Right reasons, wrong fights
Raghavan Srinivasan
“While both Mr. Tata’s charges against Mr. Mistry (and the latter’s response to them) as well as Mr. Murthy’s concerns — which have been shared by some of the other co-founders of Infosys — have all been couched in lofty terms, these are actually being seen as spiteful attacks in a very personal feud.
Take Mr. Murthy’s open letter released to the media last week, slamming the sharp pay hike awarded to COO Pravin Rao. The letter, coming as it does on the back of Mr. Murthy’s criticism of the Infosys board clearing Vishal Sikka’s own compensation, has once again reignited the face-off between Mr. Murthy and Mr. Sikka.
The differences, which appeared to have been papered over late February when Mr. Murthy said complimentary things about Infosys Chairman R. Seshasayee, which were echoed by Mr. Seshasayee and Mr. Sikka, are back in the open. Mr. Murthy’s case for what he calls “compassionate capitalism” versus the aggressive, U.S.-trained Sikka’s approach of exceptional reward for attaining stretch goals would have made for an engrossing debate, if not for the very clear personal differences between the two. As it is, it is investors in Infosys stock who have paid the price, having thousands of crores wiped off from the value of their holdings.
Ditto at the Tata Group, which has shed thousands of crores in market capitalisation after the surprise sacking of Mr. Mistry. The many issues raised by Ratan Tata, as well as the detailed concerns pointed out by Cyrus Mistry, deserve greater attention on matters of principle therein, but were not given their due because of the personal peeve which overlay all these actions. Besides, whether it is Mr. Tata or Mr. Mistry or Mr. Murthy, the fact is that all of them had the opportunity to address many of the concerns they raised later.
The Economist said, in an article on the Tata-Mistry fight, that in India, “good corporate governance” was simply a euphemism for “not crooked”. By that logic, both the Tata Group and Infosys, and for that matter all the protagonists in the high-profile spats in these groups, are exemplars of “good corporate governance”. But that hasn’t stopped investors from voting with their feet on how they viewed these tiffs. Clearly, when it comes to fighting for “principles”, timing is as important as the issues one is fighting for.”


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