Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Life's lessons learnt" - Murthy

I recently read about N.R.Narayana Murthy's speech at the Precommencement ceremony at the prestigious NYU Stern University. A man of great stature, he mentions in the speech, some of his past experiences acted as turning points in his life.

The first incident he quotes, is in 1968, when during his post-graduation at IIT Kanpur (as a Control Theory student), he met a US-based computer scientist, who discussed new developments in the field. The discussion generated so much interest in Murthy that he went to the library, referred some papers and came out of the library determined to study Computer science. It was just this chance event (as he refers) because of which he chose Computer science as his career (and which gave us one of the finest IT companies in India).
The second experience that he recounts is during his brief stopover at Nis (bordered Yugoslavia and Bulgaria). He boarded a train in the night, with only another boy and a girl as company. The girl started criticizing the communist Bulgarian government, which resulted in the boy summoning the local police. Murthy was held captive in a 8x8 room with no food for more than 72 hours. He was later taken to Istanbul and released "..because he was from a friendly country called India..", he recalls. This incident transformed the young man (who was earlier a leftist by thought) into a compassionate capitalist. He realised that entrepreneurship, resulting in large scale job creation was the only way to eradicate poverty. Infosys was eventually founded with this very motive in mind.

The next significant day that he speaks of is in 1990, when the seven founders of Infosys met in Bangalore to decide upon a possible sale for $1 million! When everyone, except Murthy, almost reached a consensus, Murthy spoke passionately of their 9-year old journey. He offered others to buy out their stakes, if they felt appropriate to sell off. That changed their thinking, and today, we find the company having more than $3 bn in revenues!

The final event that Murthy mentions is when one of his big clients (he has mentioned in another interview earlier that it was GE), talked to multiple vendors regarding a project and put in harsh terms (and unfair price) before them. Given the fact that it accounted for 25% of Infy's revenues then, it would have been difficult to say no. But Murthy took the call and made it clear that it would not be possible for Infy to service them effectively. This, eventually brought about a risk-mitigation strategy into Infosys to stabilize revenues.

Through these examples, Murthy summarises the lessons learnt in his life:
Learning from experience: Be it failure or success, it is important to look back and learn what went wrong and what could have been done better.
Power of chance events: Chance events, as he says, play an important role in one's life. But more importantly, how we respond to them decides the tapping of such opportunities.
Mindset: He distinguishes between a fixed mindset (avoid challenges, learning) and growth mindset (embrace challenges and learn from criticism)
Self-knowledge: Greater awareness about oneself and belief in one's abilities, clubbed with humility.

To end the speech, he reminds that we are all merely temporary custodians of wealth, be it financial, emotional or intellectual, and the ultimate goal is to share it with those less fortunate - "To sow the seeds for trees, whose fruits you may not even be able to see". This message from one of my idols, will not only enlighten the Stern grads, but kindle the thought process in the Indian youth, as well.


The Devil's Paradise....... said...

new post...

Barath.M said...

enaku oru doubt..r u working for TCS or Infy??

Janani said...

Yeah... Enaku kuda antha dbt iruku. But I know U r ardent fan of Narayana Murthy. So kudos!!!!..

Abhi... said...

Narayan Narayan...
Mind Nourishing one [:)]

Enigma said...

very nice post seshu :)

Though lessons learnt from speech are important, its more important to see if you actually learn them with experiences of your own life.