The successor to AM Naik, group executive chairman at India’s largest engineering company Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T), will mostly likely be a company insider with deputy managing director SN Subrahmanyan being the front-runner.

Naik, who has been heading L&T for more than a decade, is due to retire next year when he turns 75. A new chief at L&T is one of the most watched top-level appointments in corporate India, and Naik has now hinted that Subrahmanyan could be the one.

“Since Subrahmanyan has been appointed the deputy managing director and president and he is the only one at that level, anybody visibly can see him as number 2. I don't see anybody coming from outside to be able to run this company,” Naik told reporters on Wednesday, according to media reports.

“Therefore, you can surmise that he has a pretty good chance to be (the next chairman). It may happen sometime next year before September,” he added.

Naik, however, said it hasn’t been decided yet whether the company will have an executive chairman or a non-executive chairman after he retires.

Naik joined the company in 1965. He was named managing director and CEO in 1999 and appointed as chairman in 2003. He was scheduled to retire in 2012 but was given an extension of five years. The same year, L&T split the role of chairman and managing director, elevating Naik as executive chairman and naming K. Venkataramanan as managing director and CEO.

Venkataramanan’s appointment was somewhat of a surprise as the person until then considered most likely to succeed Naik was Ravi Uppal, who had led European engineering giant ABB Group in India before joining L&T in 2009. Uppal left L&T in 2012 after Venkataramanan’s elevation. Venkataramanan’s term ended in September 2015.

Subrahmanyan, 55, was named deputy managing director and president last September. He also heads L&T Construction and is president of L&T Infotech and L&T Technology Services. He is also responsible for the Metallurgical & Material Handling (MMH) and Shipbuilding business verticals at L&T.

Subrahmanyan has a degree in civil engineering and a post-graduate qualification in business management. He began his career with L&T in 1984 as a project planning engineer and soon made a name by successfully setting up the Ready Mix Concrete business for the first time in India. Besides, he is credited with establishing L&T Construction as a significant engineering, procurement and construction player in the Middle East.

Apart from Subrahmanyan, L&T has four other whole-time directors on its board. They are chief financial officer R Shankar Raman, who joined L&T in 1994; Shailendra Roy, who joined the company in 2004 and heads the power, heavy engineering and defence businesses; Dip Kishore Sen, who joined L&T in 1989 and leads the infrastructure vertical; and MV Satish, who started his career at L&T as a junior engineer in 1980 and now heads buildings, minerals and metals segments and also two business verticals within L&T Construction.

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