The life of Infosys Co-Founder Narayana Murthy


Shreya Raj

Psychology & Mindfulness Expert

Early life of Narayana Murthy

Mr Narayana Murthy was born on 20th August in the year 1946 in Sidlaghatta, Karnataka, in a middle-class family. His uncle worked as a civil servant and Murthy’s father wanted him to follow the same path as his uncle. But the young and innocent boy had other plans; he wanted to be an engineer because that was something that everyone was becoming in those days, it felt like a ‘trend’ that appealed to him.

He appeared for the entrance test of the much reputed India Institute of Technology (IIT) after completing his schooling and he cleared it with a high rank and a scholarship. Unfortunately, the scholarship he received was not enough to completely cover his educational expenses and the problem was that his father could not afford to pay the fees of the IITs.

After his father advised him, he joined a local engineering college, the National Institute of Engineering (NIE) in Mysore, India and graduated from that institution in the year 1967 with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

He went on to do his post graduation from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur and earned his master’s degree in 1969. While he was at the IIT, he had the opportunity to meet with a well-known computer scientist from the USA and was thoroughly impressed by the scientist’s talks and knowledge. This influenced Narayana Murthy to pursue his career in the IT sector in future.

Narayana Murthy's career

He was flooded with job offers after completing his course and that was because at that time there were very few computer science graduates in India. He had job offers from extremely reputed companies such as HMT, Telco and Air India and all of them offered him a high salary.

However, he rejected all these offers to take up a job in Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, when one of the IIM’s professors personally came to talk to the extremely intelligent and bright man about an interesting job opportunity at the institute.

Murthy initially filled in as a Research Associate at IIM Ahmedabad and afterward filled in as the central frameworks programmer. There he dealt with India's first time-sharing PC system and planned and actualized a BASIC translator for Electronics Corporation of India Limited.

He also started an organization named Softronics. When that organization fizzled out after about 18 months, he joined Patni Computer Systems in Pune.

Later, Murthy and his six programming experts established Infosys in 1981 with an underlying capital venture of Rs 10,000, which was given by his wife, Sudha Murthy. Murthy worked as the CEO of Infosys for a long time, for over 20 years from 1981 to 2002.

At Infosys he enunciated, planned and executed the Global Delivery Model for IT administrations. He was the director from 2002 to 2006, after which he turned into the Chief Mentor. In August 2011, he resigned from the organization, taking the role of Chairman Emeritus.

Elaborating Narayana Murthy’s struggle

Around the late 80’s, Infosys got into a venture with Kurt Salmon Associates. Gopala Krishnan was made the general public face of this JV in America. But due to restriction on foreign trade in America, the company collapsed in 1989.

One of the seven co-founders of the company, Ashok Arora decided to quit. Faced with this tremendous setback, the other co-founders were confused and did not know what to do.

This is when Narayana Murthy put his foot down. He said: 'If you all want to leave, you can. But I am going to stick with it and make it'. He even offered to purchase their shares of Infosys. He would keep Infosys running no matter what.

To his surprise, the remaining co-founders of Infosys (Nandan Nilekani, NS Raghavan, S Gopalakrishnan, SD Shibula and K Dinesh) decided to stay with him.

So they decided to buck up and face the challenges. To start with, they divided all the tasks. Narayana always had an eye for talent and a talent for dividing labour, hence he handled the management. Nandan was asked to manage sales, Kris and Shibu managed the technical end, Raghavan was asked to handle people, and lastly, Dinesh was assigned quality assurance.

According to his wife Sudha Murthy, he was always broke and always owed her money. 'For three years, I maintained a book of Murthy's debts to me. No, he never returned the money and I finally tore up the list of his debts to me after our wedding. The amount was a little over Rs 4,000', she said in her book.

With support from the Infosys team and his wife, he overcame all challenges together and did so well that Infosys became the first Indian company to be listed on NASDAQ, one of the major American stock exchanges.

Personal life

He is married to Sudha Murthy, who is a very well known social activist and has two children with her: son Rohan Murthy and daughter Akshata Murthy.

His wife is a published author in Kannada and English. Also, his daughter Akshata's husband Rishi Sunak is now a British MP and Chancellor of the Excequer.

Major achievements and awards

Murthy is best known as one of the co-founders of Infosys Ltd., one of India’s largest IT services company with offices almost all across the globe.

• Under his leadership, Infosys became the first Indian company to be listed on the NASDAQ. It also became the first listed Indian company to earn a revenue of over $1 billion a year.
• Mr. Narayana Murthy was honoured with the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, for his contribution to industry in 2000.
• In 2008, the Government of India awarded him with the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of India, for his exceptional services to Informational Technology in India.
• In 2013, he became the first recipient of the Sayaji Ratna Award (SRA Award) which was established to mark the 151st birth anniversary of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the former ruler of Baroda.

What we can learn from his life

Being born into a middle-class family which couldn’t afford much did not stop Narayana Murthy from running after his dreams and pursuing his passion. This is the moral of this inspiration story of his life, i.e. Narayana Murthy's motivation to succeed: anybody can excel in schooling, business or practically any field of life that he/she puts his mind and heart into.

Lack of finances is not a reason to give up on goals. William Shakespeare once said, 'It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.'

View more content by Shreya Raj

Discussion Board

What did you learn from Narayana Murthy's life?

Rohit Chopra
As explained in the article, despite challenges Narayana Murthy stuck to his vision inspite of all challenges. This is what separates winners from others. They don't give up and continue to persevere.