N.R.Narayana Murthy Curated

Chairman Emeritus, Infosys

CURATED BY :      +44 others


  • Future Of India Depends On Teachers

    The teaching-learning process in India is a monologue by the teacher while curious students who posed questions were branded trouble-makers. Classrooms will remain important but should function as a medium of interaction with students initiating the transaction and teachers being the facilitators. The kind of classroom teaching we have today is completely wrong because teachers are giving a monologue without any interaction. The students should be allowed to interact and discuss. When a student asks a question and raise doubts, all other students will start learning and there will be scope for development of ideas.

  • What advice do you have for the young generation in order to help them compete globally?

  • What was the event that brought Infosys from a medium size company to the scale that it is now?

  • How was the journey of building such a huge empire?

  • How did you overcome the difficulties faced in this journey?

  • How much did the company was affected politically ?

  • What are the challenges did India faced to grow?

  • Is educated cheap labor in India sustainable?

  • What according to you should be India's strategy for now?

  • What was the motive of moving the company to China?

  • What are your views on western countries with respect to the company?

  • What are your views on India being pro-globalization?

  • What are your views on MNCs getting replaced by GIE?

  • What was the reason you didn't go to IIT despite of having a good rank?

  • How can we learn to live with the coronavirus?

    The Covid19 situation in India is strange because with a country of 137 crore and high population density, to say we have 1,000 deaths in 2 months is important to understand. We can never test the entire population and if there is a vaccine we do not know if it will work on Indians. In such a complex situation, the best we can do is to assume the new normal is to live with Coronavirus

  • What steps should we take to be careful in this COVID19 crisis?

    Protect the most vulnerable people. The young should use masks, goggles, gowns. The industry needs to highlight these steps to the Govt to show they are taking care. We must simply accept for 12-13 months that we all have to learn to live with the Coronavirus.

  • How is India's response to COVID19?

    Deaths due to Corona in India is 0.25 per cent of the deaths due to Corona in the developed nations. The normal mortality rate in India is 0.7%. Losing 1000 people in two months whole it's sad is something but it is something that should speak for what govt has done. The fact that our Prime Minister has taken personal.charge of this project is another positive. On the negatives, we haven't been able to ramp up testing and haven't provided grants to startups and small and medium enterprises.

  • The Infosys Science Foundation Awards is meant to inspire research that help society. What are the kind of achievements that you have recognized this time and how will they change lives?

    The purpose of Infosys prize is to create role models in research for youngsters. We want more and more youngsters to take to research, we want these youngsters to perform high-quality research because we believe that once you start dabbling in research you will advance leading it and thereby you will come out with new ideas that will make our society better whether it’s in agriculture, whether it’s in education, whether it’s in healthcare, nutrition, etc., and this year, like other years, we have people who have done excellent work in various areas in chemistry, we have people who have done excellent work in mathematics, we have people who how have done advanced work in anthropology, we have people who have done work in life sciences from Hyderabad, etc. So while the work of this leading age researchers may appear to be somewhat theoretical in some cases but my belief is that this kind of research will sooner or later make a difference to work because today you don’t say fundamental research; you say what not yet applied research. Just to give you an example, Einstein’s theory of relativity was used after probably 90 years or so to bring correction in GPS other GPS would have been wrong by 7 miles or in positron emission tomography (PET) scanners - E = mc2 is used in PET scanners. So I would say that the kind of work that these people have done will be useful to the country sooner or later.

  • When you look at research and development (R&D), India is still little behind countries such as the United States, China, South Korea. In fact, a recent report from Brookings India said that India has about 216 researchers per 1 million inhabitants which is far lower than what China or the US have, which is about 4,000-7,000. How do you fill this gap? What is the role of the public and the private sector to fill this gap?

    I think first of all the government has to upgrade its investments in research institutes, in laboratories. The government is already doing so. It has upgraded it to 2 percent or something like that but even that figure is still way behind when you compare with countries like the US, China, etc. In terms of the private sector what is important is for these researchers to offer to private sector some problems that they will be in a position to solve, for example, the software industry is somewhere around USD 45-50 billion just in Bengaluru. If the institute of science, institute of management and various well-known engineering colleges – they all come and say, we know these are problems that you have and we will try and solve some of these problems and some of them are very advanced, some could even be called fundamental research. So I think it is a two-way street; the institutes have to extend their hand of friendship, the private sector has to grab those hands and that’s the way I believe that more and more funds will flow from the private sector to these institutions.

  • When you talk about private sector, we are seeing a lot of startups now getting into deep tech. In fact, as per NASSCOM, 18 percent of startups in India are into deep tech and areas such as machine learning, internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR). What are some of these sectors that you are excited about?

    We are in some sense sector agnostics in our venture capital but we have supported youngsters who are working in areas of improving education. We have supported youngsters who are working in the area of medical diagnostics, we have supported entrepreneurs who are working in the area of soft drinks, we have supported youngsters who are working in the area of providing better healthcare to people. So we are in areas where the country has serious problems whether its agriculture, healthcare, nutrition, medical diagnostics, education, etc.

  • What is the right time to start seeing monetisation or commercialisation of some research and technology?

    I think there is no such timetable for any research item to be used in making this society better. However, I do believe that in a poor country like India, in a country where there are zillions of problems around us, our scientists, our engineers, our doctors should look at problems and try and solve them. Some of those things will require what you and I could call fundamental research but by and large, most of them will require an applied research orientation. Therefore, while nobody can set a timetable for any research issue but if we start solving problems that we see around us whether it is in the societal context or whether it is in the context of a company then I believe that we will develop a problem-solving mindset and that is extremely important for a country like India which has so many problems.

  • Your thoughts on the discourse that we are seeing around science in India now? The Indian Science Congress organisers in Bangalore have said that they have to take extra effort to evaluate and weight the research and the papers that are coming in because, over the last few years, there have been certain unscientific claims being made. Certain universities have introduced courses such as Bhoot Vidya and so on.

    I don’t know the details about those things. So I don’t think I can comment on those issues. However, science is about unravelling the mysteries of nature. It is about understanding nature around us. For example, you know how Einstein came out with this theory of relativity. He observed the movement of Mercury around the Sun and he found there was some irregularity and that is how his research led to the theory of relativity. Similarly, I believe that we Indians should look at nature around us and nature has so many mysteries. Once we try to unravel some of those mysteries, we will come out with extraordinary work, that is one. On the other hand, engineering is about using the power of science, using the results of science to make life more productive and more comfortable. Whether it is computers, whether it is DVDs, whether it is TV, whether it is a telephone. All these things have come out because engineers applied the power of science to solve problems around us. Therefore, as long as we Indians take that attitude, I do believe that we will be in a position to solve so many problems around us.

  • Coming back to the topic of start-ups, you talked about areas such as agriculture needing deep innovation. However, unicorns are not come up in these sectors. Do you think this will eventually change and what role can venture capitalists (VCs) play in it?

