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Episode 1: Mr N R Narayana Murthy on the difficult but satisfying path of honesty & integrity

[00:00:00]   Govindraj Ethiraj starts the session
Govindraj Ethiraj :
Hello and welcome to truth talks, an initiative of the Satya Vigyan foundation. Just to give you a sense on what we’re going to be touching on today; you know, many of us come across this in our lives, as students, as children, hopefully even later on in life, when we, in our professional roles, grapple with the concept of truth and how to work with it, and essentially face it. Because this can be a battle that can be one of the biggest battles that we fight within ourselves how to bring out truth or how to face truth particularly in our difficult life.
So, it’s a journey. It’s not a destination, as we all know. But to understand more about truth or why we are talking about it, the concept, the reason why we’re doing this at this time, and also how our guests will relate to it today, I’m going to be handing over this to Vallabh Bhanshali, the founder of Satya Vigyan, and the force behind TRUTHtalks. A few words about Vallabh Bhanshali, he is the founder of the foundation, as I said. He’s also co-founder and chairman of ENAM group, trustee of the Bombay Stock Exchange. He has a degree in law and is also a chartered accountant. On that note, it’s over to you, Mr. Bhansali.

[00:01:12]   Vallabh Bhanshali introduces the concept of TRUTHtalks
Vallabh Bhanshali:
Thank you, Govind. Good morning, Mr. Murthy, and friends. We know propaganda works. But we know that in the end, it is truth that prevails. We at Satya Vigyan Foundation thought of putting the two together. We all understand truth. But somehow when dealing with others, variations of truth become acceptable to us, either due to social norms, White Lies, as in advertising, Legal evidence versus real evidence, paper trails over substance, half-truths, and sometimes plain lies if you have a chorus to back it. I must say that it was a challenge to set on a journey of this kind. We can easily be labelled presumptuous, hypocritical, and worse. Yet, a lesson I learned in childhood from my father egged me on. He used to say that a one-eyed sculptor has the right to create a two-eyed sculpture. So here we started with complete readiness to face brick beds. Isn’t it ironic that we have to think of promoting truth, the most fundamental results in our life? And I am quite happy by the complimentary and very encouraging response that we have got to the whole initiative on truth talks. As an IPO banker, I know that high quality and sincere promotion can be quite effective. So after almost 25 years, is one more IPO for Mr. Murthy and me hopefully as rewarding as the one way back in 1993. Sir, welcome to this moment as first of the truth talks. I can’t think of anyone who could be better than you, Mr. Murthy, to set the tone and direction of this very delicate, but very important experiment, very grateful to you, sir.
Only the truthful can be bold. And this indeed is a bold step. We at Satya Vigyan foundation are convinced that if all of us became, if all of us increase the truth quotient in our life, every day, bit by bit, we can all create an enormously more resourceful society, more productive society, and above all, most reliable society, something that we all need and deserve. We have also experimented in another field of spirituality, where we help people discover that only when their beliefs are founded in universal truths, can they hope to progress. Around the world with 30 seminars on this team, we have helped 1000s of lives, look at things differently, kind of created a small wave. Together now we can create a much larger wave in our society. As we bring to you the most distinguished amongst us to share their experiments with life. And these are people who have done a lot of it as they come and share their experiences and insights with us and inspire us to do the same. Let a truth revolution begins so to speak. It’s not about reaching 100% truthful society that is too idealistic, but it can be a good NorthStar. But a lot can be achieved degree by degree as we bring in truth into our lives, and that is very possible.
Thank you, all the supporting partners, Desh Apnayen, Bhartiya Jan Sangathna, FLAME University, livehistoryindia.com., And of course, fact check. Thank you all for joining in large numbers on this journey. For this message to get across and to be meaningful, it has to go beyond your yours, to your hearts, to your homes, to your towns. Please share your ideas with us, feedback with us. And Let’s all try and take this to every home to every town. Thank you once again for joining us today responding. Govind, back to you.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Thank you, Mr. Bhansali. So welcome indeed to truth talks. So, you know, I was interviewing a very well-known investor Mark Mobius a few weeks ago and asked him you know, what are the kinds of stocks that you would invest in at this time, we are in indeed in a post COVID world. And he said, you know, in India, the first thing I look for is stocks with great corporate governance and who better to talk about this than the team, and the person who made corporate governance almost like a competitive strategy and behind competitive governance, a good competitive governance lies the concept of truth.
So, my pleasure to introduce Mr. Narayan, NR Narayana Murthy, who founded Infosys in 1981. It’s a software global services company, for those who you who didn’t know listed on the NYSC and of course, on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Mr. Murthy conceptualized, articulated and implemented the global delivery model, which has become the backbone of the Indian software industry. Under his leadership, Infosys became the leader in innovation, technical, managerial and leadership training, software technology, quality, productivity, customer focus, employee satisfaction, and of course, physical and technological infrastructure. When you think of Infosys today, you think of really a vast organization with hundreds of 1000s of people and spread over the world as it was, and not just a virtual organization, as some might believe.
Mr. Murthy was elected as a member of the prestigious academy, American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019. He’s a foreign member of the US National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering. He received the founders medal in 2018, the silver medal in 2012, the Ernst Webber medal in 2007, and all three from the IEEE. He has also received the Thomas Jefferson medal and the GMC Morgan global Humanitarian Award. Currently, Mr Murthy serves on the boards of Ford Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey and the United States Foundation, United Nations Foundation, and he is also a member of the advisory board of the University of Tokyo, Japan, IESE Business School Spain, among others. He has also served in the international advisory boards of Yale University, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and he is a trustee of the Infosys Science Foundation, which governs the Infosys prize and annual award honours outstanding achievements of researchers and scientists across six categories. On that note, let me hand over and my pleasure to invite Mr. NR Narayana Murthy to deliver his talk.

