The NDTV Dialogues: In Conversation With Narayana Murthy, Sudha Murty

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  • Published On: January 27, 2024
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Infosys founder Narayana Murthy and his wife and philanthropist, Sudha Murty, along with author Chitra Banerjee Divakurni,spoke to NDTV's Sonia Singh on the NDTV Dialogues, a conversation of ideas. The Murthys spoke about the early story of Infosys, Indian business before liberalization, and about the sacrifices it took to forge a powerful and uncommon love story.

Here is the full transcript of the discussion:

NDTV: Hello and welcome to the NDTV Dialogues, a conversation of ideas. Today I'm discussing ideas with three very special people. I'm joined by NR Narayana Murthy, the father of Indian IT. I'm joined by Sudha Murty, somebody who's an icon in her own right. She's a writer, bestselling writer, philanthropist, and the author who's told us an uncommon love story, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Thank you all very much for joining me.

Sudha Murty, it really is an uncommon love story, but it's also a story of equal partners. You always were unconventional whether it was fighting with Telco getting JRD Tata to change the company policy to allow a woman engineer like yourself and also in deciding to marry Mr Murthy. What brought about this unconventional streak in you?

Sudha Murty: As long as is legally, ethically the right, I would like to do and this was my nature from the beginning, joining engineering college or you know writing to JRD Tata and believing what is right and doing that, you know, that is my nature.

NDTV: You were a young girl from Hubli in Karnataka, yet you wrote to JRD and you managed to convince the interview board because you were also selected on merit. Tell us about that.

Sudha Murty: Well, as a young girl and I wanted to go abroad and do my PhD and I was at the Indian Institute of Science, popularly known as the Tata Institute, which was established by Jamsetji Tata in year 1896. And I thought JRD Tata, once in a year, used to come for Founder's day from a distance. So, in the month of April in 1974, I saw an advertisement that young bright engineers are needed for Telco Pune/Jamshedpur, lady students need not apply, given the old pay scale etc. I was not very keen to apply also, but I thought this is something wrong, lady students need not apply. I wanted to go abroad and do my PhD, but I said no, I must tell them that is not correct. I took a postcard and wrote, whom I should address actually I did not know who was the Chairman of Telco, it was Sumant Moolgaokar. I did not know, I said it's Tata no, it should be JRD Tata, a girl from Hubli with not much knowledge of the industry wrote Mr JRD Tata, I always felt Tatas are ahead of time, maybe even established iron and steel, maybe a vehicle, maybe a salt, and an Institute of Science for advanced learning and I'm a student of this institute. Half the population will be paralyzed if women do not work. And this idea is something wrong and how can it come from House of Tatas? I never expected job, I never expected a reply, but I wanted to tell that's not right according to me. I wrote a new postcard and I forgot about it. I did not know the correct address. I just wrote Mr JRD Tata, Telco Bombay, that's all, the whole address was wrong. It was Mr. Sumant Moolgaokar, 24, Homi Mody Street, Tamarind Lane, Fort Bombay 1, the right address, but the letter reached JRD Tata, and he called his people. He said, 'why did you advertise that the ladies students need not apply?' They said, 'Sir, it's a shop job work, shop floor job, it is also in Jamshedpur and Pune, that maybe shifts and up to this day, no lady has worked on the shift. They are in the design, they may be in the administration, but never an engineering on the shop floor.' He said, 'there is a girl who is asking why a lady should not be employed? Call her for an interview, test her on merit and tell your difficulties. Just you cannot write lady students need not apply.'

NDTV: So that's the first glass ceiling you broke but tell me, Mr. Murthy, when you first met Sudhaji, did you realize the unconventional, special person you were meeting? At that point I presume you had no thoughts of marriage or love, you were focused on doing something different. You were focused at that time on patriotism, your vision of what India should be? How did Sudha Murty ji, how did it come about?

