A vision for a better life

How does one assess the impact of two decades of economic reforms? Has it been an unmixed blessing? The response of an entrepreneur ruined by import liberalization can be starkly different from the views of a business leader from IT sector that has immensely benefited by the new climate. Infosys founder chairman N R Narayana Murthy is one such leader who has spearheaded the IT revolution in India. He has shown the laggards in industry how to successfully compete internationally by benchmarking on a global scale.

In a Better India: A Better World, he frankly articulates his vision of a better life through innovative entrepreneurship. He emerges as an unabashed votary of economic reforms and globalization. He wants market as the arbiter and government as the facilitator. The volume is a collection of his well-researched and well-argued lectures delivered across the world. It covers the whole gamut of contemporary India, values, leadership, corruption, education, public governance and corporate ethos. He offers his own solutions. Excellence is his goal; decency, honesty and transparency are his means.

Narayana Murthy is convinced that the only way to tackle poverty is through entrepreneurship resulting in job creation on a massive scale. He buttresses the argument by drawing heavily on the experience of Infosys that practises compassionate capitalism.

Corporate social responsibility is the buzzword now. More and more corporates are realizing the need to plough back to society a portion of the wealth created for poverty alleviation. The author argues the need to enthuse more affluent Indians to become active participants in philanthropy. It is a formidable challenge as not many have shown any inclination towards this cause so far. Infosys might have set a noble example. But most of our firms think differently. Is charity the solution to the abysmal level of poverty in India? We need more than tokenism to fight hunger, ill health and illiteracy.

While tracing his transition from a confused leftist to a quintessential capitalist, Narayana Murthy offers glimpses of Infosys’ struggle to become one of the most admired corporations without compromising on principles. It was a chance meeting with a famous American computer scientist at IIT Kanpur in 1968 that changed the course of his life. He reveals that serious discussions were held in 1991 to sell Infosys for $ 1 million! He recounts the ordeal of waiting for long hours outside RBI to get foreign exchange in the formative years of Infosys and how his wife’s jewellery had to be pledged to raise money for colleagues working at project sites abroad.

Terming urbanization as a positive thing, the author suggests large-scale transfer of farm labour to manufacturing sector as in China to reduce poverty. He wants higher education to be thrown open to the private sector. He laments the absence of role models in public life and harps on visionary leadership to solve India's problems. But he is silent on whether the dynastic politics holding sway now can provide such leadership and lead by example.

Any budding entrepreneur and management student may find the book as an invaluable guide.

A Better India A Better world
N R Narayana Murthy
Penguin, 2009,
pp 290, Rs 499

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