Unsolicited advice for Mr. Narayana Murthy

6 06 2013

Change Ahead

When the news of Mr. Narayana Murthy and his team that included Mr. Rohan Murthy being back at Infosys at an executive position


broke out, it took the media, shareholders, stock exchange and critics by surprise who welcomed the decision. But for the loyal employees of Infy, the ex-employees for whom Infy was their first love and those who still idealises Mr. Murthy, this did not come as a surprise since they knew for a long time that this was the final and only possible hope for Infosys to gain back its long lost glory.

Only a few media and critics came out with their opinions on what Infosys should do next which mostly included strategic suggestions like renewed focus on sales, client relations, using cash reserve etc. Here I have put down a few quick fixes from a  and smaller tactical points which focuses on human resource, the real work horses of Infy. These are the thirteen points that has built over the years through interactions with ex-colleagues at all levels within Infy in no order of priority.

  1. Do something drastically different very soon.
    There are millions who have become highly impatient expecting things to improve when the management changed repeatedly over time. Your being back at Infosys is a hope for these millions that things would start improving. A quick decision at this point will not only help build up confidence, but also prove that Infosys as a company is not afraid to change.
  2. Bring in transparency in employee communications
    Make sure that employees get to hear the news first before it’s released to media. One small step in building up trust between employees and management.
  3. Question HR hiring.
    Let’s face the truth. When talented and experienced employees left in thousands due to bad HR policies like iRace and post era, hiring was in progress aggressively so that attrition rate is at its minimal in the annual report. This process gave birth to Infy jokes like “Trespasses will be hired!”. Some of these bad hires not only had poor English communication, but also did not possess even basic excel skills. These lateral hires were paid more than expats for years until their rating came out and were eventually expelled from the company. Facing the true attrition rate and a high level investigation into bad hiring will eventually increase the quality of new hires.
  4. Provide a stage to question rating feedback.
    Provide a stage for the employee to question his performance rating and make sure that his/her opinions are taken seriously and corrected if necessary. This will not only ensure that ratings are not given based on manager’s personal relations, but also this would bring in more transparency during future rating and feedback cycle.
  5. Cut down operational cost.
    Way back when the employee strength was only 10k, a 20% bench strength meant that only about 2k employees were idle. But when the company has grown to 150k employees and with bench strength increasing to over 40%, maintaining such a vast resource pool only eats into profits. Those currently on bench may not be the ideal candidate for this exercise, but those who has a constant poor record of not delivering should fit this category. Eventually increase revenue per employee.
  6. Scrap iRace & bring in meritocracy based promotions
    The current promotion criteria based on iRace policy clearly states how many years an employee should work in a particular position until he gets promoted. A mere average performance and seniority guarantees promotion. Scrap the policy, bring in meritocracy and demote if necessary.
  7. Compensate loyal employees appropriately
    Spend money in compensating existing employees based on loyalty and performance. It’s better to hold on to current top employees who knows the culture well than bringing in new laterals at a higher rate.
  8. Infosys is not a government company
    The company has lost its image of being a honeypot of talent for young engineers and its seen more as a government organization where decisions take time and change is never heard of. Take quick and drastic decisions when necessary and maintain transparency within employees and shareholders.
  9. Remove 9.15hrs per day criteria
    Cutting leaves of employees who don’t stay within campus for at least 9.15hrs only helps in heating the chairs and increasing electricity bills. Make it clear that doing quality work on time is more important than slogging for 9.15hrs. Reward those who work faster & smarter and provide assistance to those who don’t.
  10. Change the dress code.
    Personally I always wondered why casuals were allowed on Friday’s and not on other working days. Were there no client visits on Fridays? At least relaxing the tie on Monday and Tuesdays will definitely be welcomed by the employees.
  11. Trust the employees
    Overtime when Infosys is left with the truly loyal and talented employees, take minor steps to increase trust. Stopping checking of baggage everytime employees enter and exit the campus would be a good place to start.
  12. Create a culture of entrepreneurship
    Create and promote the culture for talented engineers to get together and work on personal projects when on bench. Provide courses on new technologies for employees on bench to nurture talent and prepare them for future challenges.
  13. Finally, its perfectly ok to go back on statements
    A part of the press is busy pointing out that you have gone back on your own policies of retirement age and family business. H. M. Warne of Warner Brothers in 1927 said “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” Imagine where they would be today if they had clinched on to the statement. In today’s rapidly changing environment, it’s perfectly ok for predictions to go wrong. It’s more important to adapt to current needs even if that required going back on past statements. In a firefighting situation, almost everyone works best with a team they already know; hence there is no harm in bringing in Mr. Rohan Murthy and team who has excellent credentials and whom you are comfortable with. The need of the hour required someone as capable as you to come out of retirement and like there cannot be another Steve Jobs, there is no other NR Narayana Murthy.