NR Narayana Murthy: Well, you know, she was full of joy. She was very talkative, she would burst into laughter at her own jokes. She would. She had a very good sense of self-deprecating humour. And she was widely read. And she was working in a man's land which is Telco factory. So all these things in some way added to the mystery, added to the allure. So therefore, I said I should get to know this person and one of my friends, who was a TATA Administrative Services trainee, he and Sudha would be traveling on the same bus to Telco every day during his training at Telco. And he invited her to the room where I'm staying, as in an apartment in a model colony in Pune. And that's how I met her. And talking to her, showed me that she was very deep in her thinking, in her knowledge, in her analysis, in her widespread readership of important books, philosophy, economics, physics, electrical engineering, mathematics, most of all, she was definitely better than me in mathematics. So those were some of the reasons why I was attracted to her.

NDTV: Well Chitra, if you can come in here because of course, I mean, as an author, you've written so many books, but really historical fiction, you brought alive the stories of some of our most wonderful women characters in a sense. What was it like for you writing about two people, very much real life characters, larger than life, so different, and also so unconventional?

Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni: It was a wonderful experience. I really learned a lot about writing a different kind of book through this. But it was also very challenging, because I had only a limited amount of space where I could use my imagination, because, you know, I wanted to stay close to their lives. I wanted to really bring their stories alive. So I had to use the facts that Murthy ji and Sudha ji, gave me and they gave me some wonderful facts. And then I had to use my imagination to really feel what they must have felt at those times. And that's what I tried to bring out in the book, their thoughts, their feelings, their kind of innermost secrets that maybe they didn't tell anybod

NDTV: It is actually Chitra, because it's such a deeply personal book. And it talks also because it's not all you know a fairytale endings or a love story, as you see in the films. It's a very real love story with the same kind of difficulties, the highs and lows, the sacrifices, and you had a third partner almost like a love triangle because Infosys was so much a part of your love story. How did you deal with that Sudha Ji?

Sudha Murty: For me, Infosys the baby. I always say I'm a mother of three children, Akshata, Infosys, Rohan Murthy. So even today, after retirement and I go to Infosys, I'll never take a visitor's pass. I always say I'm a mother, for a mother taking a pass is an insult. Okay. I knew that is Murthy's dream. And Murthy wanted to do that. So, you know, we come from, we came from middle class family. And the License Raj in those days; building a company was not easy. We did not have money. We didn't have connections. And we're not in the right place, okay. Probably we're in the right frame of mind, I suppose.

So when Murthy wants to do Infosys, he is working for Infosys. I felt I should support completely unconditionally. And the company may take place, may come out to success may not, but I had always faith on Murthy that he gives his 100% best and I should give my 100% support.

NDTV: And in fact, when you first met Mr Murthy, when you talked about, that you were a young girl at that time who loved movies. Your dream was Rajesh Khanna and then you met Mr Murthy, who has many wonderful qualities, but perhaps not Rajesh Khanna like. Did reality turn out better than dreams?

Sudha Murty: Well, when you're young, you can dream many things, but when I met Murthy, I realised one thing, number one, he's extremely sincere whatever he does, he's very honest and he reads a lot. It was my condition in marriage that I want to marry someone who reads a lot, because that's a very common value between me and Murthy is reading habit. And he is a very intelligent person, though he is under placing that Sudha is very good, but he's definitely better than me in mathematics and physics, that I know. But he doesn't show. Okay. So, here's a man who speaks my language, because I'm very fond of Kannada, my mother tongue, and who reads a lot and who leads a simple life, you always, you know, you never felt that given the man who came from abroad, hitchhiking from Paris to Peshawar, he looked as simple as a college student. And he looks, he always looked young. So I said, here's a person probably who fits in my imagination of with whom I can spend my life.

NDTV: Mr Murthy you proposed in an auto rickshaw. Now, why did you decide to choose that non-romantic mode of transport to propose?

NR Narayana Murthy: Well, you know, our world was small. We were middle class people. Our resources were limited. For us, even a ride in auto rickshaw was some kind of a luxury. And number two, it also provided us a little bit of privacy, because we do speak in Kannada, and generally the driver wouldn't be able to understand Kannada. He spoke Marathi or Hindi or something. And therefore, we considered it a suitable place to exchange our inner thoughts, our confidential feelings, all of that. So that was so natural.