    Certainly as I said earlier, we are focused on investing in areas that will make this society a better place, whether it is healthcare or education or nutrition or agriculture, medical diagnosis, etc. Even though as you rightly said unicorns are primarily in electronic, commerce and related areas, it will change. Definitely, people will look at areas where there is considerable opportunity in India to make the life of the people better and consequently you can charge, people will pay that and thereby they can build corporations that will scale up in revenues, that will scale up in profits and that will happen. So I am quite positive that it will happen.

  • What do we need policywise to change to encourage start-ups the most?

    First of all, our education system has to become much more problem solving oriented. Learning has to be to extract generic inferences out of specific instances and use them in new unstructured related or unrelated areas. We will have to become more curious, we will have to become more introspective. We have to become more problem-solving. Once our education system focuses on that, that is the starting point. Then, of course, we have to make sure that the life of entrepreneurs is easier, there should be fewer hassles for our entrepreneurs whether it is from the central government of the state government. Third, money should be available in reasonable quantities for good ideas. Fourth, talent is a big problem. We have to ensure that the country has enough talent that can be actually utilised by these entrepreneurs. As you know McKinsey has said that hardly 10 percent of our management graduates are employable, hardly 25 percent of our engineers are employable. These percentages will have to improve to perhaps 80-90 percent. Once that happens then there will be enough talent for our entrepreneurs. These are some of the things that need to happen.

  • Lastly because we are talking about science and academic research, we cannot ignore the fact that there has been some unrest across universities in the country now. Will that have any impact on education, on science and research, what are your thoughts on what you are seeing right now?

    Not really. I think education learning is all about applying mind, it is all about becoming curious, it is all about questioning, it is all about deep learning, it is all about imagining the unimaginable, reimagining the imagined one, etc. Therefore, curiosity is a good requirement, is a good input for us to improve our learning thereby solve problems. So I think you may see one or two examples of what you and I may not like but this is part of life, I don’t think we should worry too much about it.

  • How do education sysytem in India needs to concentrate more in solving problems and identify talents?

  • How many more start ups You want see in the tech start up sector?

  • What is the right time to whether research can really be monetized?Whether there should be any pressure from govt itself?

  • Are you also looking to invest more in agriculture and health?

  • How are you and this interview finds\ Sir, How are you these days?

  • If you have to assess India's own response to covid-19 so far, what would you say?

  • What do you think policymakers can do at this point , what should be done to revive the economy that is going to cause irreparable damage because of this the lockdown?

  • Should India extend the lockdown or lift it where the economy is concerned?

  • If you were in the position of a policy maker , what would you have done ?

  • Anand mahindra said that a 45 days lockdown is optimal enough, industries now should be allowed to function again, as a business leader would to agree to that?

  • Should the government introduce more packages to revive the economy.

  • How India can use this crisis as an opportunity?

  • How the work place is going to be changed after the lockdown?

  • Can you please give the entrepreneur one piece of advice to navigate the current circumstances?

  • When you look at research and development (R&D), India is still little behind countries such as the United States, China, South Korea. In fact, a recent report from Brookings India said that India has about 216 researchers per 1 million inhabitants which is far lower than what China or the US have, which is about 4,000-7,000. How do you fill this gap? What is the role of the public and the private sector to fill this gap?

  • When you talk about private sector, we are seeing a lot of startups now getting into deep tech. In fact, as per NASSCOM, 18 percent of startups in India are into deep tech and areas such as machine learning, internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR). What are some of these sectors that you are excited about?

  • What is the right time to start seeing monetisation or commercialisation of some research and technology? I bring this up because recently there was a news report that said in Pune, in the National Chemical Lab there have been at least a dozen scientists who have moved out of the institution in the past four years because of a certain pressure to monetise their technology and start seeing revenues. In fact, one of the scientists also was a former Infosys Science Award Winner, Ashish Lele.

  • What do we need policywise to change to encourage start-ups the most?

  • If you have to assess India’s own response to COVID-19 so far, what would you say? What would your own assessment be about our response?

  • Increasingly, there is a view from industrialists, be it Anand Mahindra, Sanjiv Bajaj, Rajiv Bajaj or Sajjan Jindal, that while we have done whatever it takes to flatten the curve and contain the virus, it is equally important to look at restarting the economy and lifting the lockdown. What do you think policy makers can do at this point to revive the economy?

  • If you were in the position of a policymaker today, what kind of trade offs would you have made? Will you continue with the lockdown on May 2 or will you look at a calibrated lifting of the lockdown?

  • Taking a cue from what Anand Mahindra said on his Twitter yesterday, he said that there is a consensus that we should have phased lifting of the lockdown but this might be difficult because every element of the economy is interlinked; so a 45-day lockdown is optimal enough. Let us look at comprehensively lifting the lockdown and allow the industry to function again. As a business leader, would you concur with that?

  • Let me start by asking you about the current controversy. It has been suggested that you are unhappy for several reasons with the way in which the Infosys management is currently functioning. Can you tell me what those reasons are?

  • Give me some examples.

  • What was the argument for doing that?

  • Let me put this bluntly. You are going to dance around the subject, but what the market is that guy had the goods on you, he had damaging stuff on Infosys and they had to pay him off.

  • Before we go further, I have to give you, in all fairness, what the board has said in response and they say that what they have done is standard industry practice. Is it?

  • Let us take the example of Mohandas Pai who was CFO at one stage. When he finally left Infosys, left with a degree of unhappiness that he had not been considered for the job of CEO because he was not one of the founders. Yet there was never there any suggestion that he needed to be paid off or that he would compromise Infosys. He left with the company’s best interest at heart.

  • That is not the only issue. It is not just about one CFO and how much he was paid. Your concerns run deeper.

  • One suggestion has been that the board of Infosys because it is now a prestigious thing to be on the board has generally been quite laid back and has not thought as deeply as it should have about the issues. Is that a fair criticism?

  • So, as a shareholder if not as a founder, what would you like Infosys to do differently?

  • But that suggests they are not asking any questions at the moment. Is that what you believe?

  • You are saying they should do this. You would not want them to do this if they were already doing it that is self-evident, right?

  • Before I go on to larger issues of the tech industry in Infosys, let me ask you the uncharitable things being said about you which is that this is Ratan Tata syndrome, a man who walked away from an empire and said I do not care, I will concentrate on other things and now cannot bear to see the company being run without him. I am not sure if it is true of Ratan Tata, but that is the term.

  • The suggestion is that you now having, not quite seller’s regret, but walker away’s regret, that having walked away, seeing the company doing well, you are actually not that happy, you want to interfere and run it.

  • 1,800 emails is what you have received?

  • You know, in the context of what we just spoke of, which is the great lockdown and its impact and implications for the global economy as well as the Indian economy. Let me ask you about what you have made about India's response, we have had four lockdowns and we're now in the midst of unlocking. Do you believe that our response has been a data-driven, proactive reactive, how would you assess it?

  • We are seeing the Government put out information on how much of this is being disbursed but Mr. Murthy, I want to talk to you about the implications of economic growth going forward, given the fact that we are now in the midst of unlocking but we've also got a situation where the cases continue to rise. So, we haven't flattened the curve even as we've reopened. The messaging now from the Government is that look we've got to learn to live with the virus at least until there is a breakthrough on the medical front either to a drug or to a vaccine. Corporate India as well as global Companies are now talking about the new normal. Now, what do you think is the new normal, what are the attributes or the features of this new normal, according to you and how do you believe we now need to navigate through this?

