I watched a few of N.R.Narayana Murthy’s (NRN) interviews on TV and knew that he is very articulate. He has the unique ability to be able to provide solutions to complex problems in a very concise and clear fashion. Sort of, clinical solutions to murky problems. And that is an ability which very few people possess. When I saw the book by him – A better India, A better world, I did not really check what the contents of the book were. I generally check for the reviews of the book, but for this one, strangely I didn’t. I ordered it on HinduShopping and thought let me see what the book has, once I get it (of course, the subtext that it was an author signed copy had a little to do with my exuberance 😀 ).
The book is a collection of speeches that NRN made over the course of his long career. Most of the speeches though, are from the times when Infy started hogging the limelight (understandably so. Very few people would have known about NRN when Infy was in its infancy). The speeches are grouped into 10 areas
- Address to students
- Important National Issues
- Leadership Challenges
- Corporate and Public Governance
- Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy
Each of these groups has speeches that NRN delivered at various locations or his writings in popular press. All of them share one trait, irrespective of the volume of the tome – they are in simple words and provide an insight into the great man’s thought process. Of all of the above, my favourite would be the section on Values and the (relatively small) group on Infosys.
In one of the speeches in the Values section – ‘What can we learn from the west ?’ he unabashedly goads on how India has so much to learn on the values system from the west. This generally is a contrarian thought process in India. He mentions how we need to learn to not renege on contracts, how to treat the community as the family, about how the bureaucratic apathy needs to change, accountability in public office are a few things he mentions. The fact that this talk was given as the Lal Bahadur Shastri memorial lecture in 2002 adds to the importance of the lecture (or the irony if you would want to look at it that way).
Another important aspect of his talks is that he validates it with necessary data. One of the facts that I personally appreciated is the numbers he mentions about rural unemployment and the viability of agriculture in India w.r.t the number of people employed in it and the contribution of it to the GDP. He passionately argues that there is an immediate need for developing rural enterprises and reduce the workforce in agriculture. NRN’s views are of a compassionate capitalist. He mentions the incident in his life which changed his view of socialism and capitalism. His goal of using capitalism as a way to reduce poverty is very practical and something we are seeing in our times. He is also very appreciative of the 1991 economic reforms in India and how it made it possible for Indian MNCs to take-off.
Another group of lectures is the section on Infosys, where he describes the growth of the corporation (part of this is part of the entrepreneurship group too). He talks about the sacrifices and the passion that the initial founders had for starting the corporation. It is truly inspiring to read about a first generation entrepreneur whose start-up is based on respect and values. How the initial team decided to base Infy on values more than profits. I am not sure how much of the vision of the corporation permeates the middle and lower management in Infy now, but I think there is still a certain amount of pride most of the Infosicians share even now.
All in all, this book is a must read. I was completely hooked to the book, finishing it in a span of 3 days. There is repetition in the lectures (and he mentions that in the preface). But each lecture does bring up a new point and lets us view the visionary’s mind and learn from it. Do pick up the book, it sure will leave you fired up and passionate to do your bit. If not anything else, it will atleast make you look at your work in a slightly better point of view and that is generally not an easy thing to do 🙂