NDTV: And Chitra to bring you in on that, it was not just the story of two people. It was also rarely when I was reading it, the rise of Infosys and the rise of India's IT industry. And also, when you we read it today, you're tracking really from the License Raj to the initial years of liberalisation and where we have reached today. So did you see the also more as a social commentary? It's a world that existed so, which comes alive, so vibrantly today.

Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni: Yes, it's definitely the story of a nation in flux. It is. And that's what makes Murthy Ji's story and Sudha Ji's story so interesting, and so timely, because people have forgotten those early days. And it's important for us to remember our history and to remember how people struggled in the beginning to create the wonderful entrepreneurial culture that we have in India, and what kinds of sacrifice it took, and the human cost. I think the human cost of entrepreneurship was very high at that point. And because of things that Mr Murthy and the other founders of Infosys, because of the troubles they went through, and the sacrifices that the wives like Sudha Ji made at that point, it has made things much easier now, that success was built on the backs of these early pioneers. And I do want readers of the book to understand that, to appreciate that. And also maybe to gain some, I don't know, some encouragement from that when their lives seem to be going difficult.

NDTV: In fact, Mr Murthy, I just wanted to quote some bits of the book. When you struggled, started, you first were influenced by Nehruvian socialism, you then had a vision of compassionate capitalism. That was the model you wanted to promote of business. And at that time businessmen was seen as crooks, things like getting a phone connection, you had to go to the post office to get phone calls from the United States, which was a key you wanted to develop there. And the various obstacles that went on there, whether it was sitting in the corridors in Delhi, trying to get permissions, trying to, and the one thing you said was that you will never pay a bribe. When you look back today, what do you think was the most difficult for you? And what do you think really put Infosys on its path?

NR Narayana Murthy: Well, I think we're all products of our own culture. What is culture? Culture is what brings you joy. What makes you sad? You know what pushes you to strive towards the best. All these are, how you spend your time, with whom you spend your time, all of that. So basically, I think we were brought up, all my colleagues too, we were brought up in a culture of honesty, decency, courtesy, fighting for, for what is right, not giving in to bribery, all of that, they were all part of our DNA. Therefore, we didn't see any alternative, we had said that this is the way it is. In fact, as is mentioned in the book, we could not get to import a second hand Magnusson computer, which was promised by our customer then, if we got a telephone connection. We lost it. We didn't do that though. That we simply accepted it as our fate. By and large those days, when the then communication minister Mr Stephen, he said in the Parliament that a telephone is a luxury, is not a fundamental right or something. And he will say look, even the telephone doesn't work even in the PM, Indra Gandhi's house, why are you people complaining? That was the mindset those days. So we are all brought up on the staple diet of small dreams, you know, small vision and all of that.

NDTV: But I just wanted to bring that, because, especially because you had made integrity such a key principle of your business philosophy. When you were called crooks, how did you react to that? And when you look today, because of course we had liberalisation in 1991, which you've, you both talk at that time and say this is finally the words is what we like, we want to hear businessman. And now we're seeing in 2024, this whole focus on entrepreneurs, startup founders, creating jobs. So it's come full circle. How do you see that in your lifetime? And going from there to today? What would you say have been the big changes?

NR Narayana Murthy: Well, you know, as you know, liberalisation brought us a few aids. One, it removed, licensing in high tech.

Otherwise, we had to go to Delhi 50 times, sit there for hours to get a license to import a $50,000 computer, that's all.

NDTV: How many hours did you used to spend in those corridors?

