|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
N R Narayana Murthy, in discussion | August 01, 2003
At the Gartner Summit India last fortnight, Infosys Chairman and Chief Mentor N R Narayana Murthy discussed the role Information Technology plays in creating a developed India with Gartner Asia-Pacific Vice-President Bob Hayward, Research Vice-President (India) Partha Iyengar and Vice-President and Chief of Research (Asia-Pacific) John Roberts.
We have great honour in reproducing the transcript of that discussion for our readers, the first part of which we published on Thursday.
Partha Iyengar: What can India Inc do to embrace IT, something that hasn't happened as much as in countries like China?
N R Narayana Murthy: I think it is happening in the last ten years. Indian enterprises and even the government are embracing IT much more warmly than ever before. The reason is competition is increasing. There is a focus on productivity. Secondly, the democracy is demanding more transparency and accountability from the government.
Bob Hayward: But the difference here is that there has to be a different justification for IT-induced automation that reduces jobs in a country with a large population like India.
N R Nayarana Murthy: I am of the opinion that every enterprise must operate at the highest level of productivity, which means that fewer and fewer people can produce more and more wealth. With better productivity, the salaries will increase, the workers have more disposable income, and they spend more in the market. In the end, by enhancing productivity, you are actually creating more jobs. It's a myth here that employing more people and resourcing productivity per worker, we are making the economy better for our citizens. The right way would be to improve productivity.
Bob Hayward: Is the contribution of IT in improving the living standard of a large chunk of its people being recognized as it should be?
N R Narayana Murthy: In the last couple of years, India has done a very good job in IT. But we are still a nation of billion people so a million or so people working in IT or related areas don't get as much noticed. That's where we need to create better enthusiasm by creating visible signs of growth like world class airports and highways. We owe it to our children because we want to be much confident about their country.
Bob Hayward: In your interaction with politicians, what do you see are the major challenges in making them aware about the potential of this sector in India?
N R Narayana Murthy: Leadership is all about courage, courage to dream big, to take tough decisions, etc. Second, it is the ability to raise the aspirations of people and third, to be open minded and to accept great ideas from different countries and cultures across the world and fourth, like I earlier said, to recognize that there are two Indias, rural and urban and to work towards the growth of both of them.
Partha Iyengar: What needs to be done to bring about that change?
N R Narayana Murthy: Once again that takes me to what I mentioned, the visible signs of growth. Let me give you an example: When Baby Noor, the Pakistani child came to India, and I saw that news splashed across the newspapers, I was very happy. I think we need a few more examples like that. Not only will this change our leaders' mindset but it will create confidence in Pakistan.
The point is, we need more such signs of growth, like that Nasscom experiment or the fishermen in the Pondicherry using data from US satellites to enhance their catch. In every movie theater, if we can show a few of these examples, the common Indian will have confidence in India and will say that well, India is on the move now.
Bob Hayward: I may be a little pessimistic, but there's a negativism and cynicism existing in the Indian media that if this industry is growing, there must be some problem with that…
N R Narayana Murthy: You are using data so I can't argue with you. But let me tell you I was in Delhi and Prannoy Roy, my friend, took me to his studio. I saw these enthusiastic guys and I was highly impressed. If we use that enthusiasm, we can beat anybody in the world.
When a lot of my friends went to IBM, people said it's the end, but I said if I can't find MNCs in India, how can we fight them in their own backyard?
Secondly, there is a lot of value that these MNCs bring into India. With their HR policies etc. We have to play the game their way. I am very hopeful.
John Roberts: With the offshore backlash, what do you think should be the strategy of the industry to address that right now?
N R Narayana Murthy: Globalization is about producing where it is most cost effective, sourcing capital from where it's cheapest and selling it where it is most profitable. We shouldn't be constrained by an international backlash.
A smart journalist in Australia asked me a question at a press conference, "You guys are taking all our jobs to India. You should be thrown out." I told him I use an LG refrigerator at home in India, I drink Pepsi and Coke though we had our own Indian drinks, I use a GM car where we had a vibrant automobile industry, and so forth. I use Cisco routers and a Toshiba tablet PC which are imported, so do you think we should throw all these companies out?
I gave him the positive side of all this.
Prior to 1991, we all felt exactly the same like that young journalist did. Initially, it was a very painful phase for our Indian companies but at the end of it we became stronger. At the end of the day the consumers benefit the most, and even the minority that will suffer in the short run, will benefit at the end of the day.
John Roberts: Where do you see IT in the next 5 years?
N R Narayana Murthy: I think IT will move, IT will focus more on enhancing productivity at home. So far we've limited ourselves to enhancing productivity at the workplace. Thanks to increasing computing power I believe IT will move to ubiquitous computing.
John Roberts: Do you think India will move from using existing technology to inventing new technologies?
N R Narayana Murthy: It will happen. Let us remember that the concept of a free market is still new in India, we are not used to leading from the front. Just 15 years compared to 200 years elsewhere in terms of the Industrial Revolution. You need to have a little more patience with India, but that will happen.
Partha Iyengar: There are indications that IT will be a major driver taking India into the league of developed nations by 2020. What's your vision of what India will be like in that timeframe?
N R Narayana Murthy: I have great respect for our President Dr Abdul Kalam and his vision of making India a developed nation by 2020 is a great one. My view is IT alone will not be able to do that. We need world class manufacturing, we need world class financial services, healthcare, education, etc. Only then can we make progress and become a great nation. IT alone cannot do that; it will definitely be a driver, a case study of India's potential.
Whenever I am down, I recall what the late Robert Kennedy once said, which he borrowed from George Bernard Shaw, 'Most people see things as they are and wonder why. I see things that never were and say why not.' Once our leaders start with this mindset, the solution is very simple. We have to see beyond the constraint, using it as an opportunity. It's all in the mind.