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Infosys Names Kamath Chairman

India's second-largest software exporter named K.V. Kamath as its new chairman, replacing co-founder N.R. Naryana Murthy when he retires.

NEW DELHI (AP) -- India's second-largest software exporter Infosys Technologies named K.V. Kamath as its new chairman Saturday, replacing co-founder N.R. Naryana Murthy when he retires in August and steps into an advisory role.

The $6 billion company also announced that its current CEO, S. Gopalakrishnan, will become executive co-chairman.

Kamath was chief executive of ICICI Bank, India's largest private lender, before joining Infosys as an independent director in charge of global infrastructure. He was seen as the key driving force in ICICI's success, and continues to be a non-executive chairman at the bank.

Kamath, 63, told reporters he felt "greatly honored" by the appointment to chair the board and would "accept this responsibility with a deep sense of humility."

Infosys elevated chief operating officer S.D. Shibulal to be its new chief executive -- a move that continues the company's history of putting founders in the top spot.

He may be the last founder-CEO, however, as he and 55-year-old Gopalakrishnan are the only founders left among the seven who created the Bangalore-based company in 1981. It now has 64 offices and dozens of development centers employing more than 130,800 people in multiple countries including the United States, Britain, China, Australia and Japan.

Shibulal also worked in the 1990s on setting up the first e-commerce platforms for Sun Microsystems Inc., based in Santa Clara, California, which has since been bought by Oracle Corp.

"We will ensure that this leadership transition is smooth," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Shibulal as saying. "We are also making other organizational changes to strengthen our market position and ability to serve our clients better."

The appointments take effect Aug. 21. Infosys said it would also appoint three new directors before its June general meeting.

While still a leader in India's $60 billion software services sector, Infosys lately has faced tougher competition. Earlier this month, it reported an 18.9 percent rise in quarterly profit in dollar terms -- missing expectations as expenses, global uncertainty and a rising rupee squeezed margins.

At the same time, key board member T.V. Mohandas Pai upset markets by announcing he also would retire.

The departure of Murthy -- one of India's most respected business leaders -- marks a generational shift as younger leaders move up in the company and its legendary founders move on.

The company said Murthy would become a chairman emeritus, an advisory job without involvement in strategy or operations.

"Murthy is the flag-bearer of the industry," Kotak Securities analyst Dipen Shah said, adding that Murthy had raised standards of corporate governance at Infosys and strengthened its management. "His contribution has been significant. Infosys will continue to get guidance from him, but not in an executive role."

The changes, however, shouldn't affect the company's performance, Shah said. "They have good bench strength in terms of management who can take on higher roles."

Murthy said Saturday that he was pleased with the board's appointments, telling reporters that Kamath, Gopalakrishnan and Shibulal "will make an ideal team." He also said he was grateful for the chance to continue in a role that allows him to "add value to the board" after his August retirement.

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