CEO in 2002 and handed over the reins to co-founder ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan in 2007 to ascend to the co-chairmanship of the Board. I think this top management ‘churn’ is very healthy in a fast growing company, but of course the real test will be whether Infosys will eventually appoint someone outside of the co-founder ranks to become CEO when Kris eventually moves on (and, I assume, up). But ambitious senior managers can see that, in Infosys at least, top executive positions are potentially attainable.

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