Narayana Murthy, the Indian software entrepreneur who co-founded Infosys Technologies Ltd., the first Indian company to be listed on an American stock exchange, is well-known for his distinctive and unreserved viewpoints that often grab headlines. He doesn't hesitate to speak his mind, whether it's about celebrities like Kareena Kapoor or addressing some of the shortcomings of our country and its practices. Currently, the entrepreneur is in the spotlight due to a recent statement he made during a podcast with former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai.
At 77 years of age, Narayana Murthy expressed a belief that India's capacity to thrive and compete with economic giants like China hinges on a significant improvement in the work productivity of its younger generation. He advocated for a 70-hour workweek as a means to achieve this. While we will delve deeper into Murthy's 70-hour workweek statement in an upcoming Big Questions session, let's take a moment to review all the noteworthy remarks made by the Infosys founder that have sparked debates over the years.
1. WFH not suitable for India
During the pandemic, employees worldwide were instructed to shift to remote work from their homes. However, with every slight decrease in Covid cases, the emergence of new variants disrupted the situation. Nevertheless, following the pandemic, Infosys CEO Narayana Murthy expressed his reservations about the idea of allowing employees to work from home.
Murthy stated, "I am not a strong advocate of the work-from-home model." He elaborated on this view, explaining that when employees work remotely, the core institutional culture gradually weakens. He emphasized that in a work-from-home environment, it becomes challenging "to foster a culture of diligence, creativity, excellence, intuition, meritocracy, discussion, and debate."
Furthermore, Murthy pointed out that the work-from-home system may not be practical in a country like India, where people often live in multi-generational households, face limitations in Internet connectivity, and lack a separate space to establish a home office. He also highlighted that during the Covid era, India's productivity fell below that of Bangladesh.
Murthy urged employees in the corporate sector to return to their offices in order to "enhance productivity." He emphasised the significance of this for India, which aims to surpass China in terms of per capita income. His statement gained mixed reaction on social media.
2. The quality of students entering IITs has gone lower and lower
In 2011, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and IIT-JEE coaching institutes reacted strongly to a comment made by the founder of Infosys Technologies, in which he questioned the calibre of students attending these institutions.
During his keynote address at the Pan IIT Summit in New York, Murthy remarked, "Thanks to coaching classes, the quality of students entering IITs has gone lower and lower."
He added, "Save for the top 20 per cent who successfully pass the rigorous IIT entrance exam and can compete with the best worldwide, the quality of the remaining 80 per cent of students falls short." Murthy's statement triggered a significant debate, with professors and the director of an IIT sharing their perspectives on the matter.
3. Reality in India is corruption, dirty roads
During the Silver Jubilee Year celebration at the GMR Institute of Technology (GMRIT) in Rajam, located in Vizianagaram district, Narayana Murthy addressed the students. He encouraged them to take action to improve the current state of the nation and emphasised their responsibility in shaping a "new reality."
Murthy drew a contrast between different perceptions of reality, highlighting how in places like Singapore, reality is associated with clean streets and minimal pollution, while in India, it often involves issues like corruption, unclean roads, and environmental pollution. He stressed that it is the duty of the students to contribute to building a new and better world.
The Infosys founder also discussed the qualities of effective leadership and emphasised that true leaders do not wait for others to assume responsibility. He urged the students to seize the opportunity and take the lead in addressing these existing challenges.
4. Murthy's remarks on Kareena Kapoor
A video of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy criticising Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor for not acknowledging her fans gained widespread attention in July. The billionaire businessman used this incident to emphasise the importance of reducing one's ego.
According to reports, Murthy made these remarks during a discussion at IIT-Kanpur earlier in the year. He shared an anecdote about a flight from London to India, during which he found himself seated next to Kareena Kapoor. Murthy recounted that many people approached the actress and greeted her, but she did not respond to any of them.
In contrast, he mentioned that he engaged in conversations with everyone who approached him. His wife, Sudha Murty, who was also present, defended Kareena Kapoor, suggesting that as a Bollywood star, she might have been fatigued from the constant attention and demands on her time.
Murthy expressed his surprise, saying, "The other day I was coming from London, and next to me was Kareena Kapoor, sitting in her seat. So many people came to her and they said hello. She didn’t even bother to react." He further explained that he stood up and engaged in brief conversations with those who approached him, as that was all they expected.