  • Yes, those will have to be a part of this new normal that we speak of but Mr. Murthy, you know, let's talk about the opportunities as well as the challenges in this new normal, in this new world order. There is a view that we are going to see a significant dislocation as far as the global supply chain is concerned and given what we're seeing between the US and China and now between India and China, there you know the Service Sector has taken a much bigger hit this time around in comparison to the manufacturing sector which has traditionally been the case in previous crisis. So as you look at the picture today, where do you believe are the big opportunities that a country like India can capitalize on and what do you believe will be the crucial challenges that we need to deal with?

  • I think you make a very important point there Sir, about creating a specialized Public Health Cadre and perhaps that is something that India should look at as we deal with the Covid- 19 pandemic and future pandemics but let me pivot a little bit away from this issue to talk about what you make of what is happening with the start-up eco-system? Now this is you know, a community of young entrepreneurs, we've seen this community mature especially over the last few years. The fear at this point in time, is that funding will dry up, growth, ofcourse is a casualty on account of what is happening with the pandemic. Do you expect a significant shakeout within the startup ecosystem and what is it that you would tell young entrepreneurs who are trying to make all kinds of pivots? There are people who were running brick-and-mortar businesses, who are now trying to make a digital pivot, what is it that you would tell startups, the dos and dont's?

  • Well, that's the Ten Commandments there from N R Narayan Murthy for Indian startups or startups in general as they try and navigate their way through these difficult times. Competition is the best management tool, rightly said Mr. Murthy but you know, since we are talking about private enterprise Sir, let me ask you about what you make of the way that private enterprises dealt with this crisis and I go back to one of your peers Mr. Ratan Tata in a recent interview to CNBC TV18 said that while the Smokestack industry is only tweaking its supply chain model, startups have been able to adapt and respond faster to the changing environment. Would you agree?

  • So, let me then build on that Sir and talk to you about your experience with startups. At Catamaran, given the opportunities and challenges that you listed out for us, where do you believe that you're going to be placing your bets, where would you like to make investments? What does the landscape look like for you as an investor, where would you put your money today?

  • Okay, intellect driven by values but Mr. Murthy, you know since we're talking about the new normal, one of the features that's being discussed widely and it could have significant implications not just on how companies look at Real Estate etc. and I know that you've believed in creating these islands of prosperity, these campuses of Infosys, which you know are areas of excellence so to speak. So, in this new era of Work from Home, what do you believe will be the future and especially when it comes to the real estate that companies like Infosys etc. set up?

  • Okay, not a great believer in work from home and you don't believe that it's going to necessarily be a permanent structural shift or atleast at this point in time the data doesn't seem to suggest, so, we will need to wait to see. Speaking of data Sir, and I know that you've always believed that in data we must trust and that has been your philosophy so far. Do you believe that we're seeing enough of data-driven policy decisions and is that a casualty of the times that we're living in that the reaction of response is more anecdotal as opposed to based on empirical evidence?

  • In God we trust, everyone else brings data to the table, you know this is something that I've heard Mr. Murthy speak off for many many years now. So, where do you believe we are likely to see the green shoots emerge first as far as the Indian economy is concerned? You know the Consensus Estimate seems to be that we will see a contraction of at least 5% and it's uncertain because we don't know what this case rise will eventually lead to, whether there could be real position of lockdowns, we're already seeing that happen in different states, in different degrees. What's your best estimate in terms of where you expect the green shoots to first emerge?

  • Do you think that the current government is working enough to avoid jobless growth?

    The current government has put in a lot of effort in encouraging entrepreneurship and in creating a lot of jobs. However, the growth rate of software companies which were the primary channels for creating jobs for engineers has come down. Their intake has reduced. Perhaps as late as 2014, Infosys used to take 25,000 engineers per year while, today, I am told that that number has reduced to 15,000. The employment opportunities are not improving even in the manufacturing sector since productivity improvements have impacted the job creation. Overall, it is a worrisome trend.

  • So what is your reason as to why is there a jobless growth in India right now?

    In a. country like India, there are 400 million illiterates and about 400 million semi-literates, Sectors like information technology cannot create a large number of jobs. Job creation will have to come from low-tech manufacturing and low tech services. So, the Prime Minister’s emphasis on Make in India is very good. But, we have to reduce friction to Indian entrepreneurs, and to foreign companies to start new manufacturing entities in India as manufacturing has considerable scope for even semi-illiterates and in some cases, illiterates too.

  • What is the friction over here that you have discussed about?

    For instance, if you want to construct a factory, you need a host of approvals. A fledgling entrepreneur does not have the resources to obtain all these approvals. If we can get the bureaucracy at the state government level to reduce the time frame for approvals and bring it down to two weeks, it can make a positive difference.

  • In an essay you have written that the 1991 economic liberalization has now made Indian companies make their own destiny. Do you think that this is feasible after moves like demonetization and GST has been implemented?

    Yes. Indian business is very much in control of their destiny compared to the pre-1990s. Today, there is no licensing tyranny, there is current account convertibility, companies can list on global exchanges and the availability of telephones is easy. From all those angles, it is much easier to start as an entrepreneur today. But, there are lots of areas of friction for state governments to sort out – like land, construction of factories, zoning laws. There are issues like infrastructure, commuting in big cities, pollution levels, availability of good schools in big cities, and the ability to attract talent from other cities. That is why it is important for politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate leaders to sit together and think of how to accelerate growth and create more jobs.

  • Is India clearly in top of Good governance?

    Certainly, India is not clear on top in terms of good governance. We are on the path of improvement and more and more efforts are needed. Some of the criticism may seem unpalatable to boards of companies in the short term. But in the interest of the health of companies, it is important for the boards of Indian companies to take the bitter pills.

  • According to the IMF report thee has been an increase in the income inequality in the last few years. So you share that you agree to this point?

    It does not take rocket science to figure out that the Gini co-efficient is increasing in India. Therefore, it is very important for the rich, the powerful and the elite which includes politicians, corporate leaders, the bureaucracy and the media to become aware of this and to work towards reducing the Gini co-efficient. When does violence pervade a society? When people lose hope. And who is responsible for hope? It is the rich, the powerful and the elite who can enhance hope. Therefore, it is their responsibility to keep hope alive. The day the rich, the elite and the powerful do not take responsibility for this and for ensuring peace, you will have violence. In the past, you had spoken about how technology is a great equaliser, a powerful weapon and not a discriminator. In an unequal society like ours, how do you see this playing out in the social media given rumour mongering, a lynching? Can tech offer a solution or should be looking for social solutions. The people who use social media are by and large the elite. There is an onerous responsibility on the rich, the powerful and the elite to exercise self -restraint when they use social media. It is like the power of a gun. The use depends on the quality of the heart. If you give a gun to a person with a good heart, he or she will use it to defend people. But a person with a bad heart will use it to kill people.

