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N.R. Narayana Murthy – Biography of a Billionaire

There is a famous adage in English which says that hard work does not kill anybody but it is sloth that is the main culprit. A firm believer in diligence and labour, Narayana Murthy is the pioneering force behind Infosys Technologies Limited, a global consulting and IT services company based in India.

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Born into a Brahmin family in Mysore on August 20, 1946, he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from the National Institute of Engineering, University of Mysore in 1967 after attending a government school. He received his Masters’ degree from IIT Kanpur in 1969. He first took up a job at IIM, Ahmedabad as Chief Systems Programmer. He says that this was the best phase of his life. He had job offers from distinguished companies like HMT, ECIL, TELCO, Air India but he joined IIM, Ahmedabad because this place was the third business school in the world to install a time-sharing system after Harvard and Stanford. Moreover, his professor (Prof Krishnayya) advised him that he would learn a lot by working 20 hours a day where the atmosphere was congenial. In Murthy’s own words, he says, “Taking this job at a salary of Rs 800 a month was the best decision of my life.”

Murthy had intense zeal for learning. He admits that Professor Krishnayya is his role model. He taught him the importance of aspiring, having the voracious hunger to learn something new. Murthy learnt his basics here. He and his team designed and implemented a basic interpreter for ‘ecil’. He believes that it is at this place that he learnt what it is to become an engineer. ‘It isn’t a theory but application of the theory to solve problems and make a difference to society.”

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Murthy then joined Patni Computer Systems in Pune. Before moving to Mumbai, he met his wife, Sudha Murthy in Pune who at the time was an engineer and working at TELCO. In 1981, the turning point came. He founded Infosys with six other software professionals. He also served as President of the National Association of Software and Service Companies, India from 1992 to 1994. Murthy served as CEO of Infosys for twenty years, and was succeeded by co-founder Nandan Nilekani in March 2002. Under Murthy’s leadership, Infosys was listed on NASDAQ in 1999. He served as the Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Mentor from 2002 to 2006.

As a firm believer in performance, he believes that good performance leads to recognition which in turn brings respect. Respect brings power but it is important for an individual and an organisation to bring humility and grace in one’s moments of power because it enhances dignity. No doubt, he has been on TIME magazine’s list continuously. In 2004, the prestigious magazine named Murthy one of the ten leaders in the list of “Global Tech Influentials” who are helping to shape the future of technology. Again in 2001, TIME voted him as one of the Asian heroes who have brought about revolutionary changes in Asia in the last 60 years. Continuing with his achievements, he was voted the Entrepreneur of the Year—2003 by Ernst and Young. He was also featured in Business week’s “The Stars of Asia” for three successive years -1998,1999 and 2000. Infosys, being his brainchild, he has cherished a lot of dreams for the company. He says, “I want Infosys to be a place where people of different genders, nationalities, races and religious beliefs work together in an environment of intense competition but utmost harmony, courtesy and dignity to add more and more value to our customers day after day”. No wonder, Infosys is on a dream run.

Adored and admired by all, Murthy is the recipient of numerous awards and honours. In 2000, he was awarded the Padmashri, a civilian award by the Government of India. The Economist* ranked him 8th among the top 15 most admired global leaders (2005). Another feather in his cap is that he topped the ‘Economic Times Corporate Dossier1 list of India’s most powerful CEOs for two consecutive years – 2004 and 2005.

Achievements, honours and accolades apart, Murthy comes forth as a person who has got everything today on the strength of sheer hard work and long-term vision.


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