NR Narayana Murthy: Oh, you had, you would be made to wait about two, two and a half hours before the officer even saw you, because that was the way they showed their power. The second thing that liberalization did was they brought in current account convertibility. Till then, till 1991 if I wanted to travel abroad, I had to go to Reserve Bank, make an application to Reserve Bank of India, go there three, four times. And maybe, after 12 to 15 days I would receive permission to travel two or three days abroad. But the government realized that Dr Mammohan Singh, Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Shri Chidambaram, these are the three architects of the liberalisation under the guidance of Shri Narsimha Rao. Without Narsimha Rao, I don't think it would have happened, we must all recognize it, okay. They, they realize Dr Manmohan Singh realized that not having current account convertibility is not going to help India to increase its export and improve its balance of payments position. So, they brought in current account convertibility. The third thing they did was there was an officer called Controller of Capital Issues who sat in Delhi, who had no idea what stock markets were. And you weren't the one who was supposed to decide on what price you would go, you would have your IPO. Dr Manmohan Singh decided that this is silly. Therefore, he abolished that office. And he said, individual entrepreneurs can appoint their own investment bankers and decide on the price at which you have IPO. And then, the most important thing they did was, see George Fernandez had decreed that all multinationals must own only 40% of equity, and 60% they must dilute.

George Fernandez, the then Industry Minister, during Moraji Desai's '77 government had decreed that all multinationals will be allowed to own only 40%. A few multinationals like Levers, you know, Bosch, they all complied with, but many of them left India, the two notable ones amongst them was IBM, and Coca Cola. Now coming to my context, IBM, Microsoft, you know, all those major players in technology, but not ready to come to India unless they owned 100%. So what Dr. Manmohan Singh did was to say that in the technology field, multinationals can own 100%. That was the best thing that happened to India, because that enhanced the competition for us, not for customers, because our customers were all abroad, but for employees, for talent...

NDTV: Right.

NR Narayana Murthy: Therefore, we learned a lot of good things from these multinationals, on how to attract good talent, how to provide a high level of comfort for this talent, how to make them, you know, like our companies, so I think these were the major...

NDTV: And how to beat them. Because I mean, in a sense that that's what Indian companies like Infosys also did in terms of where to work. So when you look into where we are today, it's interesting. So from 1991 to 2024, it's completely true. We've come a full circle. What do you think with India set to become the third largest economy probably in a few years from now? What do you think have been the big changes and does it gladden you that you see this in your lifetime from those days to today?

NR Narayana Murthy: Well, starting from 1991, when Shri Narsimha Rao, ushered in liberalisation, successive governments, but notably, I think, Shri Modi, Modi ji's government, has started an important initiative called Startup India...

NDTV: Yes

NR Narayana Murthy: ...that Startup India has encouraged a lot of entrepreneurs. I mean, I see in my own equity, here in my own suburb here of Jayanagar. There are so many new restaurants, there are so many vegetable vendors, fruit vendors, you know, the fitness centers, in our clothing centers, they're all small ones, but entrepreneurs are very excited. They are adding value to the economy, they are creating jobs. So I think we, we have progressed quite a lot. Today there is considerable encouragement for entrepreneurs, thanks to Startup India. And the second thing that Shri Modi ji has done is the new education policy, which is a very important initiative, thanks to Dr Kasturirangan and people like Manjul Bhargava. Now, there is a focus on how to improve the quality of primary secondary and college education in the country, how to help our children learn to solve our problems, to innovate more and more and make our society more prosperous. So I think we are, we have started reaping some of those benefit benefits, but I think we still have some ways to go.

NDTV: I wanted to bring you in Sudha Ji, on this point, because really, when you talk also about your struggles as a working woman, a wife, a mother, there was that time when in fact you asked your husband, I mean, I don't even think the word asked, but you said, that why don't I become a part of Infosys? I was, you were the first angel investor; you gave your 10,000 rupees to help them start off. You were the angel investor. And you were told no. Now as an educated woman, as somebody who had sacrificed so much, what was your reaction to this? And how did you actually, I mean, you know, in today's world is always about who's equal, who's more equal, husband and wife will fight, but how did you accept it and go ahead?