  • As a young man, what was the best advice you have received?

    he first lesson I learned was from my father who wanted his children to cultivate inexpensive habits. He said, “If you cultivate inexpensive habits, you will not become a victim of money in later years. And, you will not fall into the trap of greed which leads you to do things that you will later regret.” He said, “You must cultivate the habit of reading.” In those days, in India (actually even today), every small town had a public library from which you could borrow a book free every day. You could also read magazines, journals and newspapers there, whatever you wanted. So, this habit did not cost any money. He also said, “You learn to enjoy music.” My father was a schoolteacher. We were eight children. We were poor. We did not even have a radio at home. I am talking of the early 1950s. And he said, “Why don’t you go to the public garden and sit there. They play music from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.” So, we used to go there, sit there and enjoy music for an hour. And, that was free.

  • What advice would you like to give in turn to the young professionals?

    I have spent most of my time in the corporate world. I have spoken to youngsters all over the world. I have realized that the most effective way of passing on advice to youngsters is to use short, simple attractive sentences to communicate some of these ideas. For example, I tell our youngsters, “In God we trust. Everybody else brings data to the table.” It sticks in their mind and hopefully has some value. The second piece of advice I tell them is to practice honesty, integrity, decency and fairness. I communicate these values to them by the adage, “The softest pillow is a clear conscience”. And, they understand that I am advising them to be honest, to be fair to others, to use data and facts, and not be biased. They understand that honesty helps them sleep well because they know that they have done nothing wrong. Their conscience is clear. And the third piece of advice I give is about the need for transparency. I use the adage, “When in doubt, disclose” to communicate this powerful attribute of value system. Transparency is a prime value attribute in the corporate world because good corporate governance depends upon transparency. Transparency is also the hallmark of a good professional, a good human being and a good citizen of any society.

  • What is the biggest mistake during your career and what lesson have you learnt from it?

    I have often said that Infosys is an intelligent and enlightened democracy. During the Infosys days, I collected lots of smart people around me. And, we would decide every strategic issue only after we have had intelligent, informed and passionate discussions. On any non-classified issue, I would invite, in addition to internal experts, outside of people with experience in that area, listen to them, argue the pluses and minuses, and then come to an informed conclusion. Therefore, by and large, I have avoided making a major mistake. Perhaps, I may not have taken the best possible decisions. As you know very well, in a democracy, you may not take the best decision but you take the best decision under the circumstances (most optimal decisions). With such a strategy, you avoid disasters. The important ingredient for a good decision is to create an open, pluralistic and fearless environment where the best debates are possible.

  • Who do you feel was the best manager with whom you have worked with and what was best in him/her?

    I have been lucky to have had excellent bosses. I learned something from each one of them. But I would say that the person that had the most impactful influence on me as a corporate manager was my boss when I worked in Paris in a software company. This gentleman, an Englishman from South Africa, demonstrated to me how a good manager takes bottom line responsibility for the mistakes committed by his assistants, and provides all the help and encouragement to the offending assistant(s) to do what is necessary to resolve an issue or a crisis on time, within budget and with requisite quality. He would remain calm, wise, helpful and encouraging and provide all resources to his assistants who were toiling to complete the job. Only after the job was completed did my boss in Paris give a tap on the knuckles of the people who had committed a serious mistake. Here is what I mean: One Friday evening, we were testing the operating system that we were building and found a huge error which turned out to be my fault. We figured out the problem around 6 pm. All my colleagues went away. Who would want to stay in the office after 6 pm on a Friday evening in Paris? But my boss listened to me carefully and understood my mistake and the huge work required to reset all the databases so that the entire team’s work did not suffer when they came back to the office on Monday morning. I explained that the repair task would take about 24 hours. He just smiled. He and his wife were supposed to go to someplace for dinner that night. He cancelled it. He sat down with me. He told me jokes. He brought food and coffee for me. And I completed the task around 4:00 pm or 4:30 pm the next day (Saturday). And, when he was sure that the task was completed properly, he said, “kid, (I was very young at the time), next time you do this, I’ll spank you.” And the point is, this boss of mine interacted with me like I had done nothing wrong and gave me the confidence to complete the job. That was when I realized that a great leader would provide you full bottom line support when the going was bad and that he would not get upset. But once the task was completed and once we had recovered from the crisis, he or she would show his or her anger. This is something I have practiced. There were many occasions when my colleagues felt that I had not got upset in a crisis.

  • 20 years ago, we had flag bearers abroad such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro. Why do we have fewer world class firms today?

    I do not think so. There are several good companies – We have Flipkart, Paytm and others which have competed with global companies. I am very positive that India will produce even better entrepreneurs than the ones earlier as long as our values are good. The problem is whether there is a good heart.

  • Infosys has popularized the concept of stock exchange in India. Looking that as a tool to reward employees now, do you think that there is a need to take a look as to how it is structured?

    There is nothing wrong with the stock options. But what we need to do is to ensure that there is a justification for awarding these options and that vesting is over a longer period. The vesting period should be 20 years so that the companies can benefit from the awardees for a long time.

  • Would you like to take up the public role just like how your colleague Nandan Nilekani who got into the public role of building Aadhar – a unique identity mechanism, years ago?

    I don’t see myself doing that. I am in my 73rd year and this is not the time to think of a public role. I am happy spending time with my grandchildren.

  • You said that without compassion capitalism the Indian economy will not be able to cope up the problem of unemployment and poverty. Are the current leaders not giving importance to this advice or they are less sensitive to this?

    If I look at some of the instances which happened in the last few years, the senior management of firms had approved high salaries for themselves while the lowest level was denied even the basic level of compensation. Something is wrong in a society when this happens. All of us have to open our eyes and do something about this. In some ways, leaders of capitalism like the rich, the powerful and the elite of any society have to exercise self-restraint in according themselves or their friends disproportionate benefits from the fruits of a corporation. If this does not happen, you won’t have peace and harmony in a society. In some cases, it has not happened. My hope is that good sense will prevail.

  • What is the type of talents that Indian companies require the most right now?

    First of all, we must become adept in operating in multicultural environments. Because globalization is becoming more and more popular in India, because Indian managers are going to different parts of the world, and because Indian talent is visiting many developed countries to design systems – particularly in our industry, we have to become much more multicultural in our mindset. We have to learn how to negotiate pleasantly in a multicultural environment. We have to learn to understand the aspirations of the multicultural talent that works with us. We have to learn how to motivate people from different cultures. We have to learn to lead multicultural talent. The second thing that Indian managers have to learn better is the ability to move from being reactive problem solvers to proactive problem definers, or proactive solution definers. Indians are very hard working. They are reasonably smart. But, by and large, the Indian professionals expect their bosses to tell them in detail what needs to be done. Then, they will do it extremely well. What our professionals have to learn is to go into a new situation, find new problems and design their solutions. Third, we have to become better in communication, particularly in English. The English that we learn in India is highly grammatical but very verbose. We tend to use many more words than necessary to express ideas. We have to learn to express ideas in a simple and straightforward way. If we learn to communicate well, we will become even better.

  • Has the government taken off it’s focus on development rather than building temples and statues?

