The first man to discover the wheel and the first man to set foot on the moon may be separated by thousands of years. However, what each achieved is no lesser than the other. All it takes is one passionate and creative mind and lo and behold an idea is born.
An idea by itself is purposeless unless it is given shape and direction to grow in. This is where leaders come into the mix: charismatic people who are not afraid to take chances and lead from the front. One such enigmatic personality is NR Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys, to whom the Indian software industry is hugely indebted.
Born into a family of middle-class Brahmins, he had to forgo a chance to join IIT early on due to financial constraints. “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 says in a recent interview. Instead, he joined the National Institute of Engineering, Mysore, graduating in 1967. Lady Luck finally came through for him. In 1969, he completed his Masters from IIT Kanpur.
He went on to work at IIM Ahmedabad and a short stint in Paris followed before he made the return trip home. He then had a short spell with a computer systems company in Pune before he made the fateful decision to start his own company.
“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.”
Narayana Murthy mentions, when asked about how Infosys came to being.
The Indian software scene was still in the infantile stages and Narayana Murthy was keen to capitalize on it. In 1981, along with six other colleagues, he founded Infosys and has never looked back since.
The initial days were not struggle-free, with limited funds and a lack of computer systems threatening to shut down operations. The whole economy was also besotted with problems and red-tapes.
Hard work and determination with a sprinkle of luck make for an incredible combination. The Fates once again intervened on Murthy’s behalf come the 1990s. In 1991, the Indian Government initiated a policy of liberalization and economic reforms. Infosys was quick to capitalize on this.
“Just as we got determined to run the marathon with much greater gusto, liberalization happened. If there is one company that symbolizes all the good that came out of liberalization, it is Infosys,”
Narayana Murthy states in a matter-of-fact way.
The economic boom saw Infosys jump the ladder to greater heights. NR Narayan Murthy’s vision and delivery of the Global Delivery Model (GDM) is a feat to behold. GDM has now become the mainstay on which the Indian software industry functions.
Another crowning achievement of NR Narayana came in 1999 when Infosys made history by becoming the first Indian company to be listed under NASDAQ.
NR Narayana Murthy led Infosys as a CEO since its foundation in 2002. He then became the chairman of the board from 2002 to 2006 before he finally bid adieu in 2011.
Men like NR Narayana Murthy are rare and their achievements rarer still. Rightly so, he has been recognized by many notable institutes and awarded innumerable accolades.
Most men would have said “Enough” and rested on their laurels but NR Narayana is made of a different fiber. He went on to serve as a board member of numerous institutions and even penned three books. Time magazine once gave him the moniker “father of the Indian IT sector” and NR Narayana Murthy does every bit of justice to it.
NR Narayana Murthy once said, “Leading by example is the most powerful advice you can give anybody”. These are words that he lives by and he clearly demonstrated it by recently undergoing the COVID-19 vaccination process.
Also Read: Nandan Nilekani Biography