[00:08:17]   Mr. NR Narayana Murthy’s talk

Narayana Murthy:
Thank you, Govind, Shri Vallabh Bhanshali Ji, other organizers of Satya Vigyan Foundation. And yes, it is indeed an honour to be invited to deliver the first lecture of this great experiment. I believe that the only reason why I’ve been given this honour is because of your faction. Thank you very much. I have committed my share of mistakes in my life’s journey attempting to traverse the path of honesty, transparency and integrity. What life has taught me is becoming aware of my mistakes, and then making a serious effort to avoid committing such mistakes as second time or essential to my betterment. I have tried to do my best in the stars God is not finished with me yet. What is truth? Today, I will not talk about the neoclassical correspondence theory, pragmatics theory, or Alfred Tarski’s theory of truth I will not touch upon the works of Frederick Niesch Emanuel tan, George Hancado, Alfred Tarski and Alfred Whitehead to discuss their views of truth. I will limit my discussion of truth to our own rich heritage, and how Infosys has benefited from treading the path of honesty, transparency and integrity during my tenure as the CEO and the executive chair. In this talk, I will focus primarily on what we at Infosys have done to translate our belief in honesty, transparency and integrity into actions in our dealings with our stakeholders. Due to the paucity of time, I will limit my examples to our interactions and transactions with our investors and customers. I claim no protection for myself. But I do claim to be passionate seeker after truth, which is but another name for God said Mahatma Gandhi. Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries define truth as that which is in accordance with facts and reality.
According to Hinduism, truth is unchangeable, and it transcends time, space, context and persons. Satya Mahabharata, which the Jain ascetics recite twice a day, during they’re obligatory Pratikamana ritual, has a prominent place of the maxim of speaking the truth. With this ideal, as you people know, is to seek truth. Christians believe that God is truth like Hindus, Guru Nanak, exhorted his disciples to kirat karo or work honestly, the 4000-year-old Zoroastrian concept of Asha and artha, is all about this ambiguation & truth. Quran defines truth as another name for Allah. Truth is the revealed name of God for the Jewish people. My friends, wherever I look around me, I hear a gentle, fatherly advice to need to seek truth. Upanishads or some of the oldest acts of philosophy and with wisdom of ancient India. They tell us the story of Kabbalah, who went to Gautama Rishi to learn Vedas and Upanishads. Gautama wanted to ascertain Jabbalah’s suitability to learn open nations. So, Gautama Rishi asked Kabbalah who his father was, Kabbalah told Gautama the uncomfortable truth that even his own mother did not know who his father was. Gautama was very impressed with the level of honesty of Kabbalah, took him as his disciple taught him the Upanishads & named him Satyakama, that is the seeker of Truth. This story tells us how truth has been venerated in India, right from the beginning of our civilization. Manaskriti tells us that truth is superior to silence. The ancient Hindus believe that truth alone triumphs in the end, as is written in Mundaka Upanishad. This belief has become the national motto of India, it is inscribed at the base of our national emblem as Satyameva Jayate. There is a general belief in the world, that there are occasions when truth and righteousness may be forsaken temporarily, if a lie serves a noble goal, or a larger interest. There are several instances in Mahabharata when a lie was used, so that righteousness prevails over the forces of evil. Later to discuss this concept of a noble lie, a lie occurred to serve a greater interest without hurting anyone. After all, using tricks to deceive the enemy and win the battle is a fundamental ploy of every war. The justification right from the time of Mahabharata to the current time for telling lies & being tricky in a war is that the enemy stands for evil, and that it is the duty of the righteous people to defeat the forces of evil.
Why do we venerate truth? There are several reasons. First of all, telling the truth is the least stressful option for the human mind. Lies take much mental energy to suppress one’s conscience, mental anxiety arising out of telling lies impacts one’s mind. Telling a single lie, requires one to tell many more lies to justify the first lie. If we start lying as a habit, we will stop knowing what is real and what is unreal in this world. Being truthful enhances the trust between us and our dear ones, near one’s beliefs, brains and hearts of sight. It develops a positive energy in us and in others, the habit of telling lies destroys the person in the end. A society where people are encouraged to shun lies in discharging their obligations to individuals and to institutions achieves impressive and rapid social and economic progress. On the other hand, a society where there is no stigma to telling lies in discharging one’s obligations to individuals and to institutions decays and dies. Two people hesitate to tell the truth; it is out of fear of the consequences. What is fear? Fear is lack of information. Children are scared to go into a dark room, because they lack information about what is inside the room. Therefore, it is important for elders to use stories from our epics and from our contemporary lives, to tell instance, that sometimes the mistake of telling a lie does get committed inadvertently, that the youngsters had to be honest and transparent. Admit these mistakes, and the youngsters should resolve not to commit such mistakes again, every society has decided from time immemorial, that a person deliberately committed a mistake including telling a lie that hurts other citizens & has to accept the punishment according to a graded scale based on the magnitude of the impact of that mistake. Parents and teachers have to educate their children about the consequences of telling lies. Parents & teachers have to convince their children that grow actively admitting the lie will earn them goodwill from others, and the punishment, if any, will be small. The elders have to tell the stories to convince them that a liar will be caught in the end and will pay an even higher penalty than if he or she had voluntarily admitted the lie.
