That billion-dollar feeling

By Nandita Lakshmanan | 15 Apr 2004


No one on the Infosys campus wanted the night of April 13, 2004, to come to an end.

The first thing that struck me as I entered the Infosys campus was the fact that most of the Infoscions sported the same light blue t-shirts — the billion-dollar day t-shirts that proclaimed to the rest of the world that Infosys was ready to compete with the biggest of the big.

Not that anyone needed reminding. With revenues of US$1.06 billion and a 31 per cent rise in profits it seems that Infosys can do no wrong and it looks like everyone from shareholders to employees agree. So, what is the secret of Infosys' success? Having seen the billion dollar day celebrations first hand, clichéd as it may sound, Infosys is what it is because of the Infoscions.

The roars of approval and thunderous applause that followed every speech at the billion- dollar day and night celebrations showed the immense asset the company has in terms of the goodwill of its employees. Of course the roars of appreciation may have had something to do with the "billion dollar bonus" for all Infoscions, reinforcing the company's commitment to sharing the benefits of its success!

Narayana MurthyLoyalty, it seems, pays rich dividends at Infosys — literally and figuratively. People, who had been prescient enough to see the potential in Infosys Technologies a decade ago and bought its stock and held onto it, are today, rich beyond their wildest expectations. A share bought at the offer price of  Rs95 when the company went for an initial public offering (IPO) in 1993 is today worth a stunning Rs 87, 840.

But the loudest cheers came from the shareholders, since the company announced an unprecedented bonus issue of three shares for every one held, a special dividend of Rs100 per share and an annual dividend of Rs15 per share.

For a celebration with 9,000 employees at Bangalore and for 16,000 others from development centres across the world, it was a surprisingly intimate event. Infoscions in the US participated in the billion-dollar celebrations at 4:30 am, glued to the videoconferencing (who wanted to sleep that night?) organised for their benefit by Infosys. The celebrations were truly global.

Accolades made their day
President APJ Abdul KalamCongratulatory messages poured in from all across the country most notably from the President Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, Chief Minister S M. Krishna and IT Minister Arun Shourie. As members of the Infosys board of directors read them out, they seemed just as thrilled as the rest, at the accolades heaped on them by an admiring galaxy.

Perhaps, the most evocative part of the evening was, unlike with the larger multi-billion dollar companies, every individual who had played a part in Infosys' success story was remembered. Every one from Infosys' first customer to former Infoscions and retired founder-directors were there to bask in the reflected glory of Infosys' phenomenal success and share their memories of the early days.

The evening was nostalgic — a great trip down memory lane replete with amusing anecdotes about the founding members and the human side of these intellectual giants. The presence of mega star Enrique Iglesias' in Bangalore seemed a non-event on the Infosys campus that night, with their own stars in the ascendant. Instead Infoscions were dancing with gay abandon to the beat of the music by Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu. Music or not, they would have been dancing anyway!

Many Infoscions had brought along their families to join in the euphoria. As the night wore on Narayana Murthy, the affable chief mentor of the company, made it a point to stop by the clustered families of 'his' Infoscions to thank each one of them for having been there to contribute to the success. The closing remarks of his speech embodied the spirit of Infosys, "Be original, be daring, be different, be unreasonable, be anything that will assert the integrity of your purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, and the slaves of the ordinary."

While it took Infosys 23 years to reach the billion dollar mark, Infoscions are confident that attaining a multi-billion dollar status wouldn't take even half as long. It is not the mind-boggling figures in the balance sheet that makes Infosys a tuly amazing company; it is the religious zeal with which the Infosys' motto: Powered by Intellect and Driven by Values is followed. Away from commercialism, the Infosys campus remains a breath of fresh air and that's the way it will stay at the 2 billion-dollar mark and the 20 billion-dollar mark.

As the night wound down, it seemed that every Infoscion at the billion-dollar celebrations knew that she and he had contributed to making Infosys into a path-breaking organisation — a heady brew of personal empowerment and responsibility.

The author is founder and CEO, The PRactice, a Bangalore-based strategic communications consultancy.

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