Bangalore: The generosity of a single individual who shies away from the limelight made possible the gift Infosys Technologies Ltd announced for its staffers on Wednesday in the form of a share allotment to mark its entry into its 30th year.
Meet Vyakarnam Anjenaya Sastry, the first person apart from the seven Infosys founders to become a director on the company’s board. In 1996, Sastry gifted 50% of the employee stock options (ESOPs) he had been allotted, to the Infosys Employee Welfare Trust which are being used for the share allotment.
Sastry, in his 50’s, paid Rs1.2 lakh for the shares—half of which were worth nearly Rs276 crore based on the company’s closing price on Thursday.
What was the trigger for the decision to give?
This (decision to give) was (made) in 1996. In 1996, the value was around Rs75 lakh or something. The number of shares I don’t remember… Actually, to understand (why I did this) you need to understand my background. I come from a small village in Waranagal (Andhra Pradesh). I lost my father when I was three. I was educated in the first batch of Regional Engineering College, Warangal, and then did my masters from the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) and later went to the University of Waterloo (Canada). For that I had to take a loan to buy the ticket, and did my PhD... In 1986, I joined Macmet India Ltd, a Calcutta-based company which was into mathematical modelling and simulation. In 1989, we participated in a fair–CeBIT, Hanover...we were sharing a computer (along with) Infosys...then Mr. Murthy (Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy) suggested why don’t we share the stall. Because either of us (independently) could not afford the stall. Both of us were in software. That was a very successful participation for both the companies and then personally also (I) became close to Nandan (Nilekani, Infosys co-founder) and Murthy... One day, we had lunch and they suggested, Dr Sastry, we are going to have quality as a department, and why don’t you join us and head it... We are talking about 1990.
Murthy came with an offer which (I) couldn’t resist. The offer was also a position in the board.
How many people were there on the board?
At that time, only the promoters.
When you joined the company, what was the size of the company?
In terms of revenue, it was Rs2-2.5 crore. Reebok was a very good customer then.
What really influenced you to join?
I told Nandan that when I came back to India I had just enough money that I bought a flat in Bombay; then I sold it and made this house (in Bangalore) for Rs3 lakh in 1980. So, Nandan said that this is going to be a much better investment than anything you have done so far.
It came (with) such a conviction that I felt that must be true.
Anyway, the point really is that I got an opportunity to go operate at the board level....(and to) work with people who are software engineers and work with a company which was really growing.
In 1993, the IPO barely scraped through. What was the thought in your mind when the stock went to Rs145 from Rs95. Did you have the temptation to sell it?
Lot of people did it. But then there was a CFO (chief financial officer) who encashed and built a house... Temptation was there.
How does the employee trust work?
The trustees will be from the company. This is going to help employees, independent of Esops (employee stock options). I thought this is very good idea of promoting (the welfare of) employees—families and children, their parents, they should be taken care of.
What prompted you to offer your shares?
The thing is that I joined Infosys (by paying) Rs1.2 lakh (for the shares). By the time I was leaving, it was about Rs1.5 crore or Rs1.75 crore. I have half the shares. This half, by giving to the organization, has really changed my life, it made a lot of sense.
Did your wife concur with your decision?
We do talk about it, but not in so much detail. I think she is listening to it for the first time. The one thing she wants is we are comfortable and we are taken care of. Having made the contribution, now I know the power of giving...Giving has become a nice thing for me. It is a feel-good factor for me.