Inspirational story of Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys

The Leo by birth, Nagavara Ramarao Narayana Murthy famously known as Narayana Murthy is the founder of Infosys.

Often referred to as the father of Indian IT sector, the man with a net worth of $1.9 billion is known to be amongst those who need no introduction, and their work speaks for them!

Presently, he acts as the Chairman Emeritus of Infosys. Some of the services the company offers include business consulting, technology, engineering, and outsourcing services.

Since his retirement from an active role in Infosys, Narayana has been an active part of his private investment firm to backs start-ups, Catamaran Ventures. Other than that, he is also a part of a range of activities which include:

  • Independent Director on the corporate board of HSBC
  • Trustee of the Rhodes Trust
  • Chairman of the Governing board of Public Health Foundation of India
  • Asia Pacific Advisory Board of British Telecommunications
  • Serves on the strategic board which advises the national law firm, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, on strategic, policy and governance issues
  • Member of the Advisory Boards and Councils of including –
  • Cornell University
  • INSEAD
  • ESSEC
  • Ford Foundation
  • The UN Foundation
  • The Indo-British Partnership
  • Asian Institute of Management

Additionally, he has Co-chaired the World Economic Forum in Davos and has also served as a director on the boards of DBS Bank, Unilever, ICICI and NDTV, in the past.

He has also been honoured with India’s most prestigious awards Padma Vibhushan (2008) and Padma Shri awards (2000).

story of Narayana Murthy

Narayana has received his degree in Electrical Engineering from the National Institute of Engineering and has also completed his Master in Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur).

Talking about his personal life; Narayana is married to Sudha Murthy and has a son Rohan Murty and a daughter Akshata Murthy. Rohan is a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University and has recently invested $1 Million in a type of robotic astronomy project – Robo-AO project. And his sister Akshata, who had completed her MBA from Stanford Business School, is now married to Rishi Sunak a British Conservative MP.

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How Did He Begin His Journey?

Narayana was born in Sidlaghatta, Kolar District in Mysore, Kingdom of Mysore (now Karnataka).

He belonged to a poor family and his father was a teacher in a high school. But even then, he was one of the brightest students (without any coaching classes) and would often help his friends in studies.

Since those early days, he dreamt of pursuing engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. In the first attempt itself, he appeared for the test and cleared with great marks.

Later, he began working for Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) as Chief Systems Programmer and his tasks included working on India’s first time-sharing computer system. He also designed and implemented a BASIC interpreter for Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL).

Now around the early 70’s, he went on to start his first entrepreneurial venture – Softronics, a software consulting firm. This was also the time when he was dating his wife Sudha and intended to get married to her. Her father had a condition that he must be settled with a decent job if they wanted their blessings, but Narayana was very adamant about his free will.

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After about a year and a half, the company sadly tanked and they were forced to shut it down. Due to this event, he was left with no other option but to take up a job, hence, he joined Patni Computer Systems in Pune as a General Manager.

Since, he now had a job which satisfied his to-be father-in-law, before joining the company he made sure to get married to Sudha. This was also because he was going to the US for training and wanted to complete the marriage before that.

And with the arrival of the lady luck of his life, within a short period, he began walking on the paths of success!

story of Narayana Murthy

The Interesting Story Of Infosys

So while at Patni, he again felt the urge to get back to entrepreneurship. He strongly felt that he was meant for it and that this was the right time too, he was very passionate about creating good quality software, but the problem was that he didn’t have the money.

How Did It All Happen?

But his wife could see his pain and the fact that he wanted to do something with his life, but he had no money. Hence, she decided to help him out.

She gave him a sabbatical of three years and asked him not to worry of the house, she will take care of all the financial needs. She also gave him ₹10,000 that she had saved for the off days.

Having that sorted, on a morning of January 1981, he met six of his software engineer friends in his apartment to discuss on how they could create a company to write software codes.

Soon after that he also decided to leave his job at Patni and began working on his new project.

And after six months of aggressive preparations, Infosys was registered on 2nd of July, 1981. It then used to be known as Infosys Consultants Private Limited. The company was co-founded by Narayan Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, N. S. Raghavan, S. Gopalakrishnan, S. D. Shibulal, K. Dinesh and Ashok Arora.

In 1982, together they moved to Pune and bought a small house on loan. Although, the company’s registered office was N. S. Raghavan house at Dadar, Mumbai, but the front room of Narayana’s house was used as their office.

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All six of them would operate from there, and Sudha was their Clerk-cum-Cook-cum-Programmer. She had also taken up a job at Walchand Group of Industries as a Senior Systems Analyst to support the household.

Moving on, Infosys moved to Bangalore when it got its first client – Data Basics Corporation from the United States in 1983. But this time it was only Narayana who had moved, that too without his wife (because her son had infantile eczema, an allergy to vaccinations).

Later, after the Murthy’s, Nandan Nilekani and his wife Rohini also moved to Bangalore, but since they didn’t have a place to stay, they used to stay with the Murthy’s at their home/office.

Slowly, the rest of the team also moved to Bangalore as well and work again began with full force.

story of Narayana Murthy



How Did They Manage To Scale The Company Under Given Conditions?

Now during that time, when they began moving ahead aggressively with Infosys, there were certain ground rules laid down.

Firstly, all the founders collectively took a firm decision that none of their wives would ever get involved in the running of the company. This was because running a company requires a person’s 100% and if everybody got involved in the company then who would take care of the family and children.