Sudha Murty: It was not easy, it was difficult, convincing the mind. And by the time I had Akshata, our daughter and Murthy believed that you should not be husband and wife company, it is not professional. But he did give me an option, you join and he will not join or he will join, I will not join. Now, what is the solution in that? One needs to know you go on arguing that but that is the decision. And what is it? What is the best solution in this situation? Maybe I will not join now. I will make my ultimate career. Because I always believed a woman has a lot of capacity, capability. And she has to unleash her potential. I always believed that as it thought if it is not did something else I will do it. So it took some years for me to accept that, it's not like immediately, it is not like a switch, you know. But now I feel it. I did not join that is fine. Because there was one window was closed, but other doors were open. And I could touch the life of so many people with a compassionate heart. Otherwise I'd either retired as one of the directors of Infosys, probably

NDTV: You're now India's best highest selling author, woman author, so I think really many doors opened. But you know often there's this definition of modernity, or progress is the clothes you wear or you know how you talk, or how well you can speak English. But really, when you read the book, you were modern in a sense, a true sense and progressive, perhaps that's a better word, way before your time in the various, in the choice of husband, in the decision to how you would live your life, where you would work. And many other ways even in a sense, having to leave your child Akshata when she was just two years old to work and to support your husband in a sense and Infosys. What for you is progressive?

Sudha Murty: Not two years old, 90 days old.

NR Narayana Murthy: Yes, yes, we left...

NDTV: Even more difficult.

Sudha Murty: Difficult, Murthy started Infosys. And between two of us one of us to bring the bread to the table. And I was not certain how things will be there. And we are in Bombay, I did not have any support. So I took Akshata, that 90 days old. I did not know that I had to buy a ticket for a baby. I know in those days I got into the plane, they said, where's the ticket for a baby or not bought? That you have to buy a ticket for a baby. So I bought a ticket for a 20 rupees ticket, I still have that. And my parents came to the airport and I told my 56-year-old mother and my 32-year-old sister that today onwards you should be her mothers. And it was very difficult decision for me to leave her, though they're my parents, leaving a child. But that was needed. All infants should understand. When you want to achieve something, you want to do something, you will have a lot of challenges. You still have cribbing. Instead of cribbing, given a set of difficulties and your own set of circumstances, what is the best way I can do? What is the best way? What is the best solution? For me I felt it is better the child will grow up with grandparents, with a medical care, my dad was a doctor, my sister's a doctor, than leaving the baby with someone who I do not know, and travel you know, depending on my work, how can I do that? So, you have to when it comes to taking a solution, making a solution. It is hard but you have to make it. I always say Infosys was not built in a day. Not by the magic wand, the threat, sacrifice, separation and many more things. But when you build a company, when you build an empire when you know, when you do most difficult things, it requires most difficult challenges, when you do most difficult things in life, because the challenges are very high.

NDTV: Do you regret it now, Mr Murthy, you know so often is expected that the woman makes the sacrifices. But when you look back on the fact that Akshata at some point called you a bonus father, or told her mother that you're the CEO of a company where the CEO is never here. In all the controversies about how many hours you should work. I won't get into that. But do you think personally that you lost out on one part of fatherhood, because you was so busy setting up Infosys?

NR Narayana Murthy: You know Mahatma Gandhi has been my hero. Jawaharlal Nehru was my hero, those people did much, much bigger sacrifice, who are we, what we are doing is fiddly. Yes, it is true that I was away from my children, it's so I was away from my wife, life partner, all of that. But if you want to do something worthwhile, then it is always necessary to prioritize as your number one objective, and then keep other objectives below that. Therefore, it is inevitable that any person who has aspiration to do something worthwhile, in my case, conducting an experiment to prove that entrepreneurship is the best way to create more jobs and more prosperous India, when you have such an objective, it is inevitable that you have to make sacrifices. In my case, my wife brought up our children extremely well. Here on, both of them succeed, succeeded very well in whatever they're doing. One did a PhD from Harvard, another went to Stanford, you know, I mean, they have been leading very value-based life. So therefore, while it is true, that I missed out, you know, quite a lot, it's true that my children missed out quite a lot. My wife took care of that. Second, even during my busy days, even during that, you know, during the small time that I was in India, I made sure that I spent some quality time with my children. You know, doing things that they enjoyed was doing things that brought joy to them. So therefore, as somebody who has always believed that quality is more important than just quantity, I do believe, I do rationalize that these are all inevitable things. And if you want to do something aspirational, then you must be ready to, to compromise on some of these things.