As children grow older, they have to be held to realize that their conscience weighs heavily on them if they proactively tell lies. Children must be taught that the best way of lightening once conscience is to tell the truth airy and proactively. The ultimate aim of truth is to practice integrity. That is to become a trustworthy and an honourable person who develops positive and happy relationships. What is integrity? It is adhering to morals, values, principles and promises. It is basing one’s actions on the firm foundations of fairness and honesty. Fairness is following the golden rule enunciated by Jesus of Nazareth. It can be summed up by the adage do to others what you want They do unto you. Integrity is about thinking deeply what is right and true, it is the ability to discern the right from the wrong. It is following the universally accepted moral compass that transcends nations, times, situations, classes, races and cultures. It is choosing the right path of honour, in a situation, behaving consistently with the right thing to do, no matter what the cause saw, and publicly standing firm for your chosen path, no matter how the society and your colleagues, vilify you. Honesty and transparency are the two instruments that help you practice integrity. Honesty is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, truthfulness, frankness, and being free from deceit and fraud. Honesty is the person’s ability to speak truth in a given situation. Integrity is a person’s value system, rectitude, and conviction. Therefore, integrity is a higher virtue than honesty. all that is required of an honest person is that he or she does not tell a lie. An honest person may witness an unjust action and remain silent. He will continue to be called an honest person. Honest comes into play, or honesty comes into play, only when you’re asked a question, and you answer. In fact, most of the honest people in the world choose the path of silence, rather than being truthful when confronted with an unpleasant and unjustifiable situation. However, a person of integrity is courageous enough to be proactive in being honest and transparent about such situations. What is transparency? Transparency is about proactively bringing honesty to the stakeholders in a given situation. Transparency is being truthful to the stakeholders about a situation when these stakeholders do not even know what questions to ask for. Professor Stephen Carter of a law school said on quotes, “one cannot have integrity without honesty, but one can be honest without integrity”, unquote. I would say that a decent person has to cultivate both honesty and transparency as a habit to become a man of integrity.
Right from my childhood, my mother was insisting that her children tell the truth on our own in every situation. She insisted that we demonstrate integrity of power and integrity of action. She defined these terms as having good and noble thoughts that make our society a better place, and acting according to those thoughts in every situation. To demonstrate why these two were very important for us, my mother used to tell the story of kanakadasa’s devotion to integrity, in thought and in action. Kanakadasa lived from 1509 to 1609 AD, was a famous same composer of Karnataka music from north Karnataka. One day when Kanakadasa was a child. His teacher gave a banana to each of the students in the class, asked them to go to a place where nobody could watch them and eat the banana all alone. After half an hour the class resumed. Every student except Kanakadasa had eaten his/her banana and was gloating about the strange deserted places they had found where nobody saw them eating their banana. However, Kanakadasa was silent, serene, & had his banana still with him. The teacher asked why he could not find a place where there was nobody watching him, and eat his banana Kanakadasa replied calmly, that he had been taught by the same teacher, just the previous way to believe that God was everywhere. Kanakadasa also said that he understood from is less than the previous day that there was no place on earth, where he could be alone and away from God. Therefore Kanakadasa, said he could not hide eating his banana from God. So, my mother used to tell her that it was important to remember that integrity of thought and integrity of action are important. And these two give us peace of mind. If we now come down from Kanakadasa’s time to the present times, I am a karma yogi. I believe in action, and not just in words, I decided to conduct an experiment to make honesty, transparency and integrity, a corporate habit of Infosys during my tenure as the CEO and executive chairman of Infosys I realized that infosyians needed a strong incentive to embrace and practice honesty, transparency and integrity on a sustained basis. Around that time in 1994, I was present at a function where an attendee asked shri Rahul Bajaj, which management Guru Rahul Ji followed to become a good manager, shri Rahul ji’s answer is edged in my mind indelibly. He said that market competition was the best management group. And that competition taught him to do everything legal and ethical to deliver better value than his competitors to his stakeholders, customers, employees, investors, vendor partners, government of the land and the society. After less than the laudatory IPO of Infosys in 1993. My mind was fixated on convincing our investors that Infosys was a company that deserves the attention and trust of a larger number of shareholders or investors. I knew we had to earn the trust of these people by integrity of our art and our action. That is when Shri Rahul Bajaj’s answers struck me as the best solution to the problem.
So, I decided to use honesty, currency and integrity as a competitive advantage, for Infosys in the market flex. I knew it would enhance &   drive enthusiasm and energy of all employees. It meant lots of hard work and extra expenditure for the company. It meant enhancing our work productivity and enhancing our already high agility of response. It meant our finance team had to make a habit of working on Saturday. Fortunately, we had two extraordinary leaders in our finance department, Shri TV Mohandas pi, and Shri V. Balakrishnan, who agreed to lead this adventure if I gave them full support. The first decision we took was to publish our financial statements every quarter. At that time, SEBI had mandated publishing of an audited six-monthly financial statement. We wanted to leave fraud, to voluntarily publishing our audited quarterly financial statements. There was some disquiet amongst many seals, that it meant extra work for our finances, delivery and design groups. Our external and internal auditors are also concerned about the evenings’ load for them, but the perceived powers of Mohan and Bala won the battle.
We also decided to disclose information by employee attrition, our fulfilment of export obligation, what our profits would have been if we had not availed of tax exemption that and paid our taxes fully, per capita revenue productivity, revenue from fixed price projects and geographical segmentation of revenue in our quarterly disclosures. At that time, they were considered company confidential information. There was much pleasant surprise amongst our investors and analysts who covered the infy stock. It won the hearts of the investor world in India. The very next year, we started our project to prepare in free for listing on NASDAQ. That meant we had to practice producing and publishing our reserves, not just according to the Indian gap that is, the generally accepted accounting principles, but also according to the US gap every quarter, we decided that partly Indian gap financial statements would be audited. The quarterly US GAAP financial statements would be unaudited. There was no precedent in India, of publishing the US gap financial statements. Since we were the first company to attempt this, many people warned us that the level of transparency required by the US tax and SEC was onerous, and that we were trying to be unnecessarily adventurous. They told us that we would be disclosing confidential information to our competitors. I consulted Valachi. He was, as usual, very encouraging and supportive. Even though Mohan and Bala were very knowledgeable in the US cap and SEC requirement, they wanted a competent outside agency to provide the third-party verification that we were doing everything properly. So, we appointed KPMG Bharat, who advisors on the nuances of the US cap, and on the differences between the two gaps for reconciliation. KPMG was requested to do the annual