The Amateur Scientist 2015

Question & Answer Session between Mr. N R Narayana Murthy and the Students

1. Question by a Student: Where do you want to see Infosys in the next 5 years?

a. Answer by NRN: I would want Infosys to be where the people of different Nationalities, different Religions, different Races and different Genders come together and compete in an environment of courtesy and dignity to add greater and greater value to our stake holders.

2. Question by a Student: Where do you see India in next 5 years?

a. Answer by NRN: India is today at the bottom of most of the indices in the world, including the HDI (Human Development Index) which includes health care, literacy etc… We are 146 out of 165 countries in terms of ease of doing business which means it is more difficult to create jobs for youngsters in India than in other places in the world. I hope 5 years from now, our leaders, our bureaucrats, our civil society leaders and people in general will work hard to get India to atleast within top 50 countries in ease of doing business and atleast 1 in 25 in terms of HDI.

3. Question by a Student: How do you suggest stopping the brain drain which is seriously affecting the development of India?

a. Answer by NRN: If you look from one perspective it is a gaining prospect, if you look at it in another prospective it is enhancing brand. When we conducted a survey in Infosys to find out why the people want to settle abroad. We got response like getting admission to English medium schools is a problem, getting adequate health care is a problem, the road safety and discipline is bad, pollution levels are high, they say we want alteast our children to have a better quality of life than us. We cannot say they are wrong when they say that. So, it is our responsibility to stand up and question our government about what is it that we can do to retain talent in India? Now on the other side we are very proud of our population which is in excess of 1 billion people, so if 12000 or 120000 go abroad amongst 1.3 billion people, that’s a very small percentage. When these people go out they conduct themselves as model people of that society. They will only enhance the respect of India. So, if we can make sure that the small percentage of Indian’s who leave to other countries conduct themselves as decent and honest citizens of those societies, then they will enhance the respect for India and Indians.

4. Question by a Student: As an entrepreneur, his/her success depends on the decisions he/she makes. As an entrepreneur, which was the toughest decision you had to make?

a. Answer by NRN: First, in 1984, we imported our first computer to Bangalore. That was the first computer to ever have been imported to Bangalore. The customs duty officer refused to accept the consental duty certificate issued by the Joint secretary in the Govt of Electronics dept of India. He said, “I will not accept it and said if you are reasonable with me, then I shall do something.” For which I said if being reasonable is to pay bribe then we shall not do it. We are fined 45 lakh rupees at the time where the annual profit our company was about 10 lakhs. We paid the 45 lakhs and fought with Govt of India for 10 years to get it back. That was one of the toughest decisions I had to make. Second, In 1995 General Electric, one of our customers came back to renegotiate rates. They were going from room to room talking to their vendors who all agreed to reduce their rates, but we refused since we would be unfair to other customers and also we could not take the reduction in rate since we would have to invest in trade, technology and to recruit good talent etc… We lost that business and that time revenue from GE was about 25% of our total revenue and we had just gone public the previous year. And so, it is sometimes important to make a tough decision. But today, each of that decision has proved to be the right decision and everyone appreciates us for making those decisions.

5. Question by a Student: In your view, what is the difference between the Indian students and the foreign students and what do we need to do to make up for the things we lack compared to them?

a. Answer by NRN: We Indians lack meritocracy. This is a nation which does believe in merit. And any institution which believes in merit, like PES, will excel. And therefore, we must all accept that merit is very important. While it is certainly important that we have to take care of the less fortunate, there is no doubt about it and I fully agree with it. However, it should be done in terms of providing them with better primary education, better college education, better infrastructure, better scholarships, better homes etc… but we cannot suppress merit in a country. Second, we are the most undisciplined country in the world. If we become more disciplined, then there is better future for us. Third, we have to become less corrupt. Fourth, We have to first identify ourselves as Indians first, and then as Karnataka people, Tamil Nadu people, Punjabi people etc… Fifth, we have to respect strangers. We need to treat them like our own people. Our children must be helped to become more and more curious by applying what they learn in classroom to understand physical phenomena around us.

6. Question by a Student: You have achieved a lot in your life till now, but going forward what would you like to achieve further?

a. Answer by NRN: I just finished my 69th Year on August 20th and I think it is a little late for me to be thinking of that. I just want to see India being respected by all nations, where India is a strong country with strong economy. I want to see a day where the poorest of Indian at any remote corner of the country having access to basic healthcare, basic housing, basic education and the opportunity to excel.

7. Question by a Student: How do you think our education system should change and what kind of improvement do you want to see in that?

a. Answer by NRN: Every single thing that we learn in the classroom has to give example to the phenomenon that goes on around us. Teachers should encourage the children not to learn by rote, but by clear understanding of the concepts thought to them. There should be a college version of every way to the subject, so that a challenging environment is created for the top 5 or 10 percent of the class which I believe PES is already doing. The college should also have a fortnightly course for the undergrad students purely for research where they will work with faculties and talk to students and they will learn how to do independent research. I feel if we can implement all these, then we can improve our education system.

8. Question by a Student: Is Infosys contributing towards Research and Development in India?

a. Answer by NRN: We started our R&D group in 1996, our focus was on improving our productivity, developing the tools which would enhance the quality of the service, in developing tools which makes interaction with our customers easier etc… But in some way the focus was not right and at one time we had about 1200 people in R&D at Infosys. Today we might have 100 people or a little less in the R&D division and Vishal is trying to bring back the sense of importance.