A chat with Chief Mentor of Infosys, Mr. Narayana Murthy (10th Sept 2007)

10 09 2007

Infosys Technologies LtdThis is a transcript of a chat session with Chief Metor of Infosys, Mr. Narayanamurthy (10th Sept 2007) on Indiatimes Chat.

Infosys Technologies Limited (BSE: 500209, NASDAQINFY) is a multinational information technology services company headquartered in Bangalore, India. It operates nine development centers in India and has over 30 offices worldwide. Infosys’ annual revenues for the fiscal year 2006-2007 exceeded US$3.1 billion with a market capitalization of over US$30 billion. Infosys’ income was at Rs. 3,773 crore ($920 million) and net profit was at Rs. 1,079 crore ($263 million) for the quarter ended June 30, 2007. Infosys and its subsidiaries employ over 75,971 professionals (as of June 30, 2007) worldwide and it is one of India’s largest IT companies.

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Q : Respected Mr Murthy, during the end of the 90’s how did you market your software and services abroad? I assume during that time neither India nor Infosys was popular in the West as a reliable IT resource. What was the strategy that you adopted?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  We kept in mind that we were starting out. So we did not have any big plans in mind. That is how we managed to keep it going

Q : Don’t you think we are taking China and other emerging nations too lightly as far as IT sector is concerned? Should we need to take steps that will continue to lure foreign companies to India?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I believe we should take every one of our competitors and potential competitors seriously. This we can do by enhancing our infrastructure including the education infrastructure and creating an environment of warmth for our customers and prospects.

Q: By recruiting talent who are not necessarily from IT background by attracting them with good salary packages, don’t you think the IT sector is weaning rest of the industry sectors from much required resource supply?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Yes, I agree with you. However, the solution is to produce more and more engineers in every sector of the economy so that there will be enough talent not just for IT, but all other branches of engineering

Q: Sir, I agree that, as a Software Service Provider like Infosys, you have compulsion with the clients you are working with for not to develop products competing with the clients. But, How long one can run a service company. Is it not a good idea to have a product which can be proudly labelled as “Made in India” or “Made by Infosys”. What is holding back you or any software services industry.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  We already have Finacle. The no 1 banking product in India. This has been installed in 35 Plus countries. As we move forward, based on our preparedness, we will definitely look at your suggestions for products in other areas.

Q: Respected sir my question is that if someone is having enough knowledge of sales and marketing is it necessary having an MBA degree for having a job in a reputed form like Infosys..?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Not necessary. In fact, out of the 70,000 or so employees at Infosys, not more than 7,000 would be MBAs

Q: Hello Sir, Software majors like Infosys are recruiting thousands of people every year . Don’t you feel, with such a large workforce, there is a fear of stagnation as far as career of an individual is concerned. Also due to the number of people leaving the company every year , which is not ideal

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  We recruit people based on the market needs and our ability to sustain productive employment for these people for a certain number of years. While attrition is clearly an issue, I accept the dream and aspiration of every young man and woman to better their prospects wherever they want. every person that has been an Infoscion even for a short period will always remain our friend and is most welcome to come back or visit us for a lunch or a coffee.

Q: Hello Sir, Software major like Infosys are recruiting thousands of people every year . Don’t you feel, with such a large workforce, there is a fear of stagnation as far as career of an individual is concerned. Also due to the number of people leaving the company every year , which is not ideal

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  We recruit people based on the market needs and our ability to sustain productive employment for these people for a certain number of years. While attrition is clearly an issue, I accept the dream and aspiration of every young man and woman to better their prospects wherever they want. every person that has been an Infoscion even for a short period will always remain our friend.

Q: You took 26 years to built a company like Infosys what it now. What should I do to build a company like this in 8 to 10 years time.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Work harder, smarter and have solutions that have better business value to the customer than we did.

