Succession is a tricky subject.

For a king from the centuries gone by, it meant choosing a heir who would be be the next mogul. For a politician from yesteryears and today, it means choosing a tutelage who would carry forward his or her legacy. For a corporate entrepreneur, it means choosing a successor who would carry forward the organization's vision.

There always comes a time when the king, or the politician, or the corporate leader, must pass on the baton. 

There are two critical points in this activity.

To whom?

And how?

The answer to the first question is - The Successor.

Who is a successor? 

Well, he is a person who is deemed fit to receive the baton. He is the person who is chosen, or elected, or selected, to hold the reins and drive the carriage forward.

But is choosing an successor an easy task?

No. The answer is a strong No.

Choosing a successor is an activity which is fraught with risk. 

A bad king can spoil all the good work done by his forerunner. A poor politician can undo all the benefits created by his predecessor. And an incapable corporate leader can spoil the reputation of the organization.

Choosing a successor is one of the most critical activities which is carried out by a leader.

The next thirty months would be one of the most followed ones for India Inc. 

Two of India's most cherished organizations - Infosys and Tata Group - are looking for successors.

Infosys is a company with a focus on Business Consulting, Information Technology(IT) Services and Outsourcing. It's an organization with revenues of approximately 5 Billion USD, employing more than a 100 thousand people.

Tata Group is India's largest private sector corporate group. It has a wide range of business' in its stable - Steel, Cars, IT and Consultancy, Hotels among others. With revenues of more than 78 Billion USD and employing more than 300 thousand people, it is one of the most respected organizations in India and around the world.

Infosys is a company founded in 1981 with just 250 USD. Under it's visionary leader - N. R. Narayana Murthy - fondly known as NRN - the companies revenues have grown to over 5 Billion USD.

NRN was the CEO of the company for 21 long years. Since then he has been the Chairman. There hasn't been a day in the life of Infosys without NRN.

But all of that will change on 20th Aug 2011 when Mr. Murthy will retire as the non-executive chairman at the age of 65.

For an organization who will be without it's founder for the first time in 30 years, choosing a successor for the post of a Chairman will be a important task - to say the least.

The company will look for someone who can carry forward the vision of the organization. Someone who can be a guiding light for the CEO. 

Someone who can help Infy strengthen its position as a IT bellwether. Someone who will help steer the organization into the league of IBM and Accenture, if not better.

Someone who can be that leading light who will uphold NRN's vision in difficult times. Someone who can be a face of the organization over the world.

The task of choosing the successor would have been simpler if Nandan Nilekeni, another co-founder and it's CEO for 5 years, had not left Infosys to join the Government of India in implementing its Unique Identification Program. 

Read this blog post to understand the risks which were visualized in the transition at Infosys. 

But Infosys is a company which thrives of challenges. And we strongly hope that a leader is chosen who would take forward the company to greater heights.

Tata Group is an organization with a history of more than 142 years. It was founded in the era when the Britisher's ruled India. It has been led by visionary leaders in its years of existence. 

Ratan Tata is it's current leader. He worked in the Tata Group of Companies for 29 long years (from 1962 to 1991) before taking over as the Chairman of the Tata Group.

Tata has been a visionary and the organization has flourished under him. Managing more than 12 leading companies is not an easy task. But Ratan Tata has made it seem simple. 

He recently awed the world by producing a car that costs only 2200 USD. Tata Group has gone for strong foreign acquisitions under his guidance - right from Jaguar Land Rover to the Corus Group of England.

And he is set to retire in December 2012 at the age of 75. 

For an organization who has seen a single leader, a charismatic leader for 20 long years - choosing a successor will not be simple.

Ratan Tata has a vision of transforming the group from a patriarchal concern to an institutional enterprise. 

Making things difficult is that fact that in its 142 year old history, only one non-Tata person has been the chairman of the Tata Group. Another critical point is that a Parsi has always headed the Tata Group. This makes the task of choosing a person from outside Tata Group as the Chairman a bit difficult.

Same is the case with Infosys - with many people favoring someone from within the Company to be it's next Chairman.

But then India Inc has changed its face in the recent years. Investors from across the globe have put in their money counting on the success of these organizations. 

And they would want the best people to succeed these icons. And take these organizations to more glorious heights. 

To a higher pedestal of success - so that they can become the beacons for other corporate organizations in modern India.

And someone out there will be the successor who will lead these organizations to further pinnacles.
Succession Succession Reviewed by Vyankatesh on Sunday, August 22, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. A good post, however I feel that there is a huge difference between choosing a leader and choosing an inspirational leader.
    NRN to Infy was something nobody could be in the 29 years.
    The biggest challenge for both these organizations would be to choose someone who could mobilize mass support of their thousands of employees.
    Only then the transition would be complete.

  2. Completely agree with you Akshay.

    Both of them will need a leader whom the employees can look upto.