Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gopal Subramanium

The Supreme Court collegium recommended the names of four persons for appointment as judges. The government accepted three names and expressed misgivings about Gopal Subramanium. The government has the right to request the collegium to reconsider.

The moot question however is whether the government's action is sincere or motivated by extraneous considerations. There has also been leakage (mostly deliberate) of adverse information apparently furnished by CBI / IB to government on Gopal Subramanium's handling of 2G cases.

Without credible information, we cannot conclude whether anyone has played dirty in the whole process. Gopal Subramanium could have waited for Supreme Court collegium's response to government's misgivings before giving vent to his feelings very volubly. He has withdrawn his consent to be a judge a little too prematurely. BJP is proving to be no different from Congress.

RBI Governor

Subramanian Swamy has demanded that Raghuram Rajan should be replaced as RBI Governor. His reasoning is a bit strange. We need to prove, he says, that India-educated economists are equally competent. He has suggested the name of Prof.R.Vaidyanathan of IIM, Bangalore. Vaidyanathan's recent book titled 'India Uninc' is well received in the market. He did his doctorate in IIM, Calcutta and has been teaching in IIM, Bangalore for a long time.

There is obviously no doubt about Vaidyanathan's credentials. But is it necessary to rock the RBI boat now? Narendra Modi is too much of a pragmatist to do that now. The IIM professor's views on many economic / banking issues are totally different from Rajan's. This is not strange since no two economists are expected to hold similar views.

Having said this, it is not necessary to trash Swamy's opinion. The government can take advantage of divergent thoughts by making Vaidyanathan a member of RBI board.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


                                 Shashi Tharoor releases the new book of Rajat Gupta

Rajat Gupta recently started serving his prison sentence. Before entering the low-security prison, he assured his admirers that when the two-year term is over he would author a book detailing his account of the insider transactions probed by the SEC and his innocence in the matter.

You can expect an ex-McKinseyite to deliver on his promise in time. But, wow! He had already completed his book. The book meaningfully titled, “White man’s lackey: The Rise of Preet Bharara and the Fall of American judicial system”, was released in Thiruvananthapuram by Shashi Tharoor even as the author was getting into prison situated very near where Raj Rajaratnam was lodged.

While releasing the book, the former minister empathised with Rajat Gupta saying, “We are birds of the same feather. So we understand each other well. I know how it feels when the entire world blames you for a crime and only you know that you are innocent.”

What if the entire world knows that you are guilty of a crime and only you claim that you are innocent?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Exiting with grace

Once one's time is up, one should quit gracefully. This is a time-tested principle that ensures that one's reputation is intact. Adherence to this principle is often an indication of professionalism. Non-compliance arises from unrealistic self-images.

No one can deny that Narayana Murthy contributed in a big way to the success of Infosys 1.0 However, his second incarnation in the company was an avoidable mishap. In particular, his utterances while severing his connections with the company (save of course his share-holding) are difficult to justify.

In his farewell address, he claimed that he had completed his twin mandate of setting things right at the company and of helping find a new CEO. Is Infosys better off today than when Murthy made his second entry? How many top-level executives have departed in the meanwhile? Is this his vision of setting the company right? Is he not merely trying to justify what he has done or more precisely what he has failed to do in the last one year?

He defended his decision to let go employees emphasising that 'some of them were low performers'. This defence is inappropriate at two levels. One, he did not let them go. Rather, they chose to leave. It is despotic to imagine that they needed his permission to depart. The Board should introspect why managers left in droves. Secondly, accusing the departees of 'poor performance' is sour-grapeism.

Murthy also spoke of his bold initiatives that will help the company in the long term. A person of his caliber and achievements can afford to boast less. He praised  his son as the author of his recent moves. If Rohan Murthy has indeed played such a prominent role in management, this is contrary to what was assured when Murthy brought his son along.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Infosys: Outsider at the helm

Infosys has a new CEO. Vishal Sikka, 47, a former board member of SAP AG, has the onerous responsibility of restoring the image and business of Infosys.

CEOs can be from the promoters, company employees or outsiders. After experimenting with the promoters so far, the company is now gambling on an outsider. Sikka's domain credentials are robust. For a CEO, emotional intelligence is as important as domain expertise. Would the new CEO fare well on the emotional parameter also?

