N.R. Narayana Murthy set new standards for ethics and transparency for corporate India
On Friday, the curtains went down on Nagavara Ramarao Narayana Murthy's three-decade journey with Infosys, the company he set up along with six other software programmers in July 1981.
This celebrated journey has all the ingredients of a classic inspirational story; right from the fact that Mr. Murthy's dream started with a humble investment of Rs. 10,000 — famously borrowed from his wife Sudha Murty — to its going public in 1993. The rest, as they say, is history. Of course, Ms. Murty's loan paid rich dividends, for, today Infosys is the second biggest IT company in the country, employs 1.3 lakh engineers and is worth $6.35 billion, with a market capitalisation of around $35 billion.
Not only did Infosys put Bangalore on the global map, earning it the title of the Outsourcing Capital of the world, it also paved the way for entrepreneurs and tech start-ups.
In hindsight, Mr. Murthy's genius lay in not only spotting the opportunities offered by outsourcing but also in building a business model that enabled Infosys to cash in on the outsourcing boom. This model, which laid the foundation for a generation of Indian IT services and outsourcing companies, was designed and implemented by Mr. Murthy and his team.
As much as his business acumen, he set new standards for ethics and transparency for corporate India, at a time when economic liberalisation was leading to other dubious models of industrial practice. No wonder then, for countless young aspirational Indians, this schoolteacher's son, with his simple lifestyle and unaffected demeanour, is an inspirational figure.
A pioneer in the field, the story of how Mr. Murthy built this iconic company is one that inspires awe and respect globally; this is perhaps why its sprawling campus in Electronics City, Bangalore, finds itself on the itinerary of most visiting dignitaries.
But Mr. Murthy's persona goes much beyond just being the founder-CEO of this successful IT company. As Subroto Bagchi, Vice-Chairperson of MindTree, told The Hindu in a recent interview, his stepping down marked “the going down of the midday sun for the industry”. It is no wonder that Mr. Bagchi described Mr. Murthy as the industry's “poster child.”
“The media did not go to NRN only for Infosys's results. You spoke to him on the reservation issue, about the Bangalore international airport and on what should happen to the education policy,” Mr. Bagchi noted. Indeed, Mr. Murthy has been on the boards of many public and private or charitable ventures.
The Infosys Foundation, run by Ms. Murty, is involved in charities involving schools, college scholarships and fellowships in technological research and the social sciences.
A people's company
Besides making sound business sense and setting aggressive targets, Mr. Murthy understood that Infosys is a people's company, said T.V. Mohandas Pai, former Board Member of Infosys. “A meritocrat, he believed in strong processes, in performance and in creating superior value. He had a vision for the future, of creating a company for tomorrow and setting standards,” he explained.
After stepping down from the top post at Infosys, Mr. Murthy sold a portion of his shares to start a venture capital firm, which seeks to invest in fresh ideas, promoting the next generation of business leaders. It is with great conviction that he speaks of his current project, Catamaran Investments.