CHURUMURI POLL: Why did Mohandas Pai quit?

In normal circumstances, the exit of a lone individual from a giant company would not have attracted too much attention. But then, T.V. Mohandas Pai is no ordinary employee; he was chief financial officer (CFO) of India’s bellwether information technology company, Infosys, and a director on its board.

Pai claims that it was not a sudden decision; that he had decided to leave a year ago; that he discussed his exit with Infy chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy nine months ago (a conversation Murthy remembers), and that he had said “no” when asked if he was looking at a higher position like a COO or CEO.

However, most media reports hint at the opposite: that he was indeed piqued at the possibility of never becoming CEO in the normal course of things.

Rumours that Pai, the most visible face of the company after the departure of Murthy and Nandan Nilekani with a view on everything under (and beyond) the Bangalore sun, wanted to enter politics, have been shot down by Pai himself, saying he wants to devote 30 per cent of his tie to higher education.

Pai, 51, says he never had aspirations to be CEO and that he had left the company to pave the way for youngsters, although just a week earlier, he had featured in an Economic Times lead story saying he was “front runner” to be chief operating officer (COO). In other words, the claim that it was not a sudden decision or that he wasn’t looking for a bigger role are both bogus.

However, most media reports on Pai’s resignation also overlook the enormous activity that’s been building up on the human resources (HR) front, an area Pai was directly involved in as director.

Attrition rate continues to be very high. A controversial HR initiative called iRace that resulted in the demotions of 4,000-5,000 staff has attracted much criticism. An Infosys employee (a Muslim) fired from his job after the 2008 Jaipur blasts, has been ordered to be reinstated by the courts. And, above all, Infosys is facing plenty of heat in the United States over misuse of H1B visas and age discrimination.

So, why do you think Pai left?