Sikka says that N R Narayana Murthy posed a math puzzle to him and the latter was delighted by the prompt solution proffered by Sikka. One hopes this is not the only criterion for selection.

Murthy is moving out of the company. His emeritus chairmanship, according to him, is only a sinecure arising from company's gratitude for his past services. His son also moves out.

The share price has moved favourably. Is this a response to Sikka's entry or Murthy's exit?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Mani Shankar Aiyar on Shashi Tharoor

Mani Shankar Aiyar has ridiculed Shashi Tharoor as a chameleon on the latter's late discovery of Narendra Modi's 'inclusivism'. Aiyar has also noted that "notwithstanding simmering public doubts over the tragic death of his warm, gregarious wife Sunanda, he was selected again for Thiruvananthapuram." In other words, Tharoor is treated as a renegade.

Tharoor and Aiyar are supposedly the two best brains in the Congress party. Tharoor's rationalisation that by praising Modi's 'changed behaviour' (?) he is only setting a higher benchmark against which the public has to judge the prime minister has not cut much ice with the party. Reasons for his pro-Modi comments are clear as daylight. He desperately needs government's intervention to torpedo the police investigation into his role in the gruesome death of his third wife.

Aiyar is desperate to get into good books of Sonia Gandhi. Tharoor has given him an opportunity to exploit. Perversely intelligent people are a greater liability to a political party than honest fools.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Shashi Tharoor's current views on Narendra Modi

Shashi Tharoor has written the following essay in TheWorldPost :

"When Narendra Modi swept to a dramatic victory in India's general elections, becoming the first prime minister in three decades to command an absolute majorityin the lower house of India's fractious Parliament, many in India worried about what his victory would portend. To political opponents and members of India's liberal intelligentsia, Modi was a divisive, sectarian, authoritarian figure who had presided over the massacre of some 1200 innocents, mainly Muslim, as chief minister of the state of Gujarat in 2002. The thought of such a figure leading a diverse and multi-religious polity that had long been built on the "Nehruvian consensus" developed by the Congress Party, was anathema to many.
In the event, Modi overcame this negative perception, re-branding himself as an apostle of development and pointing to his successful record in Gujarat, a state of high growth rates that under his leadership has been a magnet for investors. His brilliantly-organized, lavishly-funded election campaign saw "Hindutva", the ideology of Hindu chauvinism with which he and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have long been identified, relegated to the back burner, while Modi promised voters he would remake India in the model of prosperous Gujarat. The electorate rewarded the BJP - which had never previously won more than 186 seats in India's 543-member Lower House - with 282 seats, as the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP claimed 333. The ruling Congress Party, of which I am a member, was relegated to its worst showing in history, winning a mere 44 seats.
To almost everyone's surprise, however, Modi and the BJP have eschewed the hubris and triumphalism they might have been assumed to have earned with their sweeping victory. In the couple of weeks since his election, Modi has been conciliatory andinclusive in both his pronouncements and his actions. I was a beneficiary of this unexpected generosity on the very day of his victory, when I received a startling tweetof congratulations from him on my own victory in my constituency. "Let us work together to move India forward," he declared in his message to me.
This tweet to a prominent adversary, with whom he had crossed swords in the past, was one of many signals to the nation that he was putting old enmities behind him. "I will be prime minister of all Indians, including those who did not vote for me," he announced in one of his first speeches. Cynics might point out that this was only prudent, since his party won its resounding majority with just 31 percent of the national vote, benefitting from the Westminster-style "first-past-the-post" system in constituencies with multiple contesting parties. But coming as it did from a man with a reputation of brooking no dissent and riding roughshod over opposition during his twelve years at the helm in Gujarat, it was a welcome surprise.
In a series of speeches, Prime Minister Modi has gone out of his way to avoid confrontational language, to omit issues and imagery that India's religious minorities would find offensive, and to extend a hand of friendship to his critics. After having attacked the large number of government projects and schemes named for members of the Congress Party's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty during the election, he stopped his ministers from renaming these programmes, saying it was more important to get them to work more effectively. His early Cabinet appointments rewarded the party's brighter and younger professionals, omitting many of the Hindu nationalist veterans and rabid ideologues who epitomised many Indians' anxieties about the BJP.
In a striking departure from precedent, Modi also quelled concerns in India's neighbourhood about his rise by inviting the heads of government of India's seven South Asian neighbours, as well as that of Mauritius (the Indian Ocean republic whose population is 63 percent Indian), to his swearing-in. India's prime ministers have never enjoyed lavish inaugurations like American presidents, traditionally assuming office after sparsely-attended and low-key oath-takings behind closed doors. Modi converted this routine into a grand, opulent 4,000-guest ceremony on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, and invited his foreign guests to attend the televised coronation.
The gesture instantly disarmed many across the borders who had been alarmed by his combative rhetoric during the campaign, in which he had promised robust action on the bordersassailed Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism and warned some 30 million Bangladeshi illegal immigrants in India that they should be prepared to pack their backs on the day of his victory. His cordial welcome to, and subsequent bilateral meetings with, the leaders of these and other neighbouring countries reassured them that the Modi government would not feel obliged to live up to the belligerence of the Modi campaign.
So does this all add up to a Modi 2.0, a very different figure in government from the ogre some of us had feared and demonised for years? It is still too early to tell, but the initial signs are encouraging. Prime Minister Modi would hardly be the first opposition leader to temper his views and conduct once in office, but there seems to be something more fundamental involved here. An ambitious man, Modi appears to realize that if he wants to make a success of his government, he will have to lead the nation from the center and not from the extreme right where he had built his base in the BJP.
His overwhelming majority, won on the back of a highly personalized campaign which led many to vote for Modi rather than for the BJP, has also liberated him from the party's and his own past positions. Just as he remade himself from a hate-figure into an avatar of modernity and progress, he is seeking to remake the BJP from a vehicle of Hindu chauvinism to a natural party of governance. This will mean a change in both language and tone, as he has demonstrated from day one.
For an opposition member of Parliament like myself, it would be churlish not to acknowledge Modi 2.0's inclusive outreach and to welcome his more conciliatory statements and actions. The moment he says or does something divisive or sectarian in the Modi 1.0 mould, however, we will resist him robustly. India's people, and its pluralist democracy, deserve no less."

