Narayana Murthy on H1B visa: Businesses can’t fight government

Murthy says unlikely for Trump to execute the H1B visa order as the Indian firms largely responsible for building and maintaining the information infrastructure of western corporations


File photo. Narayana Murthy also believed the customers of Indian software companies will use their influence with the Donald Trump administration to prevent him from executing such a order. Photo: Mint
File photo. Narayana Murthy also believed the customers of Indian software companies will use their influence with the Donald Trump administration to prevent him from executing such a order. Photo: Mint

Bengaluru: With the Indian information technology (IT) companies feeling the heat over the H1B visa, N.R. Narayana Murthy on Saturday said businesses cannot fight government and have to work within the limitations.

“We cannot fight any government. Let’s remember whether it is the US, the UK or the Indian government, no business can fight any government,” Infosys co-founder Murthy told reporters in Bengaluru. Murthy also said, “We have to work within the constraints of the government and there is a lot of innovation that we can bring to the table, whereby our companies are safe. Our companies can grow well again, grow profitably and then we can make the customers.”

Murthy said politicians have responsibilities to ensure that unemployment level in their country is as low as possible, and hence they cannot be blamed. Murthy also argued that India itself has done it in the past by asking the Chinese companies to give a minimum wage of $25,000 a year for construction workers and power plant builders, to protect India’s interests.

Also read: What H1B visa reforms mean for Indian IT companies

“When the Chinese companies wanted to bring Chinese labour because they have very stiff competition target, the than UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government said that you must give a minimum of wage of 25,000 dollars a year for construction workers for builders in India. So, this is nothing new to the US alone. We have done it ourselves and we all realised that it was done for a good reason by our politicians,” he said.

Therefore, he would not blame the politicians and go into a tizzy on the issue, Murthy said, adding that it would the responsibility of the industry to come out with a mechanism to reduce dependence on visas. “That is the reason why I believe that any prudent board in any of the Indian software companies would have to identity visas as an important risk and ask the management what they have done to mitigate this risk,” he said.

Murthy also said it is very unlikely for President Trump to execute the H1-B order, as the Indian software industry has largely been responsible for building and maintaining the information infrastructure of the large western corporations. “Therefore they play a very very critical role in the success of the US corporations, tampering with it is not going to be easy,” he said.

Also read: The silver lining in H1B visa reforms

He also believed the customers of Indian software companies will use their influence with the Trump administration to prevent him from executing such a order. “Therefore, the probability of any such executive order appears somewhat remote, at least from where I see,” he said.

Even if the order is executed, Murthy said in this scenario the Indian software industry will try to renegotiate the prices with their customers so as to their profitability will not be impacted as much as the industry thinks it would. “I believe that they will be able to sit down with their customers and renegotiate the prices. So, thereby their profitability will not be impacted as much as we think it would,” he said.

Murthy also believed that the industry may move towards visa independent global delivery model just as in the 90s Infosys Ltd did and other companies followed. “Therefore, I personally feel there is no need for us to be unduly concerned about it and there is no need to go into panic; and knowing the smartness of the Indian industry, I believe that the industry will come out with a solution wherein things will be back perhaps to a new normal,” he said.

Also read: The message from H1B visa reforms

Even if the US Congress decided to execute the order, it is likely that it will be related to new H1B visas, which will not be on a retrospective basis, Murthy said. The third option with the industry would be to step up local hiring because the local talent will be much better in selling the services in the market to their corporations, he said.

“The local people will be able to interact with our customers much better because they speak English as mother tongue. They understand the lingo, the local jargons etc. I think overall, my belief is that we will convert what appears to be a huge problem at this point of time to a great opportunity for Indian software industry to grow,” he said.

When asked about the Nasscom delegation’s visit to the US, he said, “Nasscom and CEOs should enlighten the members of the Congress, Senators and others about the extraordinary advantages of working with Indian companies. They will also enlighten them on how Indian companies have added tremendous value to making American companies much more competitive.”

He also urged Boards of IT companies to take a serious effort to put the issue in the forefront. “You have to ask the Infosys board and other boards where these initiatives are. We completed about 7 or 8 pilots before I left the company. I am sure they would have taken it forward, but you may want to ask the senior management and board of Infosys on its progress,” he said.

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