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BPO can create millions of jobs: Narayana Murthy
Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | June 19, 2003 16:40 IST
Infosys Chairman and Chief Mentor N R Narayana Murthy said that outsourcing is in the interest of American companies and can also create millions of jobs for India.
He was delivering the keynote address at the inaugural of the 'World Net Order: Bridging the Global Digital Divide' in New York on Wednesday.
Business process outsourcing offers tremendous opportunities for India as it can create millions of jobs, he said, and added that he did not believe that outsourcing is against the interest of a developed country like the US. "I think it is a win-win situation for all," he said.
'Govt must act as catalysts'
The Infosys co-founder also said that the governments in developing countries should act like catalysts rather than controlling agencies to facilitate development.
Murthy said that though colonial rule had ended, in most countries a colonial mindset still prevailed amongst the bureaucracy and the politicians.
"Governments must realize that public interest is not synonymous with public sector interest and unless that realization dawns upon them, nothing good will happen," Murthy said. "We have to remove that mindset and create opportunities," he said.
The two-day conference that opened at the Jacob Javits Center was jointly organized by the Business Council for the United Nations, that seeks to advance the common interest of the UN and business in a more prosperous and peaceful world, and CeBIT America, the first US trade show focusing on technology.
Scores of companies, including some top names in the fields of systems, application, networking and telecommunications, participated in the event. It also had a series of panel discussions, including one on 'Technologies for the Developing World: Driven by Demand?' addressed, among others, by Arun Bhikshesvaran, Vice President (Strategic Planning), Ericsson Inc.
'Need to invest in education, e-governance'
Murthy said that apart from a government that acts as a catalyst, two other things are important for development: investment in education and e-governance. India, he noted, has done much better in higher education than in primary education. "Reduction in corruption too is important," he said.
"Each country has to have some core competence," he said. Murthy said globalization offers great opportunities and helps produce cost-effectiveness. "It is about sourcing capital where it is the cheapest and selling it where it is the most profitable," he said. "Developing countries have to devise strategies for this," he said.
"The important thing is for companies to be able to create powerful international brands," he added.
Murthy answered a few questions during a discussion moderated by David Kirkpatrick, a senior editor of Fortune magazine.
The Infosys co-founder also spoke about Infosys, how it began and how it had reached where it is today, and about his business philosophy.
He recalled how the company began with just six or seven employees. Soon thereafter, he said, a few multinational companies were set to enter India and doomsayers predicted that it would be the end of Infosys as employees would leave for better benefits and it would not be able to compete with the MNCs.
'We have raised the hopes of millions'
"We had three options at that time. I could have gone to the government to block the entry of the multinationals, which I could well have done given the support I had from the industry. Or we could have called it a day. Or, lastly, we could compete with them (the MNCs) and learn many things," he said.
"We chose to take the last option, to learn from them and to be at par with them," Murthy said. "And that paid," he said.
Murthy said he is strictly against preventing competition. "Thanks to multinationals, choices have opened up for consumers and Indian companies have learnt to give better service and better quality," he said.
Murthy said Infosys's most important contribution to India is not creating 15,000 jobs, as is commonly believed. "To me, the most important contribution is that we have been able to raise the level of confidence and hope in people," he said.
"The most important thing is that we have raised the hopes of millions of people, exemplifying that if others try, they too can do it," he said. "To me that is the most important contribution of Infosys."
Asked by the moderator if the Indian model, which has demonstrated that it can compete with the best in the world in producing and training talented software engineers, could be replicated in other developing countries, Murthy parried a direct reply.
"To me the difference between a developing and a developed country is only a question of mindset. I do think that developing countries, at least some of them, are doing well with a lot of efficiency and little corruption. India too has come a long way," he said. In this regard he mentioned Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia, which, he said, had made good progress as well.
Murthy also said he had suggested to the World Bank that instead of giving billions of dollars of loan to developing nations, it should earmark some amount to train bureaucrats and politicians so that they develop a modern approach and attitude. "I think that is very important."
Earlier, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a message which was read out by Amir Dossal, Executive Director, UN Fund for International Partnerships, and a member of the UN Information Communication Technologies task force.
Annan, in his message, said: "While the swift emergence of a global information society is changing the way people live, learn and work, too many people of the world's poor remain untouched by this revolution. A digital divide threatens to exacerbate already-wide gaps between the rich and the poor, within and among countries. The stakes are high indeed."
"Timely access to news and information can promote trade, education, employment, health and wealth. One of the hallmarks of the information society, openness, is a crucial ingredient of democracy and good governance," he said in the message.
Murthy too stressed on 'openness' in his address, saying one of the five things that companies need to do is to have openness to learn and share information. "There has to be openness, fairness and justice, as well as meritocracy," he said. "It is very important for companies to understand and appreciate the value of meritocracy. Unless a company does that there is not much hope for it," he said.