9. Question by a Student: Which Country do you admire the most and why?

a. Answer by NRN: Well, your English is good, because you asked me which country I admire the most and not Love, because obviously I love India the most. Because this is where I was born and this is where coming from lower middle class family I went to college, got scholarships etc… And therefore I owe a lot to this country and so I love this country. But because I love this country, I have a sense of frustration; I have a sense of disappointment. It is exactly like when you have brought up your child with so much love, affection, caring and when that child goes astray because the child is not disciplined or he is rude you will have a sense of disappointment, you will have a sense of frustration. So therefore the very fact that I am frustrated with India is because I love India a lot. Which country I admire the most? I think we have many things in India which we are looked up on like the family values, the way we treat our guests is perhaps the best in the world, parents sacrificing for their children etc… which are all very good. But we need to learn few things for example we need to learn the importance of discipline from Germany or Japan, we have to learn importance of higher education, relating to what we learn to outside from Americans, we have to learn the importance of tolerance, the importance of true democracy from the British, we have to learn how to produce world class fashion from the French and the Italians. So I think there is a lot to learn from outside and it happens from the day we stop thinking that we are the best and we need not learn anything. So therefore there is a lot that we can admire in India, there is also a lot that we can admire and learn from outside of India.

10. Question by a Student: (Question not clear)

a. Answer by NRN: First, it is not for you to decide if the teachers are good or bad. Every year you will get an opportunity through a survey where you can mention if the teachers is not good in communication etc… but till that time you have to sit in class and listen to them. Second, you have to be very disciplined. In India you have parents paying for your college which doesn’t happen in US and most of European countries. So as a mark of respect for your parents, you have to attend all the classes and should not bunk the classes. Third, you have to learn to respect your elders. Fourth, you have to learn to be totally disciplined in everything that you do. Fifth, you have to learn to work in teams so that you can be better prepared for real life because in real life nothing happens individually, everything happens through teams. And then in the classroom, you have to stand up and ask questions if you do not understand something. And finally, unless you work out problems on your own, don’t go for all these guides and silly stuff, there is no greater joy than solving the problems for yourself. That is the first step for you to discover extraordinary things later on. That is an initial step for you to become a great innovator. So therefore make yourself stronger by solving your problems.

11. Question by a Student: (Question not clear)

a. Answer by NRN: I was born and brought up in a lower middle class family which was a family of 8 children with grandparents during the time of Jawaharlal Nehru. Many mouths to feed with a small salary. We were all Socialists and some of us were very strong Leftists almost to point of being Communists. But when I went to France, when I was working in Paris, I read a lot about the Left, the Right and the Centre. I had lots of discussions of how society makes progress, how will it become more prosperous, what is the role of the government, what is the role of the individual etc… I read a lot and finally I came to a set of conclusions. First, I realized the only way a country can improve was to create more and more jobs with better and better salaries. Second, the only way this can happen is through the power of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs convert an ideal into wealth for themselves and job for others. Third, it is not the responsibility of the government to create jobs, but it is the responsibility of the government to create an environment where the entrepreneurs can create more and more jobs. So when I read and discussed, I realized these were the fundamental principles of Capitalism. Free market, opportunity for betterment etc… that’s how I started converting myself to a compassionate Capitalist from a confused Leftist.

12. Question by a Student: Why would people prefer to do their master abroad than here in India?

a. Answer by NRN: That’s very clear. We do not go to Burundi or some other country to do masters. We want to go to country that has better opportunity for Higher education than in India. What’s wrong with that? I will tell you one principle that I have always used, when a youngster, a boy or a girl approaches me saying that they wants to leave Infosys to take up a better job or they want to leave Infosys to go for higher education, I simply ask myself how would I react if my son or daughter asked me that question. I would first ask them to think over carefully and if they are very confident, I give them my best wishes, tell them that they can always come back to Infosys and that they should stay in touch etc…

13. Question by a Student: Education should be knowledge based or skill based?

a. Answer by NRN:Education should be neither. Education should be about learning to learn more and more complex ideas. Second, education should be about understanding the nature around us and applying what we have learned to make it a better world. That’s what education is about. It’s neither skill based nor knowledge based.

14. Question by a Student: How cloud computing is helping us?

a. Answer by NRN: I don’t know if you had a crash of your hard drive, but I have had. Therefore you may not be able to appreciate cloud technology. Cloud technology allows you to save all your data in a safe and robust place. It will also become cheaper and cheaper. It will allow you to access your data from your laptop, Smartphone’s; ipad’s etc… from whichever place you are in and therefore it has enormous value.

15. Question by a Student: Do you think the primary education should be taught in the local language in every state of India?

a. Answer by NRN: There are 15 languages that have been recognized by the constitution of India, there might be more. Now the reality of India is this, a person from Punjab can come and settle down in Karnataka. A person from Karnataka can go and work in Tamil Nadu. What happens in today’s world is if you want freedom of moving across the country, because we don’t have a common language, common language that will help us succeed at a global level. Suppose a family comes to Karnataka from Maharashtra and they have two children, one in 4th class and another in 6th class. Those children will not have the ability to keep up with the 4th and 6th class children in Karnataka if the subjects are taught in local language here. They will not be able to compete. So leave the decision of what medium of instruction the child should pursue their education to the parents. Parents know what is best for their children. Second, have Kannada as one of the languages; say second language where they can study Kannada. If we say that the entire medium of Instruction will only be in Kannada, then we will fall backwards, since we do not have text books of Engineering, Law, Medicine etc… in Kannada unfortunately. So therefore if Kannadiga people have to succeed globally, we have to receive the respect of other nations. If we have to keep up the pride of Kannada, Karnataka, the only way is to compete in today’s world.