Sunday, May 3, 2009

Narayana Murthy - Part 1


Nagavara Ramarao Narayana Murthy, co-founder and chief mentor of Infosys Technologies, is a role model for millions of Indians and an iconic figure in the global IT industry. He is revered for his entrepreneurship, ethics, leadership, and personal conduct.

He is now also the author of A Better India, A Better World (Penguin/Allen Lane). His first book was released by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, April 20.

The book is a collection of 38 of his speeches encompassing issues ranging from entrepreneurship, education, economic reforms, corporate governance, social responsibility, globalisation to ethical values and policies that can help bridge the divide between the rich and the poor. In a three-part interview with Editor (News & Business) Shishir Bhate, Narayana Murthy spoke about coalition politics, economy, education, entrepreneurship and a lot more.


How did the book come about and why did you put it together as speeches?

I put the book together as speeches for multiple reasons. One, these speeches were given at different points of time. The data that I have used refer to the period before the day I gave the speech. So combining these in to a few sections was not going to be easy to keep the integrity of the data.

Second, the context was different. When I spoke, let's say on corporate governance at the George Washington University and when I spoke on corporate governance in my C D Deshmukh Lecture, the audience was different, the context was different, the time was different. So I realised that it was not going to be easy to combine and it would be confusing for the readers.

And third, and the most important reason, why I left them as speeches is that it gave the flexibility to a reader to go to a specific section or lecture and quickly read that. The good thing about the book is that you don�t have to read it sequentially and you don't have to read long pages to get the gist of what I am saying.

I am an engineer, I believe in mathematics which is the most concise and precise way of communicating ideas. I don't believe in long pages of communication.

So when I looked at all these issues I realised it was best to leave them as speeches. Then, in the introduction, I have combined it with the framework of my belief or my philosophy of economic and social development.

If there were another book that you were to write, what would that be on?

My son has been talking to me for the last couple of years to write a book on 'The 10 Unsolved Problems of India' and my suggestions for solutions.

Let me give you a couple of examples... One, the Kashmir problem: This is seen as an almost unsolvable problem. My son says why don't you think of an idea, speak to lots of people and then come out with a framework with your suggestions...

Second, reservation. Is there is a solution to this problem? How do we make sure that we create a fair, just and equitable society while retaining meritocracy.

This is based on the famous German mathematician Hilbert's idea: he gave the keynote address at the World Mathematical Conference in Paris in 1905 where he talked about 10 unsolved problems of mathematics. So my son said why don't you take that as your idea and then, say, talk about 10 unsolved problems of India.

For example, water, corruption... These in today's context seem unsolvable, but are there solutions to these problems? Solutions that we can implement without too much of perturbation.

It is now almost clear that India is headed for a coalition government. Which coalition government would you be most comfortable with?

I will be comfortable with any coalition that puts the interests of the country ahead of the interests of the individual.

Any coalition that makes determined effort to enhance efficiency in the delivery of the services like education, healthcare, nutrition, shelter to the poorest of the poor. Any coalition that will enhance India's prestige in the international arena.

And, finally, any coalition that advances the interests of the multiple worlds: the rich, the middle class and the poor; the educated and the no-so-educated; the urban and the rural.

How do you think does coalition politics impact the economy of the country?

You know, this is the issue. If we are all individuals who think intelligently, who think dispassionately, who use data and facts to argue, who are patriotic... then how can we be against any policy that makes this a better country; that makes this a safer country; that makes this a more prosperous country.

The problem does not arise in that; the problem arises in putting the interest of a certain party or an individual above the interest of the nation. So, it is all about petty issues that make our governments less effective. I don't believe that coalition governments cannot perform. Well, they can. It is possible...

Which politician has influenced you the most?

Jawaharlal Nehru. See, first of all Mahatma Gandhi... but he was not a politician, so we should not even bring him into the conversation.

But Jawaharlal Nehru was a visionary politician. He achieved so much in the first 12 years since the birth of the Republic of India. We built five steel plants, we built Bhakra Nangal dam, we built Damodar Valley Corporation, we had atomic energy establishment, Indian Institutes of name it, Nehru did it.

He demonstrated that we in India can bring about extraordinary progress even through public sector, but what has happened is that after him successive governments somehow have condoned corruption, have condoned inefficiency, and have lost sight of focus of excellence in implementation.

That's the reason why you see delays in almost all projects. It's got nothing to do with people, with the country.

It's got everything to do with the leaders or the quality and vision of leaders in the country.

Which current politician impresses you the most?

I am a great admirer of (Prime Minister) Dr Manmohan Singh because he is a value-based person, he is an honest person, he has a great sense of humility, he is extraordinarily open-minded, he reaches out to people and he has taken some tough decisions that are necessary.

"" Here I would like to say that I don't completely agree with what is being said about "Politicians".. but guess it is his opinion...." more in another part""

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