    PM Modi & his cabinet have worked very hard in reducing corruption at the central level. I rarely hear a complaint of corruption at the Central Govt level. On Rafale deal, I don't know what the truth is unless there is data.

  • Is the execution and the implementation of GST and IBC by the government are lacking certain important key reforms?

    I broadly feel that PM has led a strong economic progress minded Govt. We cannot hold PM responsible for execution, it is the bureaucracy that has to do it. It's not Mr. Modi's responsibility to go to every village to keep it clean. I don't think that it is proper on anybody's part to hold Mr. Modi responsible for execution. The problem is with the Indian mindset and psyche, we are apathetic and indisciplined. We urgently need a cultural transformation before we can achieve an economic transformation. We must be grateful that there is at least a national leader of Modi's caliber who is interested in improving India. Looking at the last 5 years, I feel that having a leader who is focused on a nation, focused on discipline, cleanliness, economic progress is a good thing. Continuity of govt. would be a good thing.

  • It has been suggested that you are unhappy for several reasons with the way in which the Infosys management is currently functioning. Can you tell me what those reasons are?

    First of all, let me make it very clear that it is not the management that concerns me. We are quite happy with Dr Vishal Sikka. He is doing a good job, he is a very bright person. However, what concerns some of us particularly the founders and senior, former Infosians is that there have been certain acts of governance that could have been better.

  • Where is it that we are going wrong when thousand of money are being invested in the Indian education sector and yet there are people like Bill Gates saying that we need to improve it?

    While I am a voter for social justice, the answer to that is not just legislation. It is very easy to legislate, but the model hasn't worked. There is no argument that a large number of children and communities need encouragement as they have been neglected for years.  But the flaw is in the way we are doing it. If we want the disadvantaged to progress, we then need the best teachers, schools, meals, and textbooks in the rural areas. We are not doing that. The government must create an environment for the disadvantage to progress, rather than throw them into the current system and boast of social justice. There cannot be progress if we neglect merit. When choosing teachers, professors and vice-chancellors, we should put merit ahead of everything else. This is what many countries have done. We should be open to learning from those examples. That’s the surest way to progress.

  • Why do you think that engineering, once a very sought-after profession, is no longer the favoured career choice of today’s youth?

    Clearly, the industry needs to be blamed. Salaries haven’t changed for seven or eight years now for fresh graduates and the cost of living is going up. Why would youngsters want to choose a job that is taxing but not rewarding? The biggest challenge for corporates today is to keep freshers and youngsters content in their jobs. We should not repeat what we did with the pure science sector. We really need to work hard.

  • Why is it that the higher educational institutions of India do not even figure in the top 200 world rankings?

    I have been saying that there is nothing wrong with our IITs and IIMs. But only 20% of our students graduate from here and make it big. What about the remaining 80%? The fundamental issue is that our universities and the education system do not focus on resolving issues concerning citizens’ lives. How many of our civil engineering colleges/students will be able to fix our road infrastructure? Whether it is the smog in Delhi, potholes in Bengaluru’s or inventing a cure for dengue/chikungunya, we have no answers from our universities. That’s where we lose out to universities globally.

  • What are your thoughts on Modi’s ‘Make in India’ programme, which seems to have some answers to rejigging the rural economy and creating jobs?

    It’s a great initiative. But his thoughts must be matched with the bureaucracy and state governments at the ground level. Today, a small entrepreneur has to run around to get his electricity and water connections. If we make things difficult for them, it won’t work. Small industries will lose interest. We must shift tax exemptions from big corporates to small industries. Unless the environment is conducive, nothing can grow.

  • What is your opinion on the friction between the private sector and the government? For example, the recent revolt by private hospital doctors?

    There is no doubt that at the core of these frictions — whether in education or healthcare — lies transparency. Being transparent is the key. Having said that, it’s not right for anyone to expect private hospitals to charge less when they spend so much on their enterprises. You cannot expect a hospital, which spends lakhs to bring a medical equipment from another country, to charge Rs 100 from a patient. Where is the logic?

  • Where do you think is India right now in terms of the macro economy?

  • While no one is questioning about the intent of GST and Bankruptcy code, there are questions about the implementation and execution about it. Do you think that there could have been a better way of doing it?

  • How can India sort to prioritise cultural transformation and the onus should be on whom?

  • Has the Modi government brought enough revolution?

  • Do you think that there would be some cultural transformation if Narendra Modi gets a second term as Prime Minister?

  • What more can be done to increase the pace of job creation in India? There have been initiatives like Scale India and Digital India, but how can we see this translate to jobs on the ground?

  • Will creating new jobs be possible in a deglobalized world where US–China are at a virtual trade war, and with India having increased import duties recently?

  • Are you disappointed that the current government, which had promised maximum development but is now focusing on building temples and statues?

  • What can we do to strengthen and retain the institutional autonomy despite the growing tension between executives and institutions like CBI or RBI?

  • What are your thoughts on India becoming the ‘digital colony of the West’? How can India become a leader rather than a follower?

  • Why did you initially choose engineering as your career?

    My uncle was a civil servant and my father was very keen that I take that up as a career but somehow it didn’t appeal to me. Those were the days when engineering was considered the in thing along with medicine. People didn’t think that being an economist or a social scientist could be a productive career. I had got admission to the iit by passing the entrance exam with a fairly high rank and a scholarship. But the scholarship was to be disbursed at the end of the year. I remember talking to my father who said that there was no way he could afford to pay since he was earning Rs 250 per month. He said: If you’re smart you can go to any college and be able to do something worthwhile. So I joined the local engineering college.

  • Do you have any role models who have inspired you in your career?

    Those days our role models were our teachers, both in school and university. They taught us to be inquisitive and articulate. You have to imagine a lower-middle-class family in a district headquarters in the ’60s. My father used to tell us about the importance of putting public good before private good; mother would talk about sacrifice and truth. Beyond the basic values of life they didn’t discuss too much about our careers. My dream was to become a junior engineer in a hydroelectric power plant, Nehru’s temples of modern India. What appealed to me was that they were non-polluting and set in pristine surroundings. Also, being an electrical engineer, there was this macho thing about building a big generator. But as a top-ranking student, people advised me to do my masters. It was not easy for people like us from a certain section of society that was considered already advantaged to get a job in Karnataka because of the reservation system and so I postponed the career decision for two years by doing my masters.

  • So after you made it to the IIT what was the experience like?

    IIT Kanpur was in its halcyon days. We had so many young professors who had done their Ph.Ds in the US and had come back to India. They were all in their 20s and 30s and full of energy and optimism. Also, under the Kanpur Indo-American programme, iit had links with eight American universities like MIT, Berkeley, Purdue. What that meant was that when MIT got an IBM computer they sent one to Kanpur. We were introduced to computers – that wonder machine – and I was hooked

  • What prompted you to opt for the unconventional job offer from IIM?