audit under the US Gap. No one and Bala took up the additional task of preparing a 20-year form of the SEC, which is required of all non- US companies listed on the US stock exchange. This was not necessary for us since we were not yet listed on NASDAQ. But Mohan felt it was a good practice run for us. It meant considerable extra work from our finance group. But then Mohan, Bala, Vinayak and a team, we’re always aspirational in their mindset. Our hunger for transparency was an equation, the more work we did towards improving the transparency of our financial statements hungrier we became for transparency. We are also infused by the positive reaction of our shareholders for our initiative in honesty, transparency and integrity. Let me tell you another story about our transparency. We had set apart a certain amount of money in 1994 for opening our sales office in the US. We had applied to the Reserve Bank of India for the approval to open this office in boss. Those days, RBI took much time to approve the opening of offices abroad by Indian company. So, we decided to invest some of that money in the secondary markets, the secondary equities market while waiting for the RBI approval. Alas, we lost a part of that money as per the SEBI regulations in the middle 90s, there was no requirement to disclose this to the shareholders. It was also not a material among many internal people opined that disclosing this information would Sully our reputation as good managers of shareholder money &that seems some shareholders may actually sue us. However, I have always believed and acted according to my belief that transparency is about disclosing bad news, early and voluntary. It is not gloating in public about good news. I believe that no board can decide not to disclose any company information to its shareholders however small they may be. Good governance is all in the adage. When in doubt, disclose. Good governance is after all, providing full transparency to the smallest shareholder. So, I voluntarily disclosed our losses at the AGM apologize to our shareholders for our mistake and promised that we would never ever again invest shareholders money in the secondary market. The shareholders were pleasantly surprised at the level of honesty and transparency we showed. They excused us.
We got listed on NASDAQ on March 11 1999. Standing in front of Bright or Clyde’s, I borrowed the words of Neil Armstrong and said, “It is a small step for NASDAQ, but a giant leap for Infosys and the Indian software industry. Listed on NASDAQ expanded our horizon for transparency. In fact, when the SEC released the Blue-Ribbon committee report on better transparency, we were among the first five companies on NASDAQ to fully comply with its recommendations. Sarbanes Oxley act was introduced by the SEC to enhance the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures in July 2002. Infosys was once again one of the earliest to fully implement. These projects required lots of hard work and discipline. But as usual, Mohan and Bala work every Saturday and most Sundays and completed the implementation of Sarbanes Oxley act well in time. We implemented several other initiatives that enhance transparency in the company’s dealing with customers, employees, vendor partners, government of the land and the society. Today, due to the shortage of time, I will just give two examples of our integrity when dealing with our customers. Our work in honesty, transparency and integrity with other stakeholders will be a topic for another day. One of our important customers who form 25% of revenue in 1995 wanted to negotiate down the rates with the five Indian software vendors that this customer was dealing with. We tried our best to convince this customer with data and facts why reducing our rates was going impede our investments, quality, productivity training, technology, and physical infrastructure. We explained that Infosys would become a weaker institution and would not be able to leverage the advances in technology for the benefit of this customer. We added that such a reduction of rates may force us to short-change that customer in the level of service we provided that person. We also felt that accepting the new rate with that customer alone meant being unfair to our other similar customers. However, our negotiations failed since the customer told us that other Indian vendors were willing to sign on a dotted line. I took a decision to part with that customer in a respectful way, and promise to transition their business to a competitor of ours to the satisfaction of that customer. I believed that our commitment to integrity required disclosing the bad news early and proactively to our shareholders. We disclosed to the market within 48 hours of our decision that we were giving up this customer of ours since we could not afford to accept the customer’s revised terms. I was expecting the stock price to go down. I don’t think it did. That is when I realized the true impact of the smart spoken adage. Investors understand that every business will have ups and downs. What they want businessmen to do is to level with them at all times.
I’m glad I acted according to the adage. Let the good news take the stairs, but make sure the bad news takes the elevator. Let me give another example of the practice of integrity at Infosys. In 1990, Infosys had submitted a proposal for developing a large computerized online information system to a well-known sports shoe manufacturer in the youth. During our initial discussion with the head of the MIS department in his office, he received a call from the CEO and he told us that he should be away from his office for an hour. On the table, right in front of us, was the competing proposal for the same project from our only competitor. It was very tempting for us to open it and look at the prize offered by our only competitor, my colleague, Dinesh, and I was the only two people in the room and the head of the MIS department away for almost an hour. Nobody would have noticed us opening that proposal and looking at it in detail. But Dinesh and I decided that looking at a competitive proposal was not ethical. We just did not eat into our, into that temptation. What did these acts of honesty, transparency and integrity achieve for us? They helped us make Infosys most respected company in India, and one of the most respected company in the world as long as I was the CEO and the executive chairman of the company. This was a promise I had made to my wife and to myself, when the Infosys stock opened on June 6 1993, on the Bombay Stock Exchange. On that day, I decided to mark the date. The softest pillow is a clear conscience. My motto, in the remaining years of my life, I am glad I have done my best to live up to it. For Infosyians, it was a great honour to be called the most ethical and trustworthy company. I believe that other things being equal, the price to earnings ratio of a stock is higher for a company that is committed to honesty, transparency, and integrity. Above all honesty, transparency and integrity in our thoughts and in our actions brought pride, confidence, enthusiasm and energy to our employees to work to innovate and add even greater value to our stakeholders. We attracted lots of long-term investors. Today we have, I believe, 1.1 5 million shareholders. By 2002, we had become the most loud stock of BSE. Our commitment to integrity made us trustworthy with our stakeholders and it made Infosys, a role model for the corporate world. Thank you very much.

