Bangalore: Infosys Ltd chairman and chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy stepped down on Friday to become chairman emeritus. Before a farewell event for employees and other guests at the company’s campus in Bangalore, Murthy spoke in an interview about the future strategic direction for Infosys, where the next levers of growth on scale might come from, the talent crunch, and the necessity to truly open up the Indian education sector to foreign institutions.
As Infosys globalizes in terms of its workforce, you have identified the ability of multicultural teams to work together as a key challenge for the future. Any ideas that you are leaving behind with Infosys on this issue?
In order to do this, Infosys has to understand the aspirations of local talent, understand how to attract and retain the best talent in those places, and it has to create a common, universal value system around, honesty, decency and good work ethic. We have to de-emphasize differences and emphasize commonalities, and come out with systems and processes that will allow these people from different regions to work productively together. It is a big challenge.
I do think we have already started that task, we have a good consulting group, we have acquired some BPO (business process outsourcing) companies in Europe, the US, we have multicultural employees in Europe, China, Japan. My own personal view is that we have to mount a big campaign to attract the best and brightest talent from the universities in our markets. That fresh young talent is going to make a lot of difference.
New role: N.R. Narayana Murthy stepped down as chairman of Infosys on Friday. He will now be chairman emeritus of the firm.Photo Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
How crucial will this be forInfosys strategically?
Oh, absolutely crucial. I don’t know of a single successful MNC (multinational corporation) or globalized corporation that has succeeded without internationalization, without multicultural talent. Today the biggest bottleneck to the growth of a corporation is availability of good talent. Therefore, we have to attract talent wherever possible, throughout the world. We have to use the entire world as our arena.
The talent crunch is already a serious issue, even domestically. What is the solution?
I think the biggest challenge this country will face, as it goes on to the second phase of growth, will be availability of talent. The government has recognized it, and there are some initiatives. But we have to move forward on the entry of foreign universities, we have to create greater opportunities for world-class private institutions to come to India. Otherwise our aspirations to become a well-known economic power in the world will suffer.
Over the years: top to bottom) N.R. Narayana Murthy; an early 1990s photo of Infosys founding members and employees, among them Murthy (extreme left), N.S. Raghavan and Kris Gopalakrishnan (third and fourth from left, front row, respectively), and S.D. Shibulal (extreme right)
Where do you think the next growth lever will come from? Are there enough ideas and new ventures?
I think there are lots of youngsters who are looking at initiatives in healthcare, in education, e-commerce, etc. I know it because Catamaran (Murthy’s venture capital fund) is involved in supporting some of them. I don’t think we are short of ideas. What we need is an environment where our youngsters are not burdened by the friction that we see in terms of quickly forming companies, getting loans, access to talent, satisfying statutory requirements, and so on. If we can reduce that friction, I believe our entrepreneurs will grow faster.
So the “next Infosys” can come from…
Clearly healthcare is a very important sector. Then housing, particularly low-cost housing. Then there is nutrition and food. And of course IT (information technology). What is important is a great idea, a good team, a good value system and the ability to sustain the venture.
Cloud, mobility and analytics are some key drivers and trends that the IT industry is calling out. Anything else that you see?
I think appliance computing is another area where there will be huge opportunities, because of the ubiquitous cloud, the Internet. And because of the opportunities for connecting all appliances, vehicles, and so on, and leveraging the power of that. Huge opportunity.
While you are an icon and a public persona, do you sometimes feel a disconnect because of what the public projects on to you and their expectations because of that?
I have done what little I have done, as much focused on excellence as possible. I have always looked at my competencies before accepting any responsibility. And so far I have delivered.
There is an expectation of seeing you in roles where you will drive policy at higher levels.
As it is, I am the chairman of the Public Health Foundation, I am advising entrepreneurs in Gujarat, the West Bengal government on IT, on youth employment in Jammu and Kashmir, and so on. If there is any request from the government, and if I am competent to take it on, I will do so.