Q: Hello sir…I m student of textile engineering and want to switch 2 software…what d u advise me 2 do????

Ans : As long as you have algorithmic thinking and are strong in logic, you can always become a good software engineer.

Q : Which is your favourite author ? Any book you consider crucial in your success?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I read popular physics and popular mathematics for my recreational purposes. Clearly, Feynman lectures trilogy is my favourite book. I frankly can’t think of any book that I can point to as my business experience.

Q : Among new entrepreneurs who have impresses you

Ans : Certainly I think Sunil Mittal, then Kishore Biyani, the founders of Onmobile, have all impressed me.

Q : Respected sir, please define the vision of India for coming five years on economic front?

Ans : Our challenge will have to be to provide basic education, healthcare, nutrition and shelter to every Indian child.

Q: Dear Sir, I am a 4th year student at IIT Kanpur in the Computer Science Department. Many here believe Indian Industry requires only technicians and not IITians. DO you think Indian industry requires IITians? Where and as who?

Ans : In Infosys we believe that software engineering is extremely crucial to our success. Hence, IITians are very important for the success of this industry.

Q: Hi, I am the owner of a small technology firms, whets the best way to grow on in business when you have limited resources and maximum opportunities and how one can balance all of this to build a sustainable growth part.?

Ans : Focus on an idea that is simple in business value to the customer, create a team of complementary strengths and common value system and make sure that you work hard and smart.

Q : Dear Sir, What measure do you suggest to improve the quality of Software engineers (freshers)?.Since quite a few times it is said that the freshers are not upto the mark

Ans : Focus on algorithmic thinking, generic learnability, discipline and hard work

Q : Dear Mr Murthy, A lot has been written and said about the success of Infosys. I am sure there would have been incidents and obstacles, Infosys as a company and you as one of the founder members would have faced. Can you please share one such incident?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  It took us more than a year to get a telephone connection in 1982 and we lost a huge project because of that.

Q : Do you think, by any means, that the corruption in India can be lowered down in near future?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Only if we have enhance transparency and if we our leaders lead by example.

Q : Mr Murthy, can you please write an article informing people how to raise kids? I want my daughter to be good in whatever she does but then your experience will be very valuable to raise her.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Probably, my wife should write it since she has been responsible for raising both the kids with a good value system.

Q : India is officially, centrally known as IT centre of world. Why doesn’t India invest in creative fields like MEMS, semiconductor which need good brains (which we already have) and which will add thousands of opportunities to upcoming talent in India.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I have discussed this issue with Dr Murli Manohar Joshi as well as with Dr Manmohan Singh. It is our PM who has to take this decision.

Q : Dear Sir. I am very happy to see you in the forum. You are the role module of young people. My question is “what are the steps do u taken to bring rural educated people to come main stream. They have all the quality except English. so what your steps to comedown this problem.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I am very happy that Karnataka government has started a finishing school for qualified candidates who are weak in English. Similarly, Infosys has conducted special camps for rural youngsters to help them with English. We have to scale this up.

Q : Dear NRN, 1. How do you see Infosys growing from where it is currently with the change in leadership? With a management structure in place along with business units across key vertical and IBUs, what do you see would be the role of the CEO, COO, CFO, CHRO

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  As we move forward, there will be more and more decentralisation of power and each IBU should be run as an independent unit with its own balance sheet and P

Q : what will be the next big revolution just as IT

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I believe it will be clearly Bio-technology, nano-technology and embedded systems as applied to appliance computing.

Q : In Infosys, What do you do when you have to make a hard decision?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  We sit, discuss and debate for a fixed amount of time and then the leader takes the decision after considering all points of view.

Q : what’s your opinion on e governance

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  E governance is extremely important for a poor country like India since it enhances transparency, reduced corruption, improves efficiency of governmental services.

Q : When compared to other industries why are It people paid more?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  In the free market philosophy, whoever demand exceed supply, prices go up. That is the reason.

Q : CAN YOU PLEASE ANSWER MY QUESTION ON HOW YOU STARTED INFOSYS?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I spent some time in Europe. So, in December 1980, I decided to take a plunge and that is when one of my colleagues wanted to join me and I invited 5 other youngsters. That is how Infosys was born.

