Narayana Murthy
India
Narayana Murthy
  • Co-Founder, Infosys (IT; Software; Consulting; Outsourcing)
Born Shidlaghatta, Karnataka, India, 1946. B.E, National Institute of Engineering (1967); MA, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (1969).
“Compassionate capitalism is capitalism in mind with the fairness of socialism at heart.”

Summary

N. R. Narayana Murthy is the co-founder of Infosys, an Indian multinational corporation with activities in outsourcing services, business consulting, and information technology. In this interview, Murthy describes becoming an engineer through a process of elimination and describes his first job at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad as the Chief Systems Programmer. It was during his time at IIM Ahmedabad that he developed technical expertise and recognized that it was not enough to only be a technologist and began focusing on the importance of management and interpersonal relationships. In the early 1970s, Murthy left his job at IIM Ahmedabad and spent several years working in Paris. However, he became convinced that he could add more value to society in India than in France. He backpacked home on a route that took him through Eastern Europe. He describes this journey as one of his most formative experiences. In this interview, Murthy tells the story of how he found himself imprisoned in the former Yugoslavia. This experience led to his disillusionment with his earlier flirtation with left-wing ideologies, and edged him towards the development of his principle of compassionate capitalism.

On his return to India, Murthy launched an unsuccessful software company focused on the domestic market in 1977, which failed after nine months. He then switched his attention to the potential of serving the software market in the United States, and Infosys was founded in 1981. Murthy explains that there were several factors that allowed him to develop Infosys. These included the introduction of 32-bit superminicomputers; the affordability of the superminicomputers that allowed for the creation of departmental computing and the large-scale adoption of computing by small enterprises; the industrial strength online transaction processing software based on relation databases that allowed commercial application to be possible on the superminicomputers; and the availability of large numbers of engineers and scientists with no jobs. In this interview, Murthy further explains how he was able to build the business during a time when there was no venture capital system in India, and how he recruited co-founders based on a system of intellect and values. He also discusses how he was able to compete successfully with Western multinationals such as IBM for other talent, and describes the legal and regulatory barriers he encountered. Later in the interview, Murthy reflects on the challenge of corruption in India and the importance of good leadership and transparency. Murthy also reveals how he expanded into other markets including the United States using his concepts of Global Delivery Model and CLIFE (customer focus, leadership by example, integrity and transparency, fairness, and excellence).

In 2001 Murthy voluntarily stepped down as CEO of Infosys after recognizing the importance of giving others the opportunity to lead, and became executive chairman until his retirement in 2011. To conclude the interview, Murthy expresses his belief in the importance of a stakeholder view of capitalism that ensures that business is seen as legitimate within a society.

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N. R. Narayana Murthy is the co-founder of Infosys, an Indian multinational corporation with activities in outsourcing services, business consulting, and information technology. In this interview, Murthy describes becoming an engineer through a process of elimination and describes his first job at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad as the Chief Systems Programmer. It was during his time at IIM Ahmedabad that he developed technical expertise and recognized that it was not enough to only be a technologist and began focusing on the importance of management and interpersonal relationships. In the early 1970s, Murthy left his job at IIM Ahmedabad and spent several years working in Paris. However, he became convinced that he could add more value to society in India than in France. He backpacked home on a route that took him through Eastern Europe. He describes this journey as one of his most formative experiences. In this interview, Murthy tells the story of how he found himself imprisoned in the former Yugoslavia. This experience led to his disillusionment with his earlier flirtation with left-wing ideologies, and edged him towards the development of his principle of compassionate capitalism.

On his return to India, Murthy launched an unsuccessful software company focused on the domestic market in 1977, which failed after nine months. He then switched his attention to the potential of serving the software market in the United States, and Infosys was founded in 1981. Murthy explains that there were several factors that allowed him to develop Infosys. These included the introduction of 32-bit superminicomputers; the affordability of the superminicomputers that allowed for the creation of departmental computing and the large-scale adoption of computing by small enterprises; the industrial strength online transaction processing software based on relation databases that allowed commercial application to be possible on the superminicomputers; and the availability of large numbers of engineers and scientists with no jobs. In this interview, Murthy further explains how he was able to build the business during a time when there was no venture capital system in India, and how he recruited co-founders based on a system of intellect and values. He also discusses how he was able to compete successfully with Western multinationals such as IBM for other talent, and describes the legal and regulatory barriers he encountered. Later in the interview, Murthy reflects on the challenge of corruption in India and the importance of good leadership and transparency. Murthy also reveals how he expanded into other markets including the United States using his concepts of Global Delivery Model and CLIFE (customer focus, leadership by example, integrity and transparency, fairness, and excellence).

In 2001 Murthy voluntarily stepped down as CEO of Infosys after recognizing the importance of giving others the opportunity to lead, and became executive chairman until his retirement in 2011. To conclude the interview, Murthy expresses his belief in the importance of a stakeholder view of capitalism that ensures that business is seen as legitimate within a society.
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Video Clips by Topic

Global Expansion

Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of the India-based software company Infosys, explains how the firm dealt with the challenges of global expansion and multi-culturalism, developing a strong institutional set of values.



Human Resources

Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of the India-based software company Infosys, discusses how he attracted talent to his start-up by pioneering the concept of employee stock options, and providing excellent career paths including extensive training facilities.



Leadership

Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of the India-based software company Infosys, explains how his vision of leadership was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s insistence on leadership by example.

Keywords: India, Leadership


Social Impact

Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of the India-based software company Infosys, explains his belief that compassionate capitalism is the best solution to poverty, and makes the case for a broad stakeholder view of the responsibility of business to society

Keywords: Social Impact, India


Start-Up

Narayana Murthy, who co-founded the India-based software company Infosys in 1981, discusses how he founded the firm with six other like-minded software professionals who pooled their capital

Keywords: India, Start-up


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Additional Resources

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Interview Citation Format

Interview with N. R. Narayana Murthy, interviewed by Joseph Fuller, Bengaluru, India November 6, 2019, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.