Secondly, none of the founders would be allowed to continue with the company after the age of 65. This way, the younger talents at Infosys would get an opportunity to grow to the top positions.

Additionally, none of their children would also get involved in the future as well, this would close all possible rooms for discrimination or partiality.

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Anyway, things began to speed up quickly. Their initial years were clearly not smooth. Most of the founders were into writing codes. They wanted to make a strong impact in the American market. The environment of their company was such that Rohini was taking care of Narayana’s son, while Sudha was helping them write software programmes for Infosys. A lot of struggle indeed!

These were the days, when even after eight years of trying to bring up a company, they had got nowhere, whereas their friends who had studied with them had cars and houses.

Yet despite so many sacrifices and struggles, all the partners and their families made sure to take time out for small picnics as well too.

The Challenges

Around the late 80’s, Infosys got into a Joint Venture with Kurt Salmon Associates, a first of its kind for them. Gopalakrishnan was made the public face of this JV in America.

But due to unfortunate and unknown events, this joint venture collapsed in a very short span of time (in 1989) since it started.

This left a huge dent in the company. The company was on the verge of collapse, and looking at the worsening scenario one of their founders – Ashok Arora, sold his shares (of the unlisted company) back to the partners and moved out.

Situations were extremely bad for them, none of them had a clue of what to do, how to go ahead. But it was Narayana’s confidence and courage that helped them out.

He told all the partners that if they wished to leave, they happily can and that he will buy back all the shares from them. But he will keep the company running. But the other partners decided to stay.

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So they decided to buck it up and face the challenges. To begin with, they divided all the tasks. Narayana always had an eye for talent and a talent for dividing labour, hence he handled the management. Nandan was asked to take control of sales, Kris and Shibu managed the technical end, Raghavan was asked to handle people, and lastly, Dinesh was assigned quality.

Their pace was such that, the company went on to open their first international office in Boston, US in a matter of no time.

What helped them the most was liberalization of Indian economy in the 90’s! Since then the company has made sure to never have to look back.

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Infosys campus, Mysuru



The Rise Of Infosys

Narayana very well knew that image was everything and hence, he smartly on the sidelines worked on creating an image for Infosys as well. He invested heavily in creating huge and world-class campuses. This was literally bigger than any other company’s headquarters in India. It helped them show their global customers feel like they were in a global office.

As they grew, unlike many other big businesses who used to play dirty, Narayana brought in a ‘no compromise policy’ on getting ‘under-the-table deals’ and doing ethical business.

And thus began the ultimate rise of Infosys!

In 1993, Infosys apart from acquiring the ISO 9001/TickIT certification, took the biggest leap since their initiation and went public, and soon after the IPO the company also decided to share a portion of their equity with employees. This move of theirs greatly helped them retain the talent and also gave the employees a sense of ownership as well.

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And in the next two years, the company had opened global development centers in Fremont, Toronto, and had also opened their first European office in the UK.

If this was huge then in the year 1999, they company grew by manifolds when it announced that it had touched revenues worth $100 million and had also got listed on NASDAQ. What was even more commendable was that at that time, Infosys was known to be amongst the 20 biggest companies by market capitalization on the NASDAQ.

This was the time when the Infosys began their massive worldwide expansion plan and went on to open a list of offices in different parts of the world including Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Australia, and two development centers in the US. Additionally, they also launched their Business Consulting Services as well.

In 2002, after taking the company to revenues worth $500 million Narayana decided to take the back seat, and Nandan Nilekani took over the position of CEO, whereas Narayana became the Chairman and Chief Mentor.

From then onwards, the company has grown drastically from over ₹6,000 crores (in assets, including surplus cash) and 50,000 employees in 2005, to becoming India’s second largest software exporter and then crossing a $6 Billion revenue mark and 125,000 employee base.

This is when Narayana decided to completely move out of the day-to-day functioning of the firm and handed over his Chairmanship as well to K.V. Kamath, although he still acts as the Chairman Emeritus to the firm. Additionally, in the next two years, they also began trading on NYSE Euronext London and Paris markets as well.

More recently, Dr. Vishal Sikka has taken over as the new CEO and MD of the firm, while it is at revenues worth ₹50,000 crores, and the company also has announced a $250 million ‘Innovate in India Fund’ to support Indian start-ups. Presently, the company also accounts for more than 950 clients who are spread across 50 countries.

They have also become the sixth largest publicly traded company in India and told account for more than 187,976 employees as well. In a total, the company has proudly given away stocks worth more than ₹50,000 crores to employees in the form of ESOP.

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Since their inception, the company has also made a range of acquisitions which include – Expert Information Services ($23 million), McCamish Systems ($38 million), Portland Group (AUD 37 million), Lodestone Management Consultants ($345 million), etc. More recently, the company has also acquired Panaya, Inc, and Skava as well.

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Infosys campus, Pune

Achievements

  • Listed as 25 Greatest Global Indian Living Legends by NDTV (2013)
  • Awarded as the Philanthropist of the Year by The Asian Awards (2013)
  • Received the NDTV Indian of the Year’s Icon of India (2011)
  • Received the ‘Woodrow Wilson Award’ for by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2009)
  • Received the Officer of the Legion of Honor by the Government of France (2008)
  • Awarded as the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Government of United Kingdom (2007)
  • Won the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Of The Year (2003)

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