Q : Will opening offices in China by some Indian IT companies, affect the progress of India?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Not really, because, at this point of time, the market opportunity is enough to leverage the talent of both India and China.

Q : Respected Sir, in your opinion what was Infosys’s greatest moment till date?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  There are many, like getting listed on NASDAQ as the first Indian company, our first customer, our first campus, initiating our stock option plan, etc.

Q : How can senior IT professionals , opting for VRS , contribute for upliftment of IT in India?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  By participating in enhancing IT literacy in their own cities or towns, particularly for children from the poorer sections of society.

Q : Many of highly talented Indian engineers are going abroad for better jobs. What can be done to retain them in India?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  First of all, I believe that a certain percentage of our youngsters must go abroad, contribute to those societies and conduct themselves as model citizens of those societies. This will enhance the image of India. On the issue of attracting them back, we have to create an environment where it is easy for them to commute to their offices. It is easy for them to send their children to good schools and it is easy for them to lead a decent quality of life.

Q : Was there any time in life when you felt that you will not be able to achieve your goal ??

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  There have been many times. For example, when we were refused loan to import a computer, when it would take us 12 to 14 days to get permission to travel abroad, when we could not get telephone lines even after a year and lost a huge project, etc.

Q : Mr. Narayan Murthy, when you along with a handful of your colleagues started work in one small house in Koramangla did you have any idea or confidence that one day you would attain and achieve what you have achieved today for yourself and the county.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Not really. However, right from day one, we focussed on receiving more and more respect from everyone of the stake holders. I believe that we are moving along reasonably well on that target.

Q : do you think that the demand for IT still remain for at least 20 years

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I believe that the world is still in its early stage in leveraging the power of IT, particularly when you consider two thirds the population of this world (in the developing world) has not at all leveraged the power of IT.

Q : How would you explain the wide divide(in basic facilities available, like roads/education/electricity etc) that exists between urban and rural areas or even between states in India when if you see countries like US, even the smallest of village at least has basic amenities?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  It is just that in a developing country like India, our resources are limited and we have used outdated ideas and shibboleths. The day our leaders realise the importance of entrepreneurship and creation of jobs, and the power of entrepreneurship in creating infrastructure, I believe we will sort this problem.

Q : what is your opinion on the sustainability of the GDP growth in India and what is the perceived contribution from IT Sector

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I believe that we can continue to grow at 9 to 10 per cent for at least 20 years since China has done it for the last 20 years. At this point of time, the IT sector contributes about 4 to 5 per cent of the GDP. I believe that we can take it to about 10 per cent if we work hard.

Q : You took 26 years to built a company like Infosys what it now. What should I do to build a company like this in 8 to 10 years time. To make this possible I need more input (tips) from you sir.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Openness to new ideas, meritocracy, speed, imagination and excellence in execution will help you progress faster than Infosys.

Q : Do you hate people who make spelling mistakes

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I do, however, I am not used to typing so fast.

Q : Driven by values is your slogan. What are these values????

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Focus on the customer, leadership by example, integrity and transparency, fairness and excellence in execution.

Q : am a fresher……should I get experience to become an entrepreneur

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  If you have a clear idea which adds business value to the market, then you don’t need an experience because entrepreneurship is all about a powerful idea, a team with complementary strengths, an enduring value system, passion, commitment and sacrifice and finally a great dream.

Q : Sir, who thought of the name Infosys… and Why Infosys??

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I must confess that I thought of the name Infosys. Infosys is the acronym for Information Systems, which is our business.

Q : Dear Sir, Your opinion on software professionals who are changing companies very often for better position/Increment in their salary/Higher role etc?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I believe that it is the right of every individual to choose the organisation that he or she wants to work for.

Q : Sir – Do you see any mergers/consolidations happening between the various Indian IT services and Solution companies in near future?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I do not have a crystal ball. However, it is difficult to imagine the big 3 coming together.

Q : Sir, what did you mean when you recently said that we need to boost productivity to cut the losses that IT companies are incurring because of the appreciating rupee?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  What I meant was we have to enhance our work productivity, which means we have to increase our revenues with the same number of staff by doing more work in the same time period.

Q : What is your advice to women entrepreneurs in the IT industry?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I believe that we in India have to encourage women entrepreneurs much more than we have done. This requires policies that are beneficial to women and that help women become entrepreneurs while discharging important duties as mothers.

