End of an Era at Infosys

Yesterday, N R Narayana Murthy retired from Infosys. In a touching farewell in Bangalore, friends and colleagues, present and past, bade him goodbye. There were breaking voices amongst the speakers and moist eyes in the audience. It was a great send-off for a great leader.

To Indians, everywhere, Narayana Murthy, means something special. For those of us in business, he didn’t just build Infosys into the global powerhouse that it is today. On the way, he set the standards in so many ways for the rest of corporate India – corporate governance, ethics and values, quality – he showed Indian industry what it meant to be world-class.

To ordinary Indians he is their inspiration. He makes them believe in themselves. That ordinary people with nothing except talent and ambition can make it big in modern India. And on the way, they don’t have to compromise on their values.

To me Mr. Murthy epitomizes what being a leader is about. I won’t even attempt to capture that in a few sentences because I can’t do it justice. But here’s a personal story that is pure Mr. Murthy.

One day in midtown Manhattan, I was walking with Mr. Murthy to a meeting. It was probably 1997 or thereabouts. Infosys was under $50 million in revenues and we were an inconsequential speck in the IT industry.

In midtown, we were surrounded by these skyscrapers adorned with the names of Fortune 500 companies. Suddenly, he stops, looks up at one such skyscraper and says “Basab, one day we’ll have our name on one of these buildings”.

That’s the way he is. Somewhere between ambitious and wild dreamer. The first step to being a great company is to aspire to be a great company. He knew that then. We know that today.

We will miss him being at the helm. Au revoir, Mr. Murthy!

17 thoughts on “End of an Era at Infosys”

  1. My NRN incident. I was in the Bangalore campus for a client visit and was put up at the hostel. It was a public holiday, the campus was quiet and there were hardly any people around. I decided to take a bicycle ride around the campus and happened to spot NRN being driven around on a golf cart, wearing a hard hat, poring over a large map and accompanied by a couple of fairly young people. This was in 2008 when he had already handed over the reins to Kris. I remember thinking – a) Wasn’t NRN supposed to be semi-retired? Why did he have to be at work on a holiday? b) Why was he poring over what looked like an architectural plan? Weren’t other people supposed to look at this sort of thing?
    I was amazed at how driven and detail-oriented he was.

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  2. good pic! was quite moving! though i missed the nandan send off. my personal memory was a prospect meeting in london around early 2001, while NRN was still the chairman and ceo. was bowled over by his simple, humble, no-nonsense attitude (btw it was a london taxi ride to the prospect office)…. post the prospect meeting, it truly showed me, why NRN is different and unique as a true leader. always focus on how he could help his team in bringing the best!

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  3. NRN is true visionary. We need more people like him to make our country – a truly developed country.
    I remember his speech during last year excellence awards in Infy Bangalore – “Infosys has created over 130K direct high paying jobs, our nation just needs another 1000 Infosys to eradicate poverty and bring inclusive growth to everyone in the nation”.Hope we will have more leaders like him who can change our nation.

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  4. I joined Infy in 2000 and in Sep/Oct when Infy was 7000 people strong in the midst of dotcom bust and stress on IT industry revenues, Infy inaugurated the second phase of the current Electronic city campus. NRN made a statement that i laughed at, at the time. He said “Infosys is 7000 people today and before we say Jack Robinson, we will be 70,000. So we need better campus, better facilities…”

    It turned out to be true in 4 years post this statement. Amazing!

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  6. The challenge that the ordinary Indians like us have to be paranoid about is the old Delhi saying, “Haveli ki umra, saath saal”. I’m sure we will succeed.

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  7. So was he like India’s Steve Jobs?

    Kind of ironic both are retiring at almost the exact same time after building great companies.

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