NDTV: Do the children agree with that perspective? They have grown up, they've done very well for themselves. But do they agree with this perspective?

Sudha Murty: It is left to them, it is a modern era, and it is their way of looking at it. But I don't get into when children grow up, you know treat them like friends. They have their own life, their own way of working.

NDTV: When you read the book, I mean, really, I think the, what comes through what you talk about is simple living and high thinking. But you've actually and it seems odd that you often get attacked for this, even when you say things like I'm vegetarian, so I carry my own spoon. People say that you're being casteist, so this is a superiority? How do you deal with people who criticize on any reason?

Sudha Murty: Let them talk. I don't have control on them. Let them talk.

NDTV: You ever look at social media?

Sudha Murty: I don't see. Let them write what they want to write. Because there's no control on everyone. And second thing it is what they think, what I think about myself is more important than what others think of me. So I don't worry.

NDTV: Mr Murthy, you're often much more outspoken on what you think, even when it was I remember about a decade ago when he talked about CEO salaries. Even now, we're looking at what's currently happening with startups and there are many cautionary tales as well, everything can't be a success. But we see what happens with something like BYJU'S, we see startups opening and shutting down and the worry about where the Indian startup industry is doing very, very well but also the lessons that need to be learned, what would be your advice, as somebody who really was the father of this?

NR Narayana Murthy: I think capitalism is new to India. Therefore, we the evangelists of capitalism, have a huge responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that the large part of the Indian community, Indian population, understands, appreciates, empathizes and sympathizes with our, our struggle, our crusade, to enhance the prosperity of India, using capitalism as an instrument, which is entrepreneurship in a free market. But as leaders or as evangelists of capitalism, we have to ensure that we lead as simple a life as possible. We have to ensure that there is a limit on the greed that we demonstrate, we ensure that there is a certain fairness in the in the compensation that we take with, with the lowest level employee. So these are all things that that we have to accept it as given, as necessary in an environment, in India, where capitalism is still new, and is used with a lot of suspicion. That's to mark my view.

NDTV: In fact, in the book also you talk about that whole, when you said very clearly that you for you, cleaning your own toilets was something which was a matter of principle again. Now, again, when you have young children growing up, it's hard perhaps to convince them or to teach them to follow the same principles, especially with the teenagers and asking questions, how did you keep that going or that conversation, especially when it came to something which in India is still seen as taboo of cleaning your own toilets, in many families, and especially in many rich families.

NR Narayana Murthy: No, I think children are very curious, they have lots of questions, they observe and they are inference. So, therefore, when they asked me those questions, I would explain to them gently and affectionately that these are the best ways of respecting other people, because in our society, there was always a feeling that those who cleaned toilets are less than you. Therefore, I would tell them that look, nobody is less than us. It so happened that we have been put into a very advantageous situation by God. So we cannot take that as our right, we cannot take it with a sense of arrogance, therefore, to the extent possible, we should try and do thing that will give us a sense that we are trying to be as fair to the society as possible. They would they would understand, both the children understood very well. They all they were very curious, bright, and inquisitive children. Absolutely.

NDTV: You've written about, Chitra has written about how Rohan used to have many more questions. So for instance, he liked eating if he wanted to go to a restaurant for his birthday. And you tried to explain to him at that time, Infosys was doing well, but you tried to explain to him on how the money should be used. Tell us about that.