[00:43:38]   Question-Answer Session

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Thank you, Mr. Murthy for that. A lot of questions coming as well, as would be expected. So, you know, let me pick up on a couple of points that you’ve made. You know, you talked about the hesitation to tell the truth. And you’ve also said that, you know, lies are stressful. And you say one, you have said more. And obviously, on the other hand, if you say the truth, then it’s much more easy to do. So, Tell us about two things. One is this, I’m assuming, goes before Infosys, your approach has in fashioned, I’m sure much earlier in life, and there must have been something or a set of events or maybe your childhood, which you know, or things that happened in your childhood, which caused your thinking to develop in that way. That’s number one. And the second question is, before I bring in the others is…. Okay the first one here, but

Narayana Murthy:
Yeah, I’m um…. I’ll start my 75th year soon. Therefore, I am prone to forgetting. You know, the biggest influence that I have had in treating public property more carefully than private property was from a high school teacher of mine in Mysore in 1960. He was a chemistry teacher; he was conducting an experiment. And that experiment required him to put a little bit of sodium chloride or common salt into the test tube. I was sitting in the front bench with some friends. And he was very, very careful in making sure that minimum amount of common salt went into the test tube. And my friend by name Anant Srivastava was sitting next to me burst out laughing. The teacher stopped the experiment. His name is Mr. KV Narayan is dead now you know more. He came to my friend and said, “Hey, man, what was so funny about what I was doing? Why did you laugh?” And you know, children are more honest than elders, generally. So, my friend said, Sir, you were so stingy with common salt, which is which is so inexpensive. That’s why I laughed. Then, Mr. KV Narayan said something that has stayed with me. When he said this common sword belongs to the entire school, it belongs to you, it belongs to me, it belongs to students, all the 60 students in this class, every student in the school, every teacher, every janitor, etc. Therefore, I have to treat this school property with utmost care. And he said today after the class is over, please come with me to my house, I will give you a glass jar full of common salt free because that is my personal property and I can be absolutely free in spending it in whatever way I want. I think the whole principle of corporate governance rests on treating the public property, treating the property of the company treating the community property with care. And that also means that not creating any asymmetry of benefits between the owner managers, & the rest of the shareholders.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
What is the you know, you talked about how you made this a cause for Infosys itself or Infosysians and you also talked about in the context of financial reporting how you had managers at that time young, I’m sure, like Mohandas bhai and Balakrishnan, who support you and take it forward. So, is this something that people can do later on in life? You know, I mean, you talked about a powerful childhood example and influence. And that’s what shaped your personality and your response to situations. But can people do it later?

Narayana Murthy:
Well, you know, one of the things that I was barely for was in associating myself with people who had very good value system. Mohan was just 35, when he joined me, and, of course, an extraordinarily bright person, with an excellent value system. So, I believe that if we are in an environment, where the seniors, our bosses, our elders, they are all behaving in a desirable way, then we will automatically create an environment where people hesitate to go wrong. And that hesitation over a period of time becomes a habit. And once people make it a habit, then the rest is very easy. And I’m very, very happy that extraordinary people in my team.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
You know, here’s a question of Venkat Ramakrishnan asks, we would like to hear how you cope with the difficulty of sustaining this level of honesty, integrity and transparency. It’s almost superhuman in the current society. And if I can add to that, you know, many a time I’m sure a business leader like yourself, takes tough decisions. In fact, I’m speaking in the context of truth, but within perhaps there is the residue or the residual effect or impact of that decision can be huge. I mean, it may be sleepless nights, it may be other kinds of mental impacts. So, dealing with maybe one is the immediate outcome, which may be good, but they may be longer, longer term impact, and how is your What is your experience been? and other instances?

Narayana Murthy:
Yeah. Let me be very honest, because this is a platform of being honest. In 2017, When the government… there was serious governance deficit at the MPC, I did have a tremendous stress. Let me be very honest about. However, I believe in God, I have faith. Why do you need God? Because God provides you hope. And because I had tremendous faith in God, I had tremendous faith in goodness of people, I had tremendous faith in the goodness of the society, I had tremendous hope that things would become better. And all the unsavoury characters would be away and all of them. So, I’m glad it happened. I’m glad. So, I think whenever there is any stress, you need to have faith in God. You need to get the support of the family and close friends. And automatically, you will feel that the situation is much more powerful and easier to handle.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
You know, you talked about, you know, silence. And it’s not that you’re not truthful, if you’re silent. But for you it’s, I mean for you, maybe this is a competitive advantage, or it has become a competitive advantage, being truthful, being, you know, accompany with the highest integrity, but for someone else, it may not be; including maybe someone who succeeds you in a company. How do you then view that? I mean, is this something that is it a personal belief, and maybe to the point that you’re running the organization and organizational extension? And should it move on? Or are you do you feel strongly that this is something that has to be there everywhere? Or no?