Q : How much of a threat is rupee appreciation vis-a-vis dollar in the long term for IT industry in India?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  I do not believe in the Dollar Rupee exchange rate as a threat because this is a macroeconomic factor and no individual company can control it. Why worry about an issue over which we have no control, while we have hundreds of issues that we have to solve and over which we have control.

Q : What is your opinion on H1B visa limit for Indian candidates?

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  This is an issue on which only the US government and the citizens of US can comment. We, the Indian companies have to grow our businesses successfully while operating under whatever constraints exist in our market place.

Mr. Narayana Murthy:  Folks, it has been wonderful participating in this chat. I am extremely grateful to all of you and to my friend Mr Rajesh Kalra for this extraordinary opportunity. I will sign off now. Thank you.





Microsoft and Google: Comparison by an ex-employee

27 06 2007

The following has been making the rounds on just about every internal email list I belong to in Microsoft. Here it is to share a little insight with the rest of the world. Microsoft is an amazingly transparent company. Google is not. Any peek is a good peek. Read the original post here:

http://no2google.wordpress.com/2007/06/24/life-at-google-the-microsoftie-perspective/





Orkut Rumors

7 05 2007

This content has been taken from Inside Orkut. I found the post very interesting and posted it here… 

There are many types of rumors in the world. Some of them are good (potentially at least). Some of them are bad (as in really bad). But there are some rumors that seem to be taken as the truth, despite the fact that they contradict all reasonable explanations.

This post is dedicated towards these Orkut myths, which have (in my opinion) lasted far too long on the world wide web. And since most humans love the number ten (probably because that’s how many fingers we have) here are ten Orkut rumors that really must die (as in today).

Orkut Rumors

  1. Orkut Buyukkokten is the world’s richest man: This rumor comes from the assumption that Orkut gets $12 every time someone registers on Orkut, $10 every time you add a friend, $200 every time you upload a photo and a crisp $1 every time you logout of Orkut. There are more details about this rumor over here.Now with Orkut having at least 40 million users he would have to be paid $480,000,000 from Google just from people logging in. And if you add images to that figure (which would include those uploaded onto forums) he would receive $8 billion if everyone just uploaded only one photo on Orkut!If Google even considered paying Orkut half this amount, Google’s stockholders would revolt (not to mention the entire company would go bankrupt).
  2. Spam your friends and hit F8 (aka the “Crush List” rumor): This one seems to be traveling via Orkut mail, and goes along the lines of “if you send out an email to all of your friends, hit F8 you will see who has a crush on you.” More info over hereSometimes this rumor has some java code attached to it, sometimes it does not, but either way it DOES NOT work.
  3. If you do not send out a scrap, Orkut will delete your account: This rumor has gone down some, but my attempts to inform them to the contrary has gone in vain.Google themselves were quick to repond by putting that this information is fake in the news section of orkut.
  4. Google is (in the future) going to charge users for Orkut: This would not only kill Orkut immediately (as it is one of many social networks online) but would not really be apart of Google’s style, which generally loves giving away free software (and sometimes a premium version as well).Google has debunked this rumor, so hopefully we will not see this rumor again in our lifetime.
  5. Inside Orkut is an official blog of Google: Although this rumor causes me to laugh, I want to make it very clear- Inside Orkut is NOT an official blog of Google, but a personal fan blog started by Darnell Clayton .
  6. Orkut was bought by Google, just like Picasa, Blogger and YouTube: Actually Orkut was created by Orkut, who was (and currently is) a Google employee. Apparently it seems that Google approached Orkut to create a social networking site after being spurned by Friendster (hat tip: Marketing Vox) and although the site never took off in America, Indians and Brazilians have made excellent use of the place.
  7. Orkut isn’t really apart of Google because its not listed on the “More Page”: Google finally added Orkut to “the more page.” See this post for details.
  8. Orkut is Google’s way of spying on its users: I think this rumor was spun from a post by Jeremy from Yahoo!, in which some people refuse to use Orkut which they see as even worse than Gmail.Google does collect information on its users (just like Yahoo!, Microsoft, MySpace, your own local government unless you live in Antarctica) for the purposes of serving up relevant ads alongside your searches or inside your email (and even on Orkut).For those worried about Google revealing your data to say, a hostile government should have nothing to worry about as Google defends the rights of its users, even against American courts.
  9. Terrorist organizations receiving funding from the ads on Orkut: This humorous hoax was started (or at least popularized) by the Search Engine Journal and was picked up by many bloggers as fact.I at first laughed after hearing about this (even Ionut had a good time with this silly story) although others took this as another reason why Google was evil (note: ironically, many of those Google hate sites either use a Google product or host Ad Sense, which IMHO is rather odd).This isn’t true because:

