Narayanmurthy, his IISc Speech and a perspective

Badi-Munh-aur-chhoti-baat : N. R Narayanamurthy


I have been resisting this for a couple of days now.  Having known the ways of the reporting in the media for long – many a time, it magnifies a small portion of a big piece or speech without looking at the overall context.  It ends up eulogising or critiquing beyond reasonable limits. Hence, I wanted to not react without reading the actual text.  I managed to pull out the text by NRNarayanmurthy on a rare jobless Saturday of mine.  I realised that what I had read about his speech was nicer than what he ended up saying, If that text is an actual one!

Yes, I am referring to the speech by NRN at IISc.  Our living legend is, at times,  a small time marketing man –   Plugging away his own achievement or Infosys at every opportunity!.  This was one more such occasion.

So, Murthy says that there has not been any innovation or contribution by IITs and IIsc and other higher learning institutions for the last 60 years.  Such a dramatic and sweeping statement sounds good in an Arnab Show on TV from lesser mortals.  Murthy joined them from a much holier portal.

The worse was to follow. I quote – “The only two ideas that have transformed the productivity of global corporations – The Global delivery model and the 24-hour workday – came from a company called Infosys:.

Modesty and truth died a hundred deaths that moment, Murthy!

Elsewhere in his speech, a bunch of accomplishments by India, as a nation, is rushed in a single sentence with a bunch of commas – green revolution, white revolution, space program, and so on.

So, who enabled those ?  Not Indians ? Not engineers or scientists from India ?  He takes that and attributes to Mr. Nehru.  So, did IIsc and IITs not play a role there ?


NRN is, of course, a super-achiever

I would like to clearly state that I have been an admirer of two entreprneneurs from India all through my own journey as an entrepreneur – NRN and Premji. Their ethical approach to business and the ability to build scalable organisations from near-scratch (for premji) and absolute scratch (for NRN) is great!  There are not many like that when I was growing up as an entrepreneur about 15 years ago.


Infy is a sweat-shop and NRN must take blame, if what he says is true :

Infy was a 4-5 crore company taking roots in Bangalore when we were graduating from IIMB (1991-93).  I recall how it was considered an infra-dig for top notch engineers and MBA to join Infosys. Of course, only until a bunch of guys made money through the Infy stock-option plan! Many questioned the business model of Infy and asked even at the end of Y2k – “How much more it would scale ?”  “How many more bodies will they make sit on bench / export for body-trading ?”

That was not innovation for the critics.  It just was body-arbitrage.  Quite ironically, I found myself defending Infy in all those conversations as I believed Infy was doing what was needed.


What is innovation ?  

Is it a grounds-up organic process ? or imported from another society that lives in a different life-stage of her own.  What is innovation in one place is irrelevant to another.  A cheap sanitary pad is innovation for rural india.  A battery operated water pump is innovation in India.  Who will guide an entrepreneur in Sitamarhi (Bihar) about it ? A VC from the Silicon valley ?

I never believed that the definition of innovation has  to be imported from the US.  The Americans and the US-tasted Desis had this argument about ‘product’ not coming out of India.  Their pet peeve was that India was not giving a new era product innovation to the globe!

It all was fine until NRN said the same thing again at IISc and yet creates a exception-category for himself and Infy!  Petty!

The global delivery model was worked upon by 2-dozen companies from GE downwards. The 24-hr delivery model was innovated and perfected simultaneously by a bunch.  Lets face it – the western corporations did not want to this ‘coolie’ job.  I have no complaints against Infy except when Murthy tries to decorate himself with stuff that is undeserving.  Actually, it is not even about Infy. It is about himself!

What I also like him to reflect upon are the following –

  1. The growth of the entire IT industry was hugely enabled by the rupee crashing from Rs 17 per dollar to the current levels of Rs 65.  Murthy sir – Am I wrong ?
  2. When all the small entrepreneurs slogging in India were paying 30 percent plus taxes, our IT poster boys were partying under a stupid zero tax regime.  Take these two out.  It is important to put things in context, Murthy!
  3. What stopped Infy from innovating ?  What has infy done that has not been done by TCS, Wipro or Nucleus Software.  Monetary success does not mean innovation.
  4. What are the companies that Murthy has invested in with his billions of dollars of personal wealth ?   even one disruptive and game-changing start-up like a Khosla or a Jack Ma ?  “Chaar aana daalo, aath aana nikaalo  ☺ ” is what all your investments are characterised by.  Am I wrong ?


Society or nation bigger than any individual :

India, as a country of a billion, has come past huge hurdles.  We have done phenomenal stuff w.r.t agriculture, milk, cars, technology, space sciences.  Count the number of countries that can manufacture cars, that can produce and launch satellites, that will have a trained surplus man-power in 2025 to help run the systems/organisations globally.

I am no jingoist.  I am acutely aware of the ills that plague our system.  I am deeply conscious of the transformational changes that are needed in the education system – from primary schools to college to research establishments.  Yet, I am also conscious of the fact that this is a billion people society. This is home to all the problems of the first world to that of the sub-saharan Africa.  And, it is creditable that we have reached among the top 3 countries in terms of economic power.

Our time has just about begun. We will produce thousands of successful innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and doctors. We need to be continuously aware of our shortfalls so that we keep our gaze in the direction of improvements. The most beautiful thing is that we are a democracy that is going to enable millions of innovators and entrepreneurs without anyones efforts. The Indian family is of that kind, genetically!   We have gone through a 300 year cycle downwards.  The next 300 years are ours.  I have no doubt.

All we need to do is – Stay self-critical yet stay positive.  But, not holier-than-thou!


"Hope this does not bore you to death. This is my effort to stay relevant by honing a skill or two with respect to the webworld" - Satya

One Response to “Narayanmurthy, his IISc Speech and a perspective”

  1. Amit N Khatawate

    After reading the article it was a shot in my arm. Personalities who demonstrate and set benchmarks in the Indian Economy are so self focused on their wallet size. And are loud with derogatory statements in line to the intellectual properties of Indian’s premium Education Institutes.
    Making it simple… IIM’s and IIT’s make the world go around.


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