Information technology services firm Mindtree is on the cusp of growth, with annual revenue of $1 billion. But, with its largest investor, V G Siddhartha, planning to offload his 21 per cent stake, fears of management disruption or a hostile takeover has surfaced. Mindtree Executive Chairman KRISHNAKUMAR NATARAJAN told Debasis Mohapatra that Siddhartha would not harm the company. Edited excerpts:
What options do you have if Siddhartha sells his stake to an entity that forces a management change?
I think that’s quite speculative. He (Siddhartha) has not shown that he wants to do anything like that.
Our business has been built for sustainability, to create value for shareholders. We are focussed on that. This takes a long time. We have probably completed a part of the journey. But we also have a lot more ground to cover.
So, you want to see the whole journey?
Now, there is high energy in the team. But there are circumstances you cannot control. Business is getting more complex each day.
We desire to steer the company in its onward journey. Let me give you an example from cricket. We kept batting when the ball was very swinging and moving a lot. Now, we are seeing the ball well because we have played for the past 20 years.
Our coordination is good. We hope to score a century or more. That’s always the desire. Aspiration is everything.
Are you dismissing any possibility of a hostile takeover? How is your relationship with Siddhartha now?
Our relationship with Siddhartha is very cordial. He also believes that he is the creator of the company. While, as founders of the company, we have a lot more emotional attachment with it, Siddhartha also has an equal level of commitment because in a way, he has also grown with Mindtree. We are confident Siddhartha will not do anything that will disrupt the company.
Reports suggest that if some rival IT firm such as L&T Infotech come on board, the client-concentration risk will be mitigated with the emergence of a bigger entity. Then, why are the founders resisting such proposals?
We are here to build a great institution. As I said, it’s only a 20-year-long journey so far. You have to see role models such as N R Narayana Murthy, who built a great institution like Infosys. It’s only logical to aspire to be like that. Infosys has inspired many of us.
Will the founders accept a passive financial investor who comes with long-term capital appreciation in mind or a buyer whose objective will be to drive the future direction of Mindtree?
To be honest, we are not at that stage at all. We don’t have anything on table to decide that. As far as strategic direction is concerned, we (the founders) have the conviction and confidence in the business and have a point of view on how the future is evolving.
So, you want to continue to drive the strategic direction of the company?
If you have aspiration to scale Mount Everest, you will have slides, storms and other incidents. So, you have to change the level of your base camp and you probably have to get new supplies. It’s not a straight line. It is important to understand the local environment.
When you say “new supplies”, can it be inferred that you are in talks with any PE investors who will buy out Siddhartha’s stake and will not force a management change?
You don’t know the local conditions. There can 20 such scenarios. Clearly, at this point of time, we don’t even have one scenario. But, our aspiration is to go and climb and conquer the Mount Everest.
But, you are holding on to the conviction that Siddhartha’s stake sale will not disrupt the company’s operations?
That’s correct. We are confident that Siddhartha will not harm the company. He has never been concerned about the management structure in Mindtree and he has (seen) great returns.
So, he has great respect for the management of Mindtree. He has a relationship with people in the management. I may not be able to tell what he has in mind but I can certainly say that we have a great relationship.