Sudha Murty: I always told children you know, I used to take them to my work and see how other people live. So I told Rohan once, now we're working in a tribal area. Look at those children. They're as bright maybe brighter than you. Okay. But you are born this side of that line. So you have all the advantage. So you have a duty towards them. Now celebrating a birthday in a big way. You may say, you may waste, I mean you spent that money and it's a one day affair. If you say the same money and give it to these people, who would like to study it can change their lives. For you. It may be a small amount, for them it's a life changing money right? It can we can pay their fees. So I told this is my opinion is birthdays come and go, we are not Mahatma Gandhi. We are not Shri Rama Chandra we are not Sri Rama, sorry Shri Krishna where their birthdays are celebrated by whole country and we are ordinary people. The birthday comes every year, it is not like it won't come next year, it comes.

NDTV: You're a deeply spiritual and devout person. How do you define when you see, even in the book that talks about how your faith has come to your help in many, many difficult situations?

Sudha Murty: So, it is my personal thing, but faith has helped me. For example, whenever I'm down whenever I have difficulties, then you know, I was brought up in a village where we did not have electricity. And that time was the only ways reading classics like you know, reading our Ramayana and Mahabharata because my grandfather was a Sanskrit scholar. So he always taught those things you know, or mythology. So whenever I have difficulties I always think who we call God, they also underwent a lot of difficulties. Krishna, when he was born, he was taken away from his mother. And he was also called Ranchod ji because he did not fight Jarasandha in Mathura. When Rama was born, in a royal family, but 14 years he went to exile. So it taught me that when you are a human being, difficulties do come in your life and you have to accept it and you should not run away from that, you have to face it and find a solution. So my mythology has helped me to face the difficult situations which are not favourable to you.

NDTV: Of course, I said, I remember when your daughter got married actually, again simplicity, you had a very simple wedding in Bengaluru. Today, your son-in-law is the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Did you ever imagine that and you especially, have always been so against VIP culture, even Akshata came to Delhi she would not sit in the front row at your Padma Bhushan ceremony. Do you think your children have taken those values, are completely anti-VIP culture? How do they react when things are said about them? About Akshata? About Rishi or about you? How do you, how does Akshata react to this, what is the response? What do you tell them to avoid?

Sudha Murty: I always tell them, people talk because of your position. And if you're honest, if you're helping your country, your job what you're doing. People will always talk. Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai yeh kehna. So ignore that. And as long as the law, what work you do is ethically, legally, right, do that. And you don't have to have anybody as that witness, God is a witness and do your law, let them talk? It may affect you for some time. But in the long range, you should learn to let them talk, I will do my work.

NDTV: Did you think that the young groom would one day be Prime Minister and what is your advice to Akshata?

NR Narayana Murthy: You know, as foreigners, we have this respect for not commenting on the affairs of another country.. Therefore, we just do not comment on those issues. We of course, we have very close harmonious and affectionate personal relations. But that's where it stops.

NDTV: And lovely granddaughters.

NR Narayana Murthy: Yes of course, two of them and we have a grandson Ekagrah, Rohan and Aparna's child Ekagrah, he's just two months and seven or eight days old, seven days old. Two months, and seven days old.

NDTV: Congratulations, because you said that even when you go to Great Britain no special treatment at immigration or anything you wait in the same lines as everyone else.

Sudha Murty: Of course, everybody at the airport must wait their turn.

NDTV: Chitra, did you find that because I think there's so much curiosity about Murthys also in whether the public persona, how authentic it is. That you've actually, when you've written this is not something new. This is not a cultivated persona for cameras or for social media. It's something that they believe in from their childhoods really.

Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni: I felt that they were very open to me and that what you see is what you get. That the Murthys have never been interested in creating a public persona that people will look up to, and maybe, you know, kind of bow down to. They just say what's on their minds, and they really don't care that much. They feel that they need to stay true to their values, they realize that they're not perfect people. They stay with their values, they stay with their opinions. It may not be something that others agree with. It may not be something that others will admire, but they stay true to themselves. And I found that very interesting, and also, in a very human way, courageous and inspiring as I was talking to them, and I was taking notes and I would ask them things. They just told me what was on their minds. They didn't think, well, how is this going to look when the book comes out? And I really appreciated that level of frankness, honesty and trust.

