Global face of Indian IT

15 Oct 2004


Nararayan Murthy has acquired epic proportions for positioning India on the global IT map writes Tanmoy Mitra

Narayana MurthyIn a poll conducted by Asiaweek in 2000, the quiet, soft-spoken Narayana Murthy, 58, chairman and chief mentor of Infosys Technologies Limited, and IT advisor to several Asian countries, was selected among the 50 most powerful business leaders in Asia.

The same year, in an online poll by The Economic Times he was voted the best CEO of India. Over the years, awards have routinely found their way to Murthy — the Max Schmidheiny award in 2001 and Ernst and Young's coveted Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2002.

And last year, Fortune, named Murthy, along with his close associate and Infosys cofounder and its current CEO, Nandan Nilekani, as Asia's businessmen of the year for 2003.

Murthy's name is acquiring epic proportions in the Indian infotech firmament for having put the country on the global IT map. He is nonchalant about the accolades he receives for having helped create a prestigious global IT consulting and software services corporate brand headquartered in Bangalore. He has created jobs for thousands of aspiring IT professionals and is admired for his simplicity and a desire to succeed.

Murthy is the chairman of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. In addition, he is a member of the board of overseers of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, board of trustees of Cornell University, Singapore Management University and the board of advisors of the William F Achtmeyer Center for Global Leadership at the Tuck School of Business.

Narayana Murthy was born on August 20, 1946, in Karnataka, India. He obtained his bachelor of electrical engineering (B E) from the University of Mysore in 1967 and completed his Master of Technology (M Tech.) from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur in 1969.

He founded Infosys, as a small software development venture in 1981 along with six software professionals including close friend Nandan Nilekani, the company's current CEO. In 1987, the company set up its first international office in the US. Gradually, the fledgling venture metamorphosed into one of the top IT leaders.

Infosys grew rapidly throughout the 1990s, sharing profits with its employees through stock-options, adopting global best practices and corporate governance, earning Infosys and its founders, particularly Narayana Murthy, the unstinted respect and praise from the Indian IT sector.

No wonder, Murthy was the automatic choice of his colleagues from the industry for the presidency of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) from 1992 to 1994. In 1997, the Tata Group chose him over several others for its prestigious JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award.

The Nasdaq listing in 1999, brought Infosys the funding required to expand its operations internationally, and in 2000, Murthy's dream of seeing his company ranked among the front-runners in global IT became a reality, with the company's turnover reaching $200 million (Rs918 crore)

The same year, Infosys became the first company to be awarded the 'national award for excellence in corporate governance' by the government of India. In FY 2003-04 Infosys created a sensation when it announced its results — it had become the first listed IT company in India to notch a $1 billion-turnover (Rs4,591 crore).

Heading a company of the stature of Infosys, has not changed Murthy's middle-class moorings or life-style much, except for his numerous speaking engagements. He continues to frequent the old Udupi café for his favourite idli and filter coffee.

In 1996, along with wife, Sudha, he set up the Infosys Foundation to execute Infosys' corporate social responsibilities. Sudha Murthy, the head of the foundation, is serious about extending the helping hand equal opportunities for the underprivileged. The foundation spends Rs5 crore ($1.08 million) on charity

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