    The phase I enjoyed the most was my time at iim Ahmedabad where I took up a job as chief systems programmer. In those days there were few computer science graduates so we got five job offers each. I had offers from hmt, ecil, Telco, Air India. The salary in those places was much higher than at the iim. But Prof. Krishnayya of iim who came to iit Kanpur talked to me for an hour about this great, modern mini- computer that he was going to install and that iim would be the third business school in the world to install a time-sharing system after Harvard and Stanford. He also said that the atmosphere was collegial, we’d work 20 hours a day and learn a lot. Taking this job at a salary of Rs 800 a month was the best decision of my life. I learnt so many things from Krishnayya. He is probably the person who influenced me the most. He taught us how important it is to aspire. We used to work 20 hours a day; go home at 3 a.m. sometimes and be back at 7 a.m. There was so much opportunity to learn. We designed and implemented a basic interpreter for ecil. I learnt what it is to be an engineer. It isn’t theory but application of the theory to solve problems and make a difference to society.

  • You have worked in overseas in your early career. What have you learnt from your stint abroad?

    My years in Paris were the most influential years of my life. I observed how in a western country even the socialists understood that wealth has to be first created before it can be distributed. That there could only be a few leaders to create wealth. And that it’s the job of the government to create an environment where it’s possible for people to create wealth. I realised that all this talk of socialism as practised in India was not meaningful. Our country treated communism as an ism that was completely disassociated from the reality of the context. You cannot distribute poverty. My father always told us that India had a lot to learn from the West. Also, he was a great fan of classical music. On Sundays, air used to play music for an hour. One day I asked him: why should I listen to this alien music? He said: What appeals to me is that in a symphony there are over 100 people, each of whom is a maestro, but they come together as a team to play according to a script under this conductor and produce something divine. They prove that one plus one can be more than two. It’s a great example of teamwork.

  • What prompt your heart to change from being a staunch leftist?

    After my Paris stay, I donated my earnings and with $450 in my pocket decided to return home overland. I came to Nis, a border town between the then Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to take the Sofia Express. I struck up conversation with a girl in the compartment. After about 45 minutes the train stopped, the police took the girl away, ransacked my backpack, and put me in a room that had no mattress and a window 10 ft high. They kept me there for 60 hours after which they freed me saying that since I was from a friendly country they were letting me go. I felt that if this system treats friends this way then I did not want anything to do with it. This experience really shook me.

  • So now the socialist in you became a committed capitalist?

    I am a 100% free marketeer but I call myself a compassionate capitalist. While I’m very conservative in economic matters I’m very liberal about social matters. But I have no illusions about socialism. In a country like India, when we have to make capitalism an attractive alternative to people, it is extremely important for us to show tremendous compassion to the less fortunate. That doesn’t mean that you should give jobs to people who don’t deserve them or that you should make less profits but wherever you can show compassion you should.

  • What were the initial plans of Infosys based on?

    We were very clear that we wanted to be in India. There were many opportunities to settle outside but we wanted to create an institution in India. We knew there was hardly a market here, so we had to look at the export market from day one. At that time we had no idea how far it would go but our satisfaction comes mainly from working with bright, smart and hard-working young men and women. Our first contract was from Databasics in New York. We had worked with them at Patni Computer Systems but they wanted to set up on their own software group in India. We convinced them that we could do as good a job. My colleagues left for the US to work on-site on the project. I stayed back to set up the infrastructure. We decided to import a computer so that we could add value from India.

  • How easy or difficult was it in those days to get a business like yours off the ground?

    In those days it would take anywhere between 15 to 24 months to get a computer. We started in 1981 but our first computer was installed only in February 1984. Getting a loan was very difficult. We had worked out a time-sharing deal with mico on the basis of which anz did a project report. But anz refused to give us the loan. Several other banks also turned us down. It was just by chance on a flight that I happened to be sitting next to K.S.N. Murthy of the Karnataka State Industrial Investment and Development Corporation, and we got our break. They redid the entire project report over 14 hours a day for a week and got it sanctioned in 15 days. Right from day one our idea was to add value from India. To do that we needed certain factor conditions – computers, telephone lines. It took us a year to get a phone in Bangalaore. There was a rule then that higher priority was to be given to retired government servants than businesses. We had a contract for $3,50,000; in addition we would get an ibm compatible machine on loan from our customer. All that they insisted was that we have a telephone so that they could contact us. The customer said: Look I understand that you are a group of competent people, but if you want to do it from India you must convince us that you can establish a line of communication. So, much against our desire, we had to ship the team out. One has to go through all these experiences because it makes you understand your own frailties and also helps you develop respect for God. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in life. I’ve received much more from society than I’ve given. I have many friends who are much smarter, much more accomplished, but somehow life has dealt me so many good cards that I can’t ascribe it to anything other than God’s grace.

  • Did you ever at any point feel like giving up?

    There came a time in 1990 when we were floundering. We had offers to buy us out which my colleagues thought we should consider since we weren’t making too much headway. We had a 4-5 hour discussion and I could feel the sense of despondency. So I pulled a fast one. I said guys don’t worry, I’ll buy you out. I know it’s going to be tough in this country but I have no doubt that we’ll see light. In minutes, they all said that we’re with you. From now onwards we will never discuss the issue of closing down, getting tired or giving up. This marathon will be restarted. Leadership is about making what seems impossible, possible; about changing the perception of what reality is. The reality in India is dirty roads, pollution, bad traffic, etc. Reality is what we make it; it is for us to change. If you give confidence to people they can achieve tremendous things. We have run this company as professionally as any other corporation in the world in terms of the principles of corporate governance, in not using corporate resources for personal conveniences, with respect for the professional.

  • What was the turning point for Infosys?

    Chance favours the prepared mind. Just as we got determined to run the marathon with much greater gusto, liberalisation happened. If there is one company that symbolises all the good that came out of liberalisation, it is Infosys. It did four things for us: It enhanced the velocity of decision-making in government. It used to take 8 to 12 months to get a computer and the decision depended on the babu in Delhi. After 1991, it wasn’t necessary to go to Delhi for approvals. We could walk across to the Software Technology Park here and get licenses in half a day for $1 million. Second, equity became a viable financing option. Abolishing the Controller of Capital Issues had a multiplier effect on Indian enterprises. Prior to 1991, an officer was charged with the authority to decide at what premium a company went public and generally he always looked at the past. But capital markets are about the future. With low premiums, new entrepreneurs were reluctant to approach the capital markets. Once the company and lead manager were allowed to decide the premium, that set us free. The government also liberalised the rbi rules for current account transactions. This meant that it was easy to travel abroad, establish offices and get consultants. Prior to 1991, we had to make an application to rbi which could take 5 to 10 days. Today I can travel in the next 6 hours. So it’s a big change. The most important thing is that government reversed the policy of foreign investment and allowed 100% ownership for mncs. This is the main reason why Infosys came up. At the time many hi-tech companies came in and that created competition, not in the marketplace but for our human resources. People told me that Murthy your game is up, all your people will leave. We could react in three ways: that this is our karma. We’ll grow but not much – the Hindu philosophy. The second alternative was to lobby the government not to permit 100% ownership by mncs. As president of Nasscom, I could have kept all these guys out. But that was against my fundamental philosophy. The third was to find out why our youngsters would want to leave us and see if we could create those conditions in Infosys. A successful corporation is one that introspects about internal transformation first before blaming the context, competition or external circumstances. Everyone bought into this philosophy and how we could bring about a fundamental transformation. We increased our salaries, we introduced a stock option plan so that our people would have much more money than any other Indian mnc. We also decided to make it a fun place to work because our assets walk out of the door every evening mentally and physically tired. We must make sure that they come back with a zest to work. I am a firm believer that this country has a lot to learn from the West. We have to be open-minded, learn all the good things from them, and become stronger. For me a democracy is one where people put public good before private good; where responsibilities come before the rights.

