I was privileged to attend an interview of Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys Technologies. The interview session was part of a "Leaders and Learners" session organized by TIE at Welingkar's Institute in Mumbai. Murthy was interviewed by Anuradha Sengupta of CNBC TV18, and a select panel of entrepreneurs. Then the forum was thrown open to questions asked by the audience. Here were some of the key takeaways from this brilliant and humor-filled session:
Q. What does it take to start your own venture?
NM: You need 4 things before you can think of starting your own venture:
1. Idea. The key idea or concept of the service or product you want to sell in the market
2. Market value of the idea. You must have a basic level of confidence in the fact that the market values your product and is willing to pay for it.
3. Team. You must have a team of complementary skillsets - so identify your own strengths, and find people who have different, but complementary strengths.
4. High aspirations. You must be someone who sets his/her sights high, and is willing to work very hard to achieve those aspirations.
Q. What must a startup do for branding?
NM: Do unusual things. Infosys has always attracted the press and positive publicity by doing unusual things, which interest people.
Q. Who were your idols or people you looked up to?
NM: When we started our business, there were already well-established business leaders who had founded and expanded their companies while sticking to sound ethical principles - JRD Tata, even Mr. Birla, TVS, Mr. Kirloskar. Of course, by that time Bill Gates had also become well-known. Intel was one of the foremost examples of success for most security companies to follow.
Q. What is a non-negotiable component when starting your own business?
NM: A sound value system. You have to lead by example, you must walk the talk, eat your own dogfood. Only when will your team trust you implicitly, and only then will they deliver and help achieve the common goals.
Q. What are the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur?
- Ability to work with other people and work in a team
- Passion and will to persevere
- High degree of optimism
- High aspirations for oneself and for the company
- Ability to put long-term interest ahead of short-term benefit
Q. How do you judge the value of your idea?
NM: You should be able to express your idea and its value to the market in a simple sentence. Not a compound sentence, nor a complex sentence.
Q. How do you attract and retain talent?
The leadership must articulate a grand vision - an exciting future. This will create a challenging work culture and attract future leaders to the company. The vision must be a story that is compelling, believable, and intrigues and excites the minds of the team members.
Q. What do you think about work-life balance?
I remember K V Kamath's answer to this question: first let's make a life, then think about work-life balance. I don't understand the concept of a work-life balance.
Q. How do you define success, and at what stage did you consider yourself successful, and why?
NM: I have thought a lot on this subject, and my definition of a successful person is one who when he/she walks into a room, people's eyes light up. If he/she brings a smile to people's faces, then irrespective of whether that person is educated, not educated, self-employed, employed, I would still consider that person to be successful. And going by that definition, I am still not sure whether I would consider myself as being successful.
Interestingly, Murthy's favorite books are Richard Feynmann's "Lectures on Physics", and "History of Mathematics" vols 1,2,3.