NDTV: And in fact, the question often asked now, that was what next? This is a book of course on the early life. But what next for Mr Narayana Murthy? What next for a man who really was the pioneer of the Indian IT industry? I think Infosys went from an initial capital of $250 to a market cap now billions of dollars. You believed in patriotism, you believed in doing more? Would you ever look at a career in politics? The whole theory always that do you want to be the President of India? Would you look at public service as politics?

NR Narayana Murthy: No, I think I'm too old for any of that. I'm now 78. Therefore, this is the time for me to enjoy the progress of our grandchildren, the progress of our children, the progress of our younger colleagues, this is the time for me to read more about physics, mathematics, philosophy, economics and other things. This is the time to enjoy music. This is the time when to the extent possible, I should be seen but not heard. Ideal, ideal, but that's very difficult.

NDTV: Sudha Ji, I I'm going to ask you the same question because we have Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan and it was wonderful to see you also at Rashtrapati Bhavan with President Murmu. Again, it's so inspirational. What about you? Do you think you would ever intend to do public service, maybe look at politics?

Sudha Murty: I've done public service, I helped people. I've handled 14 national disasters and one pandemic. So I do public service. But I don't require a position for that. I'm happy like this. So, I want this story time is another way of servicing, giving the good moral values.

NDTV: As an agent of change.

Sudha Murty: Next generation, because people don't stay with grandparents now. Because of the urbanization, smaller house. Grandparents also do not want to stay. So in the process, there is nobody at home who can tell them the stories. So this is another way of service. I'm converting them, my daughter-in-law is converting them into a digital media and children can see it and enjoy.

NDTV: And India of course is celebrating its Republic Day, what as you look, and again, I'm saying Mr Murthy because you've already seen a whole trajectory of India. The whole changes that are coming around. And also the, in the sense that India geopolitically also in a very different position than it was, perhaps when you started off as a young man. When you look today, what would you say are the biggest opportunities you see for this great nation? And the biggest challenges? What would be your advice or your thoughts as we end this interview?

NR Narayana Murthy: Well, I think there are many countries that have shown the path towards betterment. China is a great example. There already are somewhere around six times, or five and a half times the GDP of India, 19.6 trillion or so. Singapore has done a very good job, the per capita GDP is higher than the US. There are countries like Malaysia, Thailand, etc, which have become middle income countries. So I think the path to betterment is very clear. I think as long as we use our intellect, as long as we use our value system, as long as we use our desire for betterment of India, in a very positive way, and bring the betterment of people who were born with fewer opportunities than we were. I think that's the best that we can all do. And that's the best that I would hope for the country. That every Indian who has had that opportunity to progress should think of those who have not had and in a very positive way contribute.

NDTV: Mr Murthy, your biggest achievement and biggest regret.

NR Narayana Murthy: So, I don't know whether I have to say it's my achievement, the achievement of my younger colleagues and I, as well as the early adopters. With that, as a team, we created the first and the largest experiment in democratization of wealth. We distributed 19% of the wealth of Infosys. Today, it's probably about 18-19 billion dollars. I myself, made sure that I was quite generous with my younger co-founders. And we ran the company with good governance, definitely between 1981 when I found it, and 2014 when I stepped out of it. We also work very hard to demonstrate that even Indians can aspire to a certain level of excellence amongst the committee of nations. I think in some way, these are some of the things that we did together as a team,

NR Narayana Murthy: Well, I think in some way, I could have spent more time with my children. But again, you know, as I told you earlier, life is all about prioritizing. Life is all about using your time for what you think had the best multiplier. So therefore, yes, I could have spent more time with family, with my wife, with my children.

NDTV: Well, it's never too late for that. So it really has been wonderful.

NR Narayana Murthy: But they don't have time now. That's the problem.

NDTV: That's the cycle of life, really. But it has been wonderful to read this book. And I think it really gave us, gave me an insight into two as I said, equal partners. Thank you very much Sudha Murthy and NR Narayana Murthy and Chitra Banerjee Devakaruni for bringing us this wonderful insight. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you Chitra.

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