Narayana Murthy:
No, I think you know, at the end of the day, we are all answerable to our conscience. That’s all I take for in my talk. This softest pillow is a clear conscience. If you want to speak; if you want to earn the goodwill of the society If you want to earn the respect of the society, then the path of righteousness is the way to go or go along. You may succeed, you may not. There may be times when you do things correctly, certain time when you will not at least the direction is very clear. At least the desire is clear, at least the willingness is clear. They look at Mahabharata itself for Duryodhana, this roping Draupadi was right. You know, then cheating Pandavas was right, everything was okay for him. But we all know what happened in the end. The righteous force, the force of righteousness prevailed or the force of evil. So, we have to learn from our epics, and from our contemporary stories, I mean, you know, right now, there is a businessman sitting in London, right? For the last whatever, four or five years, we all know that, why did it happen because of certain things that he should not have done. So, I may continue to do wrong things and think it is right. But at the end of the day, as we say, in my mother tongue Kannada, with thieves, wife will end up as a widow, finally. That means we will be sent to the gallows. So therefore, for the sake of a clear conscience, for the sake of positive relationships, for the sake of inner happiness, for the sake of benefit of the society, I think it is very, very important to walk the path of honesty, transparency and integrity. But as I pointed out, right in the beginning, we may not be succeeding, we may not succeed 100% of the time, but we may succeed 80% this year, five years from now, we may succeed 90%. Doesn’t matter, but that’s improvement, as Vallabh ji pointed out. So, therefore, I think these are all things that should be attempted because this is good for the society.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Okay, Pankaj Kumar Botha asks situationally changing and adapting to the situation, and with reducing honesty and integrity to the situation, don’t you think it is the need of the hour? Please advise.

Narayana Murthy:
Nobody says that the way to overcome any lacunar or come out of a bad situation is by telling lies by doing wrong things? No, I don’t think. That is a wrong idea. The only way you can come out of any difficult situation is by being honest, by accepting one’s mistake, by say that yes, I have learned my lesson. And next time, I won’t do this. I think even though we may for a short period of time, lose the respect of the society because of the mistakes that we committed. However, over a period of time, people will understand that we are human beings, we have worked very hard to improve ourselves and therefore we deserve certain kindness and certain risk.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Do you look down on someone who you feel is not is not following this path?

Narayana Murthy:
The issue is not looking down. The issue is that every human being has the potential to reach a high level. When you see an individual deliberately making effort to move away from that target, then you feel sad for that individual. You advise that person once; you advise that person twice, but then finally you say, Look, man, that is his choice, what to do? So, it is not a question of you or how you see, I think the best thing is to try and help an individual to do better and better and better.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
I’m also asking this in the context of organizations, and many people who are watching today run organizations. So, you know, when, when you, for instance, I’m sure have had colleagues who have not come along with you in this quest, and of transparency integrity in the manner that you want it? What have you done?

Narayana Murthy:
No, I think, as long as I am the CEO as long as I was a chairman, I’m very happy to say that all my colleagues were totally with me, absolutely 100%. Yes, there were some mistakes they committed, like I committed too, it’s not like I didn’t make any mistake. And I was open, I discussed my mistake. And we said, what is it that we can do to ensure that we don’t commit this mistake next time. So, I was very, very fortunate to have my colleagues fully subscribed to the values that I had. Except others said they were, you know, rare mistakes committed, but by & law, we all move together properly.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Can you give an example of the mistakes? So, for instance, you talked about selling of shares from the money that you had collected in the IPO? Sorry, buying of stock in the secondary market from the money you collected in the IPO, which should not have been done, but you disclosed it? But that was a mistake, but that was not necessarily a conflict with truth itself. So, what’s the mistake that you made?

Narayana Murthy:
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. See, remember, I in my speech, I said many of the internal people felt that disclosing that to shareholders would mean that we are not as smart managers as the outside world thought, as the shareholders thought. That in other words, our application will come down. That was the biggest issue that confronted us. But however, we said, as I told you, my belief was that investors understand every business will have ups and downs, every manager will make some mistakes. However, they want the investor…the shareholders want the management to level with them at all points of time, the truth. So, therefore, the worry that some internal people were that our reputation will be sullied? That was the way but we said that’s okay.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Okay. Question from Amrish Shingavi; hiding of truth or silence is sometimes inevitable, because the recipient is not ready to accept the situation, isn’t it correct in such point to stay silent?

Narayana Murthy:
No, no you see then then what you are saying, you see, at the end of the day, we have to understand that truth, transparency, good behaviour etc, these are all parts of the protocol for behaviour in a society, which enhances the comfort and confidence of each member of the society, every other member of the society that is what is called value system. Because if I You and I are, 10 of us are together. If you know that I will follow that value system, you will go to sleep well. You won’t worry about Now, unfortunately, if I were not to follow and you because you are a good friend of mine, you keep quiet and you do not allow the entire community to say this is not right. This should not be done. And therefore, whosoever has done this has to pay certain penalty that is not done. Then tomorrow third winner will do, let me give you a one story. I believe there was a village in Karnataka and they wanted to conduct a festival the next day and the village Panchayat said You know, every house has to contribute one glass of milk and there is this big vessel, please pour your milk into that and we will make kheer or whatever it is, and then we will distribute after the fest. So, one fellow said every everybody else is any way of putting milk. So, I will put water for event in football. Next morning, when they came, they found only water because everybody said that others are going to put milk and I can put water. So therefore, it is very important for people to stand up for what is right. That is what the court system is all about. Right? Then we can say no, no, no, this fellow, I’m scared of him or they should not be punished No. Then put the police fellows will not be able to work. So therefore, it is the responsibility of every individual to stand up for what is the right. Doesn’t matter how uncomfortable that is. You know, how painful that otherwise the society won’t make progress.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Okay, Sunil Banta asks, bribing politicians and bureaucracy is a norm to move ahead in India for a business person, how has Infosys dealt with this? {pardon}, bribing politicians and bureaucracy is a norm to move ahead in India for business or business people? How has Infosys dealt with this?

