|The man who made IT|
|Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00|
TCS and Patni Computer Systems were the first to discover the offshoring model in the mid-70s, and Wipro followed suit a few years later. Yet, if there’s one person that defines India’s IT prowess, it is Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy who retires today after 30 years, having steered the company he co-founded with R10,000 borrowed from his wife to a $6 billion enterprise. A $6 billion firm in a $60 billion Indian software industry doesn’t do justice to Murthy’s legacy, and there’s little doubt the company appears to have lost its edge of late—the $3 billion of cash it is sitting on is seen as evidence of its conservatism, something that Murthy’s successor and ace-banker KV Kamath will have to change.
Though others were there before him, Murthy changed the paradigm with the global services delivery model that he perfected. Others are doing the same now, but it was Murthy who delivered quality services to clients through Infosyians located in different parts of the world—multiple-locations but completely integrated services. And for those who thought Murthy ran just a wage arbitrage-driven shop of coding jocks, keep in mind that the banking industry’s most successful ‘product’ is Finacle, developed under Murthy’s guidance. None of this would have been possible without a talented and motivated team, and once again it was Murthy that took ESOPs to an entirely different level—from the time Infosys was founded, the company has given out R50,000 crore worth of stock options to employees.
Though Murthy disappointed admirers for not standing up to the government when he was chairman of IIM Ahmedabad and the government wanted to push its reservation agenda, many see him as the first practitioner of ‘do no evil', long before Google adopted this as its motto. He had no difficulty in parting ways with a colleague, widely seen as Infosys’ rainmaker, on moral grounds; and when a top client (accounting for a fourth of Infosys’ turnover) set unacceptable terms, he chose to walk out instead of cutting corners to deliver the product. Convincing clients of his corporate governance, however, required a lot more, so Infosys was the first Indian software firm to list on Nasdaq.
As Murthy hangs up his boots to create even more entrepreneurs with his Catamaran fund—it has investments in socially useful firms like SKS Microfinance and Manipal Learning—we wish him luck. His investors will cherish his advise more than his money—when the government-run education system didn’t deliver, Infosys set up its own training facilities that rival many universities. Now that’s thinking.