  • What was it that kept the Infosys team together all through these years?

    How do we stay together? We have unwritten rules. Everybody knows that if we want to work as a team we have to be transaction based. We start every transaction on a zero base. It is perfectly feasible for us to disagree on a transaction but we start the next transaction without any bias. Only an argument that has merit wins; it has nothing to do with hierarchy. Disagreeing is in the nature of things. When you bring a set of people who have respect for each others’ competence in certain areas and you’re transaction-oriented then it can work as it has in our case. Our value system was like the British Constitution – it was all unwritten but extremely well practiced. If I were to have another opportunity to found another company, I would never ask for anyone else – these are truly remarkable people. Our value system is the true strength of Infosys. Besides, we have complementary skills. For example, I have an eye for detail and am comfortable with balance sheets and numbers. Then I can also get into the big picture. Nandan has a great ability to communicate and get himself connected to networks; his thinking is very strategic. Raghavan is a good people manager. Gopal is the best among us in technology. Shibulal and Dinesh are great on projects – so there’s a complementarity of skills

  • What the best decision you think you have made?

    Well, I think the best business decision was to introspect. We will press on the pedal. We will compete with the best of the multinationals in terms of retaining people, in terms of creating a brand equity. I think if you ask me what distinguishes Infosys from many other companies, it is the following: We have a very strong value system. In fact, when I address new hires the main thing I talk to them about is the value system. I tell them that even in the most fierce competitive situation they must never talk ill of customers. For heaven’s sake don’t short change anybody. Never ever violate any law of the land. It is better to lose a billion dollars than a good night’s sleep. It is a true meritocracy. Raghavan’s two children are engineers but they did not come here to ask for a job. They worked elsewhere before they went to the US to do their mba. It is our responsibility to maintain the dignity of professionals here. The second thing that’s unique about Infosys is that we have accepted that speed and imagination are the only two context-invariant and time-invariant parameters for success. We don’t think that we have any extraordinary legacy/strength that will carry us through the years. If we continue to innovate and to adapt then we will survive or else we’ll disappear like dew on a summer morning. So there’s a sense of paranoia and a certain fear that tomorrow we may not get food on the table if we don’t satisfy our customers. We don’t think anything is given to us. We’re as good as our last quarterly result. If we don’t do well in the next quarter, we’ll be wiped out.

  • Infosys has so far grown organically. Are you looking for acquisition for future growth strategy?

    Indeed. Adding 50% to $500 million is so much more difficult than adding 50% to $100 million. We are looking at acquisitions though we haven’t identified any company yet. We want to look at a group/company that will add to the top line immediately but will also add to the bottomline in the medium term. Ideally it should be a small company, so that the cross-cultural issues can be handled more easily. Third, it must have an intellectual property right, either in the form of a methodology or a tool or processes which can be scaled up across Infosys for improving productivity in an emerging area like e-commerce, crm etc. Finally, it could also be an aged technology product which has fallen on bad days but one that has a captive customer base. We can take that and enhance it technologically because we have the strength here to do that. And because there’s a captive customer base it’s much easier to sell. In any product, selling to the first 20 customers is the hardest.

  • What are the big challenges that you are facing?

    We have to put in systems, processes and tools to leverage technology to enhance the quality and productivity of our people. If today we take 100 hours to do something, then next year we should take 95 hours. Second, we must learn to manage growth. Inspite of recruiting larger numbers we should operate as a small, close knit, nimble company. That’s the task of this management. My vision is to make Infosys a globally respected software corporation, delivering best of breed solutions employing best in class professionals. That’s different from an mnc which generally has subsidiaries in different countries, manufactures and sells there. As a corollary to that, I want it to be a place where people of different nationalities, religions and races will come together and compete in an environment of harmony and meritocracy. We believe that the local people are the best people in a given environment.

  • In this present millennium, what are the challenges that the software sectors are facing?

    One, we have to create corporate brand equity and product/services brand equity outside India. Indian industry’s record of doing this has been pathetic. We have to become multicultural as local people are most effective in a local environment. And we have to learn to operate in a multicultural environment. We have few examples of Indian companies successfully doing so. The most difficult challenge is recruiting, enabling, empowering and retaining the best and brightest talent. Enhancing per capita revenue productivity and moving up the value chain is the next big challenge because our costs are going up in India. Unless we do this, our success won’t survive in the long run.

  • Will Infosys move up the value chain to become a pro-duct company in the future?

    Our profitability and margins are the best in the services industry. Compare us with anybody on Nasdaq. The net income margin of Infosys is as good as any product company with the exception of Microsoft. It’s not necessary to transform ourselves into a product company. In fact, in the Net economy it is services companies like Amazon.com, Priceline, eBay that have been growing. I’m not worried about traditional thinking that one must have a product. Infosys has enhanced its per capita productivity at least 10% in last five years. We are positioned to continue to be profitable

  • What opportunity does the growing power of the Internet pose for your company?

    Internet is a great phenomenon particularly for a country like India because it has meant the death of distance. It has brought the anywhere, anytime paradigm. In a large resource scarce country like India, it is going to play a crucial role in ensuring that both business to business and business to customer benefits accrue much faster to both industry and consumers. Thanks to the emergence of companies like Amazon, the traditional companies have realised that they have to shape up or ship out. So there’s a tremendous emphasis on leveraging the power of the internet. We understand online transaction processing very well – we have done it for 18 years. E-commerce requires the ability to mount a robust and secure an online transaction processing engine, a certain application layer. The only difference is that you have to create a user-friendly web front end which skill we’ve developed in the last 2-3 years. We have a big advantage of over new e-commerce companies because the design and implementation of a high performance engine is something we’ve been doing for years. US corporations are in a hurry to get on to the e-commerce bandwagon and this is a clear opportunity for us.

  • What advice would you give to the next generation of entrepreneurs?

    Early to bed and early to rise and work like hell. Those people who have entrepreneurial strengths need to get a marketable idea and understand the window of opportunity for it. They have to bring together a team that has mutually exclusive, but collectively exhaustive skills and work out a value system. Entrepreneurship is about running a marathon, not a 100 metre dash.

  • What does money mean to you?

    Beyond a certain level of comfort I think one’s wealth should be seen as an opportunity to make a difference to society. My colleagues think so too. The power of money is the power to give. Obviously it will have to be done in a gradual manner over the years, but there’s no doubt that a majority of what we have will be given to public causes.

  • What drives you then if not money?

    There’s a saying in America that the reward for winning a pinball game is to get a chance to play the next one. In most situations, the pleasure comes from the journey, not the destination.