Narayana Murthy:
Let me tell you, I can only say what, you know, what happened when I was there? Because it’s presumptuous of me to talk about other times. As long as I was the CEO & the chairman, there was not one incident when we had to bribe anybody. Absolutely no instance. See, we have to understand that even those that corrupt officers, they want to have at least one example to show that they are indeed supporting good people. They wanted one Infosys. They would say look, if somebody says you’re corrupt, they would say ask Infosys, we did all the work whatever they wanted, we did not, you know, they did not give us any money. So, I think if you stand firm, then there is absolutely no issue. Absolutely no issue at all. It will mean a little bit of delay in the beginning, and we have all gone through that. It may mean a lot of hard work, it may mean traveling unnecessarily to Delhi, or whatever, to Bangalore, whatever. But once you demonstrate three times that you are not going to bottle down. Then the fourth time, they will not trouble you at all because they realize that return on investment from this channel is zero. Therefore, they would say, hey, let’s concentrate on some other channel.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Right! And you know, there are quite a few questions around this. And really, how do you build an organization which is honest and transparent? And in one way, you’ve already answered this, you also refer to it would you like to add to that?

Narayana Murthy:
Well, you know, I’m a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi. In my opinion, he was clearly the best leader India’s ever produced because he led by example. As you know, Sarojini Naidu once said it takes a fortune to keep this man in politics because that man used to travel by third class in train before they were scared that the British may poison him. So there had to be all the plainclothes people surrounding him. Somebody, somebody had to test the food that he wants to eat, and he will come down at every station and then be 1000s of followers. All of that I have to say, it takes a fortune to keep this man in politics. I think Martha Gandhi’s greatest contribution to India is that he demonstrated the power of leadership by example. And I am a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, I’ve always believed that the best way to communicate any bad news and make sure that people follow that is for the leader to lead by example. You know, I used to be in the office at 6: 20. The rest of the people were supposed to come at 7:45 I did not have to tell anybody, why are you not coming at 7:45, etc, etc. They all knew that I would be in the office at 6: 20. So, I think the moral power that you de0rive through leading by example, he is the most powerful instrument. So therefore, I would say that every leader has to lead by example.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Okay, so you’re talking about Gandhi and the nation. Badan Jen asks, when honesty, transparency and integrity is the basis of human and social development, then why don’t the ruling public authorities apply it for development of the country and a peaceful society? I’m assuming this is a general question for all time not aimed at any particular government.

Narayana Murthy:
Once I gave a lecture at Gokhale Institute of economics and politics in Pune. It was titled “The role of culture in economic development”. I’m a great believer in Maxwell. I believe that you need to have a culture conducive to economic growth, if you want economically, what is that culture, the culture of honesty, culture of transparency, culture of proaction, you know, culture of taking tough decisions, leading by example, austerity, etc, etc. And then I can go on and on. So, unless we in India instil or unless the leaders in India demonstrate this. When I say leaders, not just in politics, leaders in politics, leaders in bureaucracy, leaders in corporate world leaders in everything, unless they demonstrate their commitment to such a culture, I tell you, we will not India will not grow economically. It may show some for a short period, you know, 8% 10% all of that. But over a long period of time, it simply will not happen. Therefore, we need a culture conducive to economic growth. Corruption has to become zero if we want to progress.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Right. So, here’s a question which Nayam Kumar Babu asks, how is your spouse Mrs. Murthy added, or complimented your values or inspired you? I’m assuming is the question and has it has it been beneficial in your decisions and decision making?

Narayana Murthy:
You know, I’m very, very lucky to have married Sudha. First of all, she’s much smarter than me. She got first rank in every one of her exams. All the 10 semesters of engineering, I see everywhere. I never got first ranked at the highest I went to a second rank. Second, she has a unique quality, which I don’t have. And that is she is very positive minded. She sees plus in every situation. Therefore, it didn’t matter whatever difficult times we went through during the initial years of Infosys. She would always give me confidence. He would always say Don’t worry. If what this means is that we have to make this kind of sacrifice, absolutely no problems. Number three, She, she kind of she believes in austerity. In fact, in 1990, there was, an offer to buy Infosys for $1 million. I assembled all my colleagues; we had a long discussion. My style was to first listen to all the people and then give my opinion finally. The opinion was that we could sell it. But I told them, no, I don’t want to sell. I tell you people are they were surprised that, you know, this guy doesn’t have any money. I say, Look, I’ve gotten used to the kind of life that we have lived for the last whatever 12-13 years. We have believed in austerity; we have lived such allies. I will enjoy it enjoyed every minute of Infosys. Yes, the odd passing through a dark time, but I’m sure that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. But all of that happened because of my wife. So therefore, I would say that in so far as I am concerned, the value that my wife has added is immeasurable.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Okay, last few questions. Miss Moti Soudra, there are a couple around quite expectedly asking who influences you today? You know, so Pankaj Kumar Bothra asks, you know, who does Mr. Modi consider as the most honest business entrepreneur, business person in India, Sunil Gautam asks a similar question. He says, who do you who inspires you? So, whichever way you want to take it.

Narayana Murthy:
You know, again, as Vallabh ji pointed out, and as I also pointed out, there is no perfect human, otherwise we’d all be gods. So, for me, I have tremendous respect for Ratan Tata. I have observed him in different situations. I think as human beings, I think he has a lot of positive qualities. And I have, you know, observed him, I have learned several good qualities from him. Then, as JRD Tata was another extraordinary man. Then I have learned from Bill Gates, I’ve learned from Jack Welch, I mean, different aspects of improvement have been learnt from different people. There is no one being that has all the good qualities. There is no such person; that is God. So, I have learned good things. For example, I’ve learned a lot of good things from Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard, and also from David Packard of Hewlett Packard. So, I’ve learned from John Chambers of Cisco. So, there are people who have taught me a lot of value, you know, yesterday I gave a talk at Times of India, or what I learned from my parents, teachers, and my bosses. So, from each of them I learn different things. And I am the beneficiary of all those wonderful things. So therefore, I think we all must accept that we are all human beings. None of us is perfect. However, there are some good qualities we can learn from others.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
So, Narayan Passare asks, what is your specific advice to the new millennial? I’m sure one of them is reaching office at 6:20am. Brutal as it sounds. And there is another question which is from Nikita Sharma and I’ll try and see maybe if you can merge it. How do you remain subtle and calm within despite all the dilemma we’re facing in both the world external and internal? sometimes external events tend to affect us more than perhaps even internal events? That could be an organization or a home.

