Talk by Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy

First things first. I finally managed to find a free hosting with FTP and SQL and a DNS and domain name provider. They are and Then there is WordPress which can be installed in five minutes. All signing up done, configured, migrated the old blog and installed a new minimalist theme. I wanted to have my own hosted blog for a long time because I wanted to explore more on SEO and managing a blog which hopefully I can do now.

Moving on, yesterday at my office, I got lucky enough to attend a talk given by Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy, the chief founder of Infosys. He can be called as the JRD Tata of our times. A man with extra-ordinary vision and mission. He is well known for his simplicity and exceptional oratorical skills. It is said that speaking to a wise person for an hour is equivalent to reading a hundred books. At the end of 90 minutes, I felt like I had read a thousand books! Here is a short version of the 90 minute spectacle.

The talk was more of a Q&A session. He spoke on his own for the first ten minutes and then started taking questions. He started off by saying that every Indian must try and contribute to India by adding to three of its strengths in their own way. The first strength of the nation is democracy. Though it has a long way to go to be called an effective democracy, it still is a democracy. This should be strengthened. The second strength that the nation has is secularism. I actually felt proud when he said that in India, there is no major decision taken to create opportunity based on a person’s religion. Yes, caste and reservations exist but based on religion, an individual is not given opportunity based on his religion. This must be sustained. The third strength is one which is much stressed by great leaders of our country from Nehru to Swami Vivekanandha to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalaam and that is the availability of a huge number of youth population in our nation. He went on to say that the elder and senior people who are at top positions must help the youngsters to come up and not block their way. This is because, they had wasted a lot of time to come up and should not let the youngsters, who according to him are much more talented than the youngsters of his generation, waste their time doing the same. He finally said that if these three are done by every individual, then India will become a nation with decent economic growth and will be able to provide basic education, food and health care to even the poorest Indian and thereby instilling confidence in him for a better future. After this, he started taking questions.

The first question was pretty obvious. The story of how Infosys was started. This is an interesting story. Once when he was working in Paris, he was sent to some country to send back a parcel. When he reached Yugoslovia, it was a sunday. So there was no bank or embassy where he could exchange his foreign currency for local one. No shop or person provided him with food as he had no local currency resulting him to go on without food or water for nearly 32 hours after which he got his train to go to his destination. In that train, he was arrested by a band of policemen along with several others for no reason and was put in a small room alone. On the cold floor, he hoped to get some food atleast. But to his bad luck, the food or waterless marathon went on for 112 hours. At the end of this ordeal, he was given food and was sent to Istanbul on a train just because he was from a friendly country called India. That made him realise that he needed to give back something to this country. He returned to the country and started a non-profit to provide technology solutions to government offices. But his efforts were in vain as none of his ideas were approved. He tried this for two years before giving up on this idea and decided that he will contribute to the nation by providing employment and that is how Infosys was born. If Danny Boyle thought 127 hours is inspiring enough for a movie, I wonder what he will say for this story!

The second question was about his love life with Sudha Narayanamurthy. This I find to be a very good lesson to the couples of today. During their time, every evening they used to walk from one of the city to the other, have some juice and then back to have dinner. He calls this as doing something simple but getting maximum happiness as they were able to spend a lot of time together and getting to know each other. They did this for about 4 years before getting married. This is highly in contrast with what we can see in today’s couples where things are more materialistic and even after several years of marriage, the modern day couples do not know their partners fully in several cases.

The next question is something that is commonly asked to almost all the celebrities invariably. The possibility of them entering politics. I was awestruck by his answer. He started off by quoting from his speech earlier that the democracy must be strengthened in an individual’s own way. He has started two projects to do exactly the same. The first one aims to increase the percentage of voting to above 85% which I find to be extremely ambitious and the second one which is publishing the entire details of the candidates contesting along with their history of criminal cases. If this is done, then the democracy will be strengthened beyond imagination and effective political leaders will emerge. What impressed me even more is that he aims to do both of these within the next 5 years in the urban India!

One person stood up and asked what leaders must do in times of crisis. His answer was simple. Stay calm and act fast. If the leaders at the top panic, it will get multiplied at every level and finally when it gets to the last person, the tension and pressure will be enormous. So the real leaders must stay calm and guide the youngsters and the rest of the team quickly to get out of the crisis. Very true, but most of the authorities in leadership positions do not understand this. Only authorities who truly act so are the true leaders.

Since he spoke about the what leaders must do, the next question was almost immediate: what mistakes leaders usually do. His answer was quite intersting. He being an electrical enginner quoted the importance of negative feedback in stabilising the system. Once the negative feedback is removed, the system loses stability. Similarly, leaders once they stop taking negative feedback or criticism, lose balance and become full of themselves. One such person according to him is Indra Gandhi. These two facts are important not only for the people at the top of the ladder but for everyone. These two simple principles when followed, can make anyone a leader and excel at their work.

There were some other questions asked to him but one question is his about the mission statement of Infosys and why it was chosen. He said the mission statement is to become a globally well respected company. Though this was already said my Mahatma Gandhi, he paraphrased it and said, performance leads to respect which leads to power. So aiming to get respect by giving top notch professionalism and performance makes sense. That ended the 90 minutes and he stepped down from the podium amidst a huge applause by over 2000 people in the auditorium.

Though his talk was more about like his biography, very valuble things can be taken from it. A very thoughful and simple man who is rightly called the JRD Tata of our times. Though a zen way of life is not possible for everyone, doing simple things that give maximum happiness and being humble are two important things to be learnt from this man.

Until my next post, take care!


5 thoughts on “Talk by Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy

  1. Anand

    hey harish first of all thanks for this post..
    I Admired the words of him, The point which he stated on how a real leader must be was really appealing šŸ™‚


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