  • The days are going to be longer for you after Infosys, without the mandatory commitments for the company…

    No, I actually lead a very busy life. I spend almost 20 days in a month abroad, and only seven-eight days in a month I am there in India. This (the time I spend in India) is quite short for doing the things I want to do. Therefore, I will continue to be busy. My overseas travels will continue.

  • Are you not going to miss Infosys that you reared since it’s birth over 30 years ago?

    It is just like the feeling when a person's daughter leaves the family after getting married to a young man. You feel sad because somebody whom you have given birth to and raised all these years is, in some ways, going away. But there is also a feeling of happiness,as she (daughter) will have a better future with the younger person. In my case , I can be in touch with Infosys if I want. So,this is a mixed feeling for me.

  • The existing leadership feels that after your existence will create a vacuum. Can you exit the company and be at peace?

    I definitely think I can leave in peace, as I am definitely sure that these (new leaders) are very capable people. They are, of course, very kind people to say good things about me. But I think they are in many ways smarter than me.

  • Had you been an aggressive boss at Infosys as you were in your Patni (PCS) days?

    I was very aggressive and even today, I am. Everybody has faced my aggression. I don't like to start meetings late; I don't like sloppy work. I am toughest on my secretary, but he rarely give me an opportunity to become upset with him.

  • At the time when the company is slowly transferring leadership to non-founders, will they be able to maintain the original approach which has led the company to become a $6 billion entity?

    Right from day one, we have conducted ourselves as highest quality professionals and divorced management from control. We have also laid down very clear policies. Therefore, we have created an environment where a professional can indeed show as much commitment to the company as a founder-member.

  • Do you think the entrepreneurial journey which has made Infosys a global entity is replicable?

    Lots has been written and research taken place on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial behaviour. After all, entrepreneurship is all about taking bold decisions; it is about great commitment, sacrifice and deferred gratification. It is also about the power of converting an idea into wealth. It is all about mindset and how we create an environment where people act in an entrepreneurial manner.

  • The growth of Infosys has slowed down for the last couple of years as compared to the peers. Does it not pain you?

    We have to go by what guidance (expectation) we have given. Last year, we gave a guidance of a 16-18 per cent growth.But we grew 25.8 per cent, which is more than 50 per cent over our promise. Therefore, I don't know if we can say that we have slowed. How many corporations in the world do you see growing at 25.8 per cent at revenues of $6 billion? This year, we said we would grow between 18-20 per cent. Remember, according to Nasscom, the average growth rate last year was 18 per cent.

  • Any unfinished agenda?

    No. It is a continuum of progress. Certain things have been achieved; we have a lot more things to do. This corporation is 30 years old and, hopefully, it should be alive and kicking for hundreds of years. Therefore, I think more and more works have to be done.

  • Your first investment (in SKS Microfinance) after setting up the venture fund, Catamaran raised many eyebrows. Do you think that was a mistake?

    Right now, the Malegam committee is looking into those issues (concerning the MFI sector), and I don't want to comment on that. I have tremendous respect for (Y H) Malegam and hope he will come out with a wonderful set of recommendations. I do believe we must have a mechanism to support the poor in this country and prevent them from becoming victims of moneylenders.

  • While setting up the venture fund, you said Catamaran will invest in early-stage companies and fund innovative ideas. How far have you succeeded?

    I don't want to give out their names. I have supported and funded many youngsters to continue their work and come out with good results. That I will continue to do, without making much noise.

  • Have you not thought of any philanthropic activities like other industry leaders?

    We have been into philanthropy for a long time, but I don't want to talk about it. Philanthropy is only to be done, not to be talked about.

  • Are you going to capture your experiences at Infosys in the form of an autobiography?

    At this point of time, I don't have any plans. Let's see, the plan may change in the future.

  • Did you inherit your love for Western Classical music since your father had a passion for it?

  • Who are some of your favourite composers of Western Classical music?

  • Among Indian startups, there is a debate on differential voting rights for founders

    I am not in favour of this. It will take shareholder democracy even farther away from the principles of a democracy. I understand why some people may want this. Selling a part of your stake in the company to raise cash for yourself and still wanting to retain control is like having your cake and eating it. I am not sure this is a good idea if we want capitalism to grow in India.

  • What are your views on promoters being considers as insiders?

    If I am not wrong, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) rule is that the founder of a listed company is considered a promoter as long as his shareholding in the company does not go below 1% of the outstanding shares of the company. Such a founder-promoter is considered an insider. The promoter has to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) like any other senior officer or any member of the board of a listed company. He has the same privileged access to information (as a member of the board or anybody who has signed the NDA in the company), including financial information, and should have the same liability as a member of the board. However, Sebi has not clarified whether this assumption of mine is correct or not and has also not provided the details of the rights and liabilities of promoters. Some boards of companies registered in India but listed both in India and the US believe that a promoter cannot be an insider since they hold the view that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules prevail over Sebi rules. My preference is that if a company is registered in India, is listed both on an Indian exchange and a US exchange, and the majority shares (like 80%) are listed on an Indian exchange, then the rules of Sebi should take precedence over the US SEC rules. It is desirable that Sebi clarifies this issue.

  • The role of independent directors in listed companies has come under scrutiny in recent times. What are your thoughts?

    Shareholders own the company. The board of directors represents the shareholders. The shareholders appoint directors for a certain period to supervise the agent (management) on behalf of the shareholders. The board operates at the pleasure of the shareholders. Whether a shareholder has one share or a billion shares, the board has the same obligation to provide unvarnished, truthful answers with full transparency to the questions of that shareholder on any issue. In fact, protecting the rights of minority shareholders is an important duty of every board. The primary functions of board governance include reviewing, critiquing and revising the strategy presented by the management; ensuring that the management has clear KPIs (key performance indicators) and fair performance-based compensation after consulting some key, knowledgeable shareholders (as happens in the case of well-governed companies in the West) and after debating, discussing and obtaining the approval of shareholders.

  • How do you instil accountability among independent directors?

    The problem today, in India, is the lack of good quality independent directors resulting in governance deficits even in well-known companies. One way to solve this is to start an Institute of Custodians to assess the quality of candidates wanting to be independent directors and, if found satisfactory, to train them to become competent independent directors of listed companies. They have to pass a written examination and an oral examination. No listed company should be allowed to appoint a person as an independent director without a valid certificate from the Institute. In case such a certified board member is party to a governance deficit, the institute should have the power to claw back the certification.

  • There is a demand from some Indian Internet entrepreneurs for policy frameworks to protect local entrepreneurs.

    India accounts for a small fraction of revenue for most foreign companies. At this early stage of our economic development, we should be flexible, not create any further barriers, and remove every impediment to foreign and domestic companies. Else, foreign companies will simply shun India.

  • How will automation impact the Indian IT services industry?

    I believe that automation will create big opportunities for IT services because automation is achieved only by developing software robots that automate business processes. That is the strength of the Indian IT software industry. The future of the BPO sector is not as bright as we would like it to be. Automation is likely to take over the jobs in the BPO sector.