Nandan Nilekani can sneeze but Steve Jobs cannot !

Nandan Nilkani and Steve Jobs

No doubt both the individuals mentioned here are great business legends. They have made fortunes for their share holders. They brought the ‘cool’ factor of doing Business to the society. But there’s strong difference between the two. Yes you many will say – “Not all know what Infosys is? or Who Nilekani is?” But that is because Infosys is not involved in consumer products like the iPhone or iPod. Recently there were tons of articles written out there in the US and here in India about these two personalities. Although not directly related there is a great similarity in the storyline. I sensed the same and share it out with BizDharma readers out here.

Steve has returned back to Apple, seems to be hail and hearty and the Wall Street as usual is watching. Counting their heart beats investors invested in APPL pray for no more news like these about Steve and no roller coaster ride on the bourses due to that. On the other hand, Nilekani has moved away from Infosys. He has handed over his job to people he has groomed and believe who can take Infosys forward. The share price of Infosys is not going crazy. People are not counting their heart beats here in India. They are rather congratulating Nilekani over his tenure here at Infosys. They believe he has lived every moment and has left memories to cherish.

The first thing that strikes my mind reading all this- “Dear Steve, you need to learn from Nilekani and develop good succession to move away. ASAP.”

The other thought is about what’s next for Nilekani? Even if you are an average news reader you know for sure that Nilekani will now head one of the most challenging jobs of giving a Unique ID to every Indian. So can we say Nandan Nilekani has slowed down at his pace? I believe there’s just a change in track, the race is still on for Nilekani! I feel, Steve too needs to realize. He has launched really cool products, and he is a master in presenting cool ideas. People swear by his name. OK. Stop. This now needs to move ahead. Move ahead beyond the scope of a company.

What if both of these men die right at this very moment? Will Infosys stop? Will Apple shut producing cool products? If the answers to these is No, Steve needs to immediately start moving away gradually from Apple. This will benefit both Apple and Steve in the long run.

Succession planning too is a leader’s responsibility. Rather a critical responsibility. Apple has gradually become a person dependent entity, where (Steve Jobs = Apple = Steve Jobs). This mind set has to be changed. Else the investors won’t allow the leaders to even sneeze when they want to, because that brings jitters to their markets.

So all I can say is, I am proud Nandan can sneeze, you can sneeze, I can too and hope someday even Steve will be allowed to sneeze as per his will and not as per markets. This I believe should be his next big assignment at Apple! After iPhone – iSneeze so to say…

As Albert Einstein said – “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

Image src: Wikipedia

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arup July 3, 2009 at 6:58 am

how many people will follow apple post jobs? how many people will follow jobs post apple? how many people will follow infosys post nilekani? how many people will follow infosys post nilekani? how many people will follow nilekani post apple?

ans these 2 questions and you would know that what jobs is and what nilekani is and why jobs needs to learn nothing from nilekani. some people are just special and they need to know noe of the standard managemant jargon ro practises.

Chanda Himanshu July 3, 2009 at 7:16 am

Hi Arup

I do respect the enthu that you have for Steve Jobs, I too am a kick ass fan of both these personalities 😉 . But this post is not to analyze their personalities but to understand that it has been long that Steve’s health has been a major concern for Apple. He needs to understand that and break the formula I mentioned to ensure Apple’s shareholders.

I do recommend you to even read this as part of further understanding it

Hope this will suffice


k kiran kumar July 3, 2009 at 10:20 am

Well written dude. Very nice and effective comparison done. You have shown with very good example that how much important is to make your effective and proper backup.

Rahul July 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I think its not a justice to two completely different persons.. Steve Jobs has an identity of his own.He is hated and loved in equal proportions.Thats not same with Nilekani.

Steve Jobs = Apple = Steve Jobs

I the recent times same is not true with Apple.The dependence on him has been mere. He has been on leave(Now he is back)for liver transplant and Apple’s stock has taken more than 60% heap since then.
This article nicely summaries the same.

Yes,its about time for Jobs to think about retiring.He is ill,but after all the events happened in his life he seems to live these moments. :)

Neeraj July 6, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Definitely there are number of people who are die hart fan of Steve, and they do not like this comparison. But still this is true relevant. If you own an organization or you lead an organization then you must know that, your absence can cause how much damage to your organization. Your successor must be able to drive organization at least as good as you have. If the absence of Steve can cause good amount of damage to Apple then they must have think to get/create a good successor. You must plan any thing in such a way, that in your absence your stack holder and organization should not suffer.

Siva July 8, 2009 at 5:52 am

I admire both Nandan and Steve but what Himanshu had said is true even though it is difficult to accept for Steve followers. The credit for Nandan had happened because of his Mentor (Infosys) Narayanamurthy as they had a clear vision on their succession planning which paved way for Nandan to be at top and later give the mantle to the next person. Thanks for the Link on HBS which reitreates your point further. Good posting Himanshu.

Ramesh Bishnoi July 30, 2009 at 7:07 am

Very good comparision, Himanshu, however I personally feel it is one-off case. Further, particulary from Indian Corporate Governance / Leadership context, we can find so many examples of proper succession planning (apart from the one example mentioned here) like our own company TCS’s case where Mr. N. Chandrasekaran (or Chandra as he is well-known), current COO will be smoothly takingover as CEO from Mr. S. Ramadorai. In non-IT world, we have expmples like Ms. Chanda Kochhar taking over Mr. KV kamath as CEO of 2nd largest Indian Bank (ICICI Bank) or planned smooth succession for Mr. Deepak Parekh, chairman HDFC Ltd (unofficially dubbed the government’s informal crisis-manager), post Dec-2009.

Chanda Himanshu July 31, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Completely agree with you Ramesh. Not just India but similar successful examples can be found across the globe including US 😉 The point I tried making here is that once you have a larger than life image it becomes a responsibility to do larger than life activities. It has been couple of times when Jobs gave hiccups to the Wall Street. Also wanted to appreciate Nilekanis move to work with the government on a National project for the development of the country.

bankbars October 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm

I don’t think Mr. Nilkeni is no longer associated with Infosys now. Recently I read in some news paper that though he has resigned from his post, he is somehow associated with the company …like on an advisory board or so.

But the job he is doing right now is very tough and it is surely going to help the government in many ways.

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