The former minister has taken a calculated risk in stating the obvious about Modi. He has calculated that the Congress in its present perilous state cannot afford to throw him out of the party. Even if it does, he would emerge as a courageous person willing to 'sacrifice' for Modi. By praising Modi, he aims to preempt lawful action against him for his widely suspected criminal misdemeanours. Would Modi play ball? Who does not succumb to flattery? Tharoor is a sharp shooter.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Crisis in Infosys

N.R.Narayana Murthy must be a worried man. Since he rejoined Infosys as its Executive Chairman, scores of top managers have left the company. NRN is not known to accept such departures with equanimity. He is similar to A.M.Naik of L & T in this regard.

Did Murthy make a mistake in coming back to the company? He had earlier thanked persons like K.V.Kamath, V.Balakrishnan, Mohandas Pai and others for their role in his comeback. He may be cursing them now.

An aura of indispensability was built around Murthy. He succumbed with ease. He came in with his son, in utter disregard for canons of corporate governance for which he was a notable votary earlier. Top executives in the company paranoiacally saw ulterior designs in Murthy's second avatar as Chairman with his son in tow. The more he tried to convince others about his sincerity, the more suspicious they became. Murthy is not Steve Jobs.

Managerial leaders do not thrive in an atmosphere of suspicion. So many of them started leaving. In the normal course, the managers who continue in the company should feel a little more assured of promotion prospects because of top level vacancy. But this is not happening.

 The hunt for a new CEO to replace Shibulal is also taking its toll. Shibulal has been an unwilling CEO. Infosys has many talented executives who will be capable CEOs. Looking outside for leadership is a typical 'musk deer complex'. There are attempts to snare Nandan Nilekani into management again. NN rejoining Infosys will not be good either for him or for the company. He has become too political to guide the company objectively. The company should cease obsessing with promoters.

Management literature is replete with examples of outsiders doing poorly as CEOs. Infosys is preparing to provide one more example. Murthy is on a mission to tarnish his own legacy.

Politicians of a different kind

It is encouraging to read the following in The Hindu dated 1st June.