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People: HCL's young CEO Harsh Chitale meets an age-old challenge
Thursday, 23rd December 2010
For the first time in 16 years, HCL has a new CEO. And in another first, he is not a promoter.

About three months ago, a boyish-looking, 40-year-old Harsh Chitale was roped in from Honeywell Process Solutions to replace founder-chairman Ajai Chowdhry . Chitale's mandate is to drive the company, whose forte has been hardware and distribution, harder into the software business.

Several old-timers are miffed. They had no clue a CEO hunt was on. There is also a feeling they have been overlooked. Just one member of the 10-member executive management team, all of whom are elder to Chitale, has been entrusted with one of the new assignments. Even for its two new businesses, security solutions and learning, HCL preferred outside talent.

HCL Infosystems staffers spoke about the tension within, but off the record. "The company is changing something that has not changed in the past 15 years. You need fresh blood, but that causes friction within," says an employee who has spent five years in HCL. Another senior employee says people are upset, but there have been no exits. "There's hostility in terms of accepting change and new people," he says. "It's not easy for managers who have spent decades at one place to suddenly look outside." This makes the new CEO's job more challenging.

Chitale steps into a big pair of shoes. He is the third chief of HCL, after group founders Shiv Nadar and Chowdhry, who control 50.2% in the company. But here is the catch: the founder is not going anywhere. Not just yet.

Perhaps the most telling indicator is that the new CEO sits in an office next to Chowdhry's and still puts in the long hours. He does not even get to park his Honda Accord next to the founder's Bentley, which occupies prime space at the entrance. "It's an old school company that values authority and where positions matter," says a new recruit. At his first media interaction on October 21, Chowdhry fielded most queries, ranging from the shift to software services and plans. Chitale, calm and smiling, answered a few, but mostly nodded in approval.

Publication : Economic Times
TAGS : people  hcl    


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