Infosys@40: From an idea in a one-bedroom apartment to a $71.41 bn company
A command centre that helps fight global cyberattacks and a remote patient monitoring platform that provides health vitals such as infection status and respiration rate were some of the top innovations on display on Wednesday at Infosys headquarters in Bengaluru. The IT giant is showcasing these innovations as part of an event to commemorate the completion of 40 years.
Artificial intelligence technology that gives crucial insights to tennis players to evaluate their game and smart retail stores that help understand customer behaviour better using cameras and sensors were other products that the tech giant displayed.
The IT services company which was established four decades ago is focusing on building cutting-edge products and services in areas such as cybersecurity, cloud computing and data analytics.
“We have constructed now a digital company with cloud (computing), data and cybersecurity as key tenets,” said Salil Parekh, chief executive officer, Infosys. “We are serving India and the world. 40 years ago was our first step and we have a long journey ahead.”
Referring to Infosys founders, Parekh said that they have put together an extremely strong foundation. He called the company founders master architects like the ones who build the framework for countries and empires.
Established in 1981 by seven people, Infosys pioneered the global delivery model and became the first IT company from India to be listed on Nasdaq in 1999. From a capital of $250, it has grown to become a $17.53-billion (LTM FY23 revenue) company with a market capitalisation of approximately $71.41 billion. It now has more than 345,000 employees.
N R Narayana Murthy, who is also known as the ‘father of the Indian IT sector, founded Infosys along with Nandan Nilekani, Kris Gopalakrishnan, SD Shibulal, K.Dinesh, NS Raghavan and Ashok Arora. Recalling the objective to start Infosys, Murthy said that he along with other co-founders had a discussion in his one-bedroom apartment in Mumbai about finding the purpose for launching the venture. After a long discussion on various topics, the founders finally decided that the purpose is seeking respect from every stakeholder.
“We wanted to create a company of the professional, for the professional and by the professional to seek respect from every stakeholder,” said Murthy at the Infosys event. “The values of the (founders) were in sync and we all had the desire to conduct an experiment in the democratization of wealth that had not happened in the country.”
The other purpose behind starting Infosys was to show that it is possible for a company in India to demonstrate the highest level of governance and excellence in running the firm.
Recalling his first meeting with Murthy in 1979, Nandan Nilekani said that he was the most charismatic leader and gave the opportunity to the other Infosys co-founders. “Frankly, if he would have said ‘jump off the cliff’ we would have done that. We had that level of loyalty for him,” said Nilekani.
Murthy is also a big fan of Western classical music. “I think he sees himself as a corporate Zubin Mehta, getting all the ideas and then creating a magnificent symphony,” said Nilekani.
Murthy had identified the spark in Nilekani way back in February 1979. Nilekani, who had a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT Bombay, was looking for a job and went to Murthy, who at that time was at Patni Computer Systems. He had to go through a test in advanced pattern recognition and he came out successful.
“He said that he wants to go to a business school in the US, is preparing for GMAT and is free till September,” said Murthy, when he had asked Nilekani about his plans during the interview. “But I have a principle, it is better to have an intelligent man with you, no matter how short the period is.”
Later, it was a no-brainer for other co-founders to join Murthy when he proposed the idea of starting Infosys. They were younger than him and the other co-founder NS Raghavan. But for Murthy, the risk was high, as he was at the top of his career and at a big position with a computer systems company in Pune.
Focus on frugality, austerity and leadership by example also played in the success of the firm. In the early nineties, the company won a contract from Reebok (France) to build an information management system. It was named as Distributor Management Apparel Package (DMAP), also called ‘Dinesh, Murthy and Prahlad (one of the first employees)’, as they were actively involved. Infosys co-founder K Dinesh recalled an incident when he, Murthy and Prahlad had to stay together at an apartment in France. Dinesh was leading the project.
“I observed Murthy not sleeping well. When I inquired, I found due to our ‘jugalbandi’ of snoring, he couldn’t sleep,” said Dinesh. “Next day we made sure he was given a separate room.”
Also, there was only one bathroom. Murthy would get up at 4 am and take a bath. He would finish by 4.30 am. After taking a bath, he would clean up the entire bathroom for others.
“That was his ethos of leadership by example,” said Dinesh.
About the commitment towards work, Murthy recollected that once he had asked Shibulal not to go home until he finished a certain project. Two days later Murthy and his wife Sudha Murthy discovered that Shibulal was still at the office working.
Murthy also recollected another incident of plucking out a tooth with a pair of cutting pliers to get rid of excruciating pain in Toronto in 1999. He did this only to make an impactful presentation. “I did a fantastic presentation the next day,” he said.
Murthy said he has renounced his interest in the business world after turning 75 years old in 2021. He also said he is no more with Catamaran Ventures, the private investment firm.
However, Murthy said that vision is that Infosys should move on for at least 100 years.
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