Narayana Murthy:
Sorry? I forgot the first one.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
So, the first one is what is your advice to young millennials or maybe the right word is today’s generation?

Narayana Murthy:
Fortunately, India is at such a stage that there is respect for India from the outside world. India is part of the youth leaders. Indian cricketers are doing well there is considerable attention paid to India. Therefore, this is the time we have to work extremely hard and consolidate these games so that they become sustainable. And what is our target? our target is that the poorest in the remotest part of the country has to have reasonable access to education, health care, nutrition, shelter. And you know that is only going to happen if we continue to grow the economy, we are today somewhere around $2,000 of that there is about 26% of Indians are below the poverty line. And that has been defined by government of India not by me as people who earn 47 rupees per day in urban India and about 28 rupees per day in India or something like that, I may be wrong, but this is around that. But within that you can’t do anything. So, therefore, our target is very big. And fortunately, you and I have received reasonably good education & throw away prizes. For example, I pay at today’s exchange rate 4 dollars per year for my engineering. Probably even that, because I was on scholarship, national scholarship, but I’m saying all my economy, colleagues they paid $4 at today say 300 rupees per year for a reasonably good engineering education. Yes, therefore, we have a responsibility to pay back. Whatever we pay back part of that, to the poor Indians, to the farmers to the factory, so that their children to have hope of a better like to do that we should not get paid to work 60 hours a week, 80 hours a week. All Germans worked like that after the Second World War. So, my request two youngsters to work very, very hard. We have an example. You know, we may not like China, China may or may not have done right, right things, all of that. I agree, I’m nobody to comment on that. But there is one data that you and I have looked at. That is China when from a similar position as India today is at $15.5 trillion of economy, we are gasping to get to $2.9 trillion. And we are about the same population, I mean, they are about 15% higher. So therefore, when a large nation like China has demonstrated to us that we could grow the economy by whatever 15 times, why can’t we do that. So, that can only happen by heartburn, by some innovation, by discipline, etc. So, I would request all of them to become disciplined to become hardworking, and to innovate.

Govindraj Ethiraj:
And maybe and also turn up at office at 6:20am as an example to look forward to this movie now with just about the last question so you know, I So, earlier I did mention Nikita Sharma asked about how do you, how does one remain subtle and calm within despite all these dilemmas were facing? But you know, let me ask this question a little differently, you know. So, you use, you use a lot of references to the epics, the Mahabharata itself, and two great thinkers. But spiritual grounding, I’m sure is, is the real grounding. And that is what, you know, fuels you or gives you the inspiration to do this. A few words on what spiritually grounds you to remain committed to this path. And what could you share to others who are watching right now or will watch later, in your own experiments with truth from a spiritual name?

Narayana Murthy:
I am not a spiritual person, no. I am a karma yoga as I told you I believe in action. However, there is one thing that I have always strived, and that is…in fact, I was once asked by one of the journalists how good I remember…I said if I am worthy of, or at least if my family were to have an epitaph on my grave, I want it to say, “Here lies a fair person” I have striven extremely hard for being a fair person that is do on to others what you want them to do on to you. So, I am not a spiritual person; I want to learn from everybody. But that learning has to translate how I can make, I can lead a better quality of life, I can make people around me get a better quality of life, I can make my society better. I am not. I’m… I, I don’t know what you mean by spiritual but I am not this. This is my path

Govindraj Ethiraj:
Right, and karma yogi is a way, is a spiritual response in many ways to the question that I post. Mr Murthy, I think we are now completely out of time. I do thank you for your powerful thoughts uh your inspiring insights, and your candidness in sharing some of the most difficult experiences from your past and indeed some of the most powerful influences that you’ve seen right from your childhood onwards and to those people who inspire you & continue to inspire you today. I’m sure on behalf I can take the liberty of wishing you a very happy 75th on behalf of everyone who’s with us today and may you continue to provide us these insights on.
Truth talks is going to be back. I do request and we do request you to write to us, tell us how to make this a movement, tell us how you can participate in it, tell us what we should be doing and truthtalks.in should be doing, coming up next is Justice BN Srikrishna. Very soon we will announce the date, and do stay tuned and you will find out more. Remember the website, it’s truthtalks.in. On that note, thank you very much for being with us today, and thank you Mr Murthy once again and thank you Mr. Bhanshali.

Narayana Murthy:
Justice Srikrishna is an extraordinary individual. I definitely am looking forward to listening to his wise words and I have no doubt at all that we will all be so much better after listening to him. Thank you. Thanks to all of you the organizers, it has been a pleasure I had told you 40 minutes and I think I did a couple of minutes earlier; I finished a couple of minutes earlier so I’m happy. Thank you so much


[01:26:36]   Closing remarks by Vallabh Bhanshali
Vallabh Bhanshali:
Thank you very, very much. I may just want to add one last line listening to you that a truthful society becomes a reliable society, and a reliable society becomes a prosperous society. The cost of not being reliable is so huge and all of us paid in terms of not only process but in terms of double guessing and so on. We buy a made in Japan or made in Germany very easily, that’s because those societies have become reliable societies and reliability is nothing but being truthful seeing things as it is.
Thank you very very much sir. I have no words to express my gratitude. This is a very very difficult journey, very difficult questions. But who else better than you to answer all of them?
Thank you once again all of you for joining us!

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