Lessons from the “Bill Gates of India”

As part of Fuqua’s India Business Forum and the Distinguished Speaker Series, the student body had the unique privilege of hearing from Narayana Murthy, who is the founder and chairman emeritus of Infosys. Mr. Murthy, heralded as the “Bill Gates of India,” founded Infosys, a global software consulting company headquartered in Bangalore, India, in 1981. Mr. Murthy has been recognized by many for his contributions, including:

  • TIME Magazine identified him as one of 10 global leaders who are helping shape the future of technology
  • The Economist ranked him among the 10 most admired global business leaders
  • GQ awarded him the India Man of the Year Award for Social Change
  • CNBC and Forbes have both given him Lifetime Achievement awards
  • The governments of France, UK, and India have decorated him with civilian awards

I hope that sets some context. Mr. Murthy has largely redefined how business is done in the global world. On Friday, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Mr. Murthy and Dean Bill Boulding, which was followed by Mr. Murthy’s address to a packed audience. I wanted to a few thoughts on this unique experience:

  • Mr. Murthy is one of the must humble and honest leaders I have ever met. He was so honored to be invited to Fuqua that he continued to thank us for hosting him. It isn’t every day that a billionaire is thanking students, but Mr. Murthy isn’t your average billionaire. He started Infosys in 1981 with a $250 loan from his wife! That $250 loan has now turned into a $30 billion global enterprise. Talk about a return on investment!
  • Mr. Murthy has a very unique and refreshing view on leadership and running an organization. Throughout lunch and during his speech, he went to extremes to impress upon us that we need to find our calling or our passion, and we should not just settle. In addition, he repeated his idea of running an organization that is “by the professional, for the professional, and to the professional.” Finally, he imparted 5 attributes that helped him build Infosys into a global powerhouse:
  1. Ideas must be expressed in simple, understandable terms – Often, we use lots of jargon to make things sound more complex than they need to be. For Mr. Murthy, a simple, clear message or idea was the key to success in defining Infosys.
  2. The market must be ready for the idea – Organizations often have great products but don’t do the research to see if the market is ready for the product. Organizations have to do the right testing to make sure that each great idea will be accepted in the constantly evolving market place.
  3. You need a team – The days are gone of an individual succeeding without support from others. When he started Infosys, Mr. Murthy had 6 colleagues who he trusted to grow alongside.
  4. Trust and respect – Mr. Murthy continued to push the idea of trust and that everything boils down to building trust in your team and making sure leaders lead by example. Leaders need to be walking the walk and talking the talk for an organization to truly trust them.
  5. Deferred gratification – Mr. Murthy gave a great example of the power of thinking long term and outside of oneself. He said “plant a tree in which you know you may never have an opportunity to eat the fruit.” His quote was such an interesting view – put the energy and passion in now, and understand that it will one day pay off, even if it doesn’t pay off for you, it may one day benefit those in your organization (or family). In a world where people generally think so short term, it was great to hear the power of thinking long term, and leaving legacy such that those after you can build upon your success.

Mr. Murthy closed with his view on success. He defined success as “making sure everyone smiles when you walk in a room. Because if everyone is smiling, you know you have treated them well, they trust you, and they want to work with you.” After listening to such a great and humble man, I know that I was smiling, and so were 400 of my classmates.

Dipesh Shah

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2013. Find out more about me...

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