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'Politics? That?s a tough one'

Infosys chief Narayana Murthy speaks with BR Srikanth on various issues including his post-retirement plans.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 04:34 IST
PTI

This is a year of milestones for Infosys Technologies Ltd. The IT giant is celebrating 25 years of growth, revenues set to cross the $2 billion mark and employees’ strength 50,000 by March. This year will also witness chairman and chief mentor of Infosys, Nagavara Ramarao Narayana Murthy retire. He spoke with BR Srikanth on his vision for Infosys, post-retirement plans and future scenario of outsourcing.

Two major milestones are lined up for the company this year – its silver jubilee and revenue crossing $2 billion mark. Your comments?

All of us at Infosys have a sense of accomplishment, and satisfaction for a job done well so far. I am happy that we have worked as a team, and that this organisation has reached its targets without compromising our values. This is the opportunity to contribute even more to the country. I tell my colleagues that we must resolve to ensure that the company will remain strong for the next 250 years.

What is your vision for Infosys at this juncture?

Vision remains the same. Just as we have become a highly-respected company in India (the best employer, corporate governance and managed company), we should be among the top three companies in such honours in every market that we operate in — the US, the UK, France, Japan, Germany, Australia, Canada, etc Singapore. That is a big task.

Later this year, you will turn 60. Are you going to hand over the baton to your successor?

I have handed over the baton to Nandan (Nilekani) four years ago. On August 20, 2006, I will cease to be the executive chairman of the company. I have been asked to continue as the non-executive chairman for another five years. I will continue to be involved in managing the board, governance and enhancing the brand equity of Infosys.

Do you have plans to write a book on entrepreneurship?

I am not keen though many people have suggested that to me. At this point, I am very reticent.

Recently the minister mentor of Singapore suggested that you should join politics. Have you given it a thought?

I am not at all interested in entering politics. I have chosen the corporate world. I am also very comfortable with academia. We have a large number of very good politicians. We have a wonderful PM with a capable team. The opposition parties also have capable leaders. I don’t think my getting into politics will make any significant change.

You spoke about Manmohan Singh who is not a career politician, but has done a good job. Don’t you want to follow in his footsteps?

I shouldn’t overestimate my capabilities and compare myself to extraordinary people like him. I have given thought to the issue of entering politics and I am clear that I don’t want to be in politics. What I have done is very small. Managing Infosys is a simple task.

Not even a position as an advisor?

I will be happy to be associated with any task where there is a sense of urgency, passion for implementation and focus on the outcome. So, if the PM wants me to solve a specific problem very quickly, and gives me full executive authority to design and implement the solution, then I will be very happy to work for him.

The PM has mooted the idea of a quarterly review of Government departments, just like listed companies do. Your comments?

I had suggested eight or nine years ago in my JRD Tata Memorial lecture that the need of the hour is to enhance accountability in the Government because Government has a large impact on the lives of a large number of people. I had suggested that the Government should enhance the transparency in the top 50 developmental projects of the country with a progress report every week. It should be mandated that every newspaper carries that report and that every TV network carries it. I had also suggested that people assigned to these projects — the secretaries and ministers (of respective departments) should not be changed during the tenure of the project.

In recent months, you seem to have encountered problems with some politicians on infrastructure and land for expansion of Infosys?

I only suggested that they use data and facts to make allegations. I waited for people who had facts to refute the allegation. When there was no response, I resigned from the post of chairman of Bangalore International Airport Ltd. On the issue of the land application, we have given all relevant data to the Government. I am sure the Government will study that data and take the right decision. On infrastructure, I was only repeating what several international visitors to Bangalore are saying. They told me that Bangalore might have come to a stage where infrastructure could become a bottleneck to our growth.

Infosys has been waiting for a decision on the land for four years?

We are waiting and others are also waiting. There is nothing special about us. We have been expanding in other parts of India. So, it has not impeded the growth of the company.

What are the prospects for Indian companies in outsourcing?

Many fears were expressed in 2004-05, which was an election year. But, we grew by 52 per cent that year. Even customers saw the benefit of working with Indian companies. We have to focus on adding more value to our service.

What’s your view on the proposal for job quota in private sector?

There’s no doubt that injustice has been done to vast sections of our society because of policies that were adopted during the last 4,000 years. However, the solution to this problem is in making effort to make sure that this wrong is corrected. We have to enhance our focus on improving the quality of education to the disadvantaged. If we did not do that, it will not be in the long-term interests of these people.