    a) Only Google makes money off of the ads on Orkut, as these ads display whether users like them or not.b) If Google even sent one dollar towards a terrorist organization, all of their assets would be frozen by international governments and the search engine king would quickly go bankrupt.Despite the logic listed above, people continue to list Google as Osama bin Laden’s friend.

  10. Orkut Buyukkokten is running for President in Brazil: No, this isn’t a rumor (as I just made this one). However with Orkut popularity in Brazil, I’m pretty sure he could lick the competition. 😉

For those of you who survived at the end of this post, you have my sympathies. But I am interested, what rumors have you heard recently (or in the past) regarding Orkut? And do you still encounter people who believe these digital tales?





Interesting article written by one Mrs.Kulkarni- Read to unveil the suspense…

24 02 2007

I came across this article when I was way too young. Ever since I started blogging I had been searching for this article to but up in my blog. It has influenced me and I am sure the same will happen to you. Thanks to Mr. Prakash of Phton Infotech, I found this article in his blog. So read on…

There are two photographs that hang on my office wall. Everyday when I enter my office I look at them before starting my day.They are pictures of two old people. One is of a gentleman in a blue suit and the other is a black and white image of a man with dreamy eyes and a white beard. People have often asked me if the people in the photographs are related to me. Some have even asked me, “Is this black and white photo that of a Sufi saint or a religious Guru?” I smile and reply “No, nor are they related to me. These people made an impact on my life. I am grateful to them.”

“Who are they?”

“The man in the blue suit is Bharat Ratna JRD Tata & the black and white photo is of Jamsetji Tata.”

“But why do you have them in your office?”

“You can call it gratitude.”

Then, invariably, I have to tell the person the following story.

It was a long time ago. I was young and bright, bold and idealistic. I was in the final year of my Master’s course in Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, then known as the Tata Institute. Life was full of fun and joy. I did not know what helplessness or injustice meant. It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was getting warm and gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was the only girl in my postgraduate department and was staying at the ladies’ hostel. Other girls were pursuing research in different departments of Science. I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a doctorate in computer science. I had been offered scholarships from Universities in the US. I had not thought of taking up a job in India.

One day, while on the way to my hostel from our lecture-hall complex,I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a standard job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now Tata Motors). It stated that the company required young, bright engineers, hardworking and with an excellent academic background,etc. At the bottom was a small line: “Lady candidates need not apply.”

I read it and was very upset. For the first time in my life I was up against gender discrimination. Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it as a challenge. I had done extremely well in academics, better than most of my male peers. Little did I know then that in real life academic excellence is not enough to be successful. After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I decided to inform the top most person in Telco’s management about the injustice the company was perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write, but there was a problem: I did not know
who headed Telco. I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD Tata was the head of the Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers (actually, Sumant Moolgaokar was the company’s Chairman then).I took the card, addressed it to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember clearly what I wrote.

“The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are the people who started the basic infrastructure industries in India, such as iron and steel, chemicals, textiles & locomotives. They have cared for higher education in India, since 1900 and they were responsible for the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study there. But I am surprised
how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the basis of gender.”

I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than 10 days later, I received a telegram stating that I had to appear for an interview at Telco’s Pune facility at the company’s expense. I was taken aback by the telegram. My hostel mates told me I should use the opportunity to go to
Pune free of cost and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap! I collected Rs 30 each from everyone who wanted a sari. When I look back, I feel like laughing at the reasons for my going, but back then they seemed good enough to make the trip. It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell in love with the city. To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at home in Pune as I do in Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so many ways. As directed,
I went to Telco’s Pimpri office for the interview.

There were six people on the panel and I realised then that this was serious business. “This is the girl who wrote to JRD,” I heard somebody whisper as soon as I entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I would not get the job. The realisation abolished all fear from my mind, so I was rather cool while the interview was being conducted. Even before the interview started, I reckoned the panel was biased, so I told them, rather impolitely, “I hope this is only a technical interview.” They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today I am ashamed about my attitude. The panel asked me technical questions and I answered all of them.

Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice told me, “Do you know why we said lady candidates need not apply?

The reason is that we have never employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a co-ed college; this is a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a first ranker throughout. We appreciate that, but people like you should work in research laboratories. “

I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world had been a limited place. I did not know the ways of large corporate houses and their difficulties, so I answered, “But you must start somewhere, otherwise no woman will ever be able to work in your factories.” Finally, after a long interview, I was told I had been successful. So this was what the future had in store for me. Never had I thought I would take up a job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka there, we became good friends and we got married. It was only after joining Telco that I realised who JRD was: the uncrowned king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did not get to meet him till I was transferred to Bombay.

One day I had to show some reports to Mr Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM. I was in his office on the first floor of Bombay House (the Tata headquarters) when, suddenly JRD walked in. That was the first time I saw “appro JRD”. Appro means “our” in Gujarati. This was the affectionate term by which people at Bombay House called him. I was feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard episode. SM introduced me nicely, “Jeh (that’s what his close associates called him), this young woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate. She is the first woman to work on the Telco shop floor.” JRD looked at me. I was praying he would not ask me any questions about my interview (or the postcard that preceded it). Thankfully, he didn’t. Instead, he remarked.”It is nice that girls are getting into engineering in our country. By the way, what is your name?””When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir,” I replied.

“Now I am Sudha Murthy.” He smiled and kindly smile and started a discussion with SM. As for me, I almost ran out of the room.After that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the Tata Group Chairman and I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we had in common. I was in awe of him.

One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to pick me up after office hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me. I did not know how to react. Yet again I started worrying about that postcard.

Looking back, I realise JRD had forgotten about it. It must have been a small incident for him, but not so for me.

“Young lady, why are you here?” he asked. “Office time is over.” I said, “Sir, I’m waiting for my husband to come and pick me up.”
JRD said, “It is getting dark and there’s no one in the corridor.
I’ll wait with you till your husband comes.” I was quite used to waiting for Murthy, but having JRD waiting alongside made me extremely uncomfortable. I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked at him.

He wore a simple white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was glowing. There wasn’t any air of superiority about him. I was thinking, “Look at this person. He is a Chairman, a well-respected man in our country and he is waiting for the sake of an ordinary employee.”

Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and said, “Young lady, tell your husband never to make his wife wait again.”

In 1982 I had to resign from my job at Telco. I was reluctant to go, but I really did not have a choice. I was coming down the steps of Bombay House after wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD coming up. He was absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him, so I stopped. He saw me and paused. Gently, he said, “So what are you doing, Mrs Kulkarni?” (That was the way he always addressed me.) “Sir, I am leaving Telco.””Where are you going?” he asked.
“Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a company called Infosys and I’m shifting to Pune.””Oh! And what will you do when you are successful.”

“Sir, I don’t know whether we will be successful.”

“Never start with diffidence,” he advised me. ” Always start with confidence.

When you are successful you must give back to society. Society gives us so much; we must reciprocate.

I wish you all the best.”

Then JRD continued walking up the stairs. I stood there for what seemed like a millennium. That was the last time I saw him alive.

Many years later I met Ratan Tata in the same Bombay House, occupying the chair JRD once did. I told him of my many sweet memories of working with Telco. Later, he wrote to me, “It was nice hearing about Jeh from you. The sad part is that he’s not alive to see you today.”

I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an extremely busy person, he valued one postcard written by a young girl seeking justice.

He must have received thousands of letters everyday. He could have thrown mine away, but he didn’t do that. He respected the intentions of that unknown girl, who had neither influence nor money, and gave her an opportunity in his company. He did not merely give her a job; he changed her life and mindset forever.

Close to 50 per cent of the students in today’s engineering colleges are girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many industry segments. I see these changes and I think of JRD.

If at all time stops and asks me what I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive today to see how the company we started has grown. He would have enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

My love and respect for the House of Tata remains undiminished by the passage of time. I always looked up to JRD.

I saw him as a role model for his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the care he took of his employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the sky; they had the same vastness and magnificence. “

Thank you
Sudha Murthy