Saturday, November 19, 2011

Maverick: The success Story of the Most Unusual Workplace.

The book first published in 1988 is Brazil most successful non fiction work. Semler, the 34-year-old CEO, or “counselor,” of Semco, a Brazilian manufacturing firm, describes how he turned his successful company into a “natural business” in which employees hire and evaluate their bosses, dress however they want, participate in major decisions, and share in 22 percent of the profits. Semler believes that Semco is different from most companies that have participatory management because employees are given the power to make decisions–even ones, with which the CEO wouldn’t normally agree. Best for the non-delegating leader in you.

The Art of Start

Guy Kawasaki’s 4 year old best seller is one of the most talked and blogged about books for entrepreneurs. The book deals with some of the most prominent questions startups face. What does it take to turn ideas into action? What are the elements of a perfect pitch? How do you win the war for talent? How do you establish a brand without bucks? The former Apple evanglist and venture capitalist answers it all.

The High Performance Entrepreneur

This is my personal favorite by Mindtree Co-Founder Subroto Bagchi. The book includes how to decide when one is ready to launch an enterprise, selecting a team, defining the values and objectives of the company and writing the business plan to choosing the right investors, managing adversity and building the brand. This is specially recommended for high achievers who want to build high potential organizations.. you know the next Google kind of thing.

The Long Tail

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson speaks about how the future of business is in selling less of more. The book’s title quickly went on become the catchphrase among Internet marketers and enjoys an iconic status among new age entrepreneurs. Anderson uses its examples from Google, Rhapsody, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and eBay to show how the growth in a world without inventory is beyond the idea of selling more of less going towards selling to individual demands and small deep niches.


The autobiography of Lee Iacocca. The inspirational manager talks the story of his life that went saw the highs and lows as prominent player in the American automobile industry. The book primarily recounts the birth of the American classic Mustang and how it changed the face the industry while Lee got even with Ford. Lee Iacocca is an inspirational figure among many top managers of the world for his tenacity and skill and the grit he displayed to bring Chrysler back from the brink of bankruptcy. Must Read.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Making of an World class Organization:Narayana Murthy ,Infosys Co-Founder.

Here’s the farewell letter written by N.R. Narayana Murthy, Founder of Infosys to all the shareholders of the company. Here he says about Infy’s journey. It’s a must read for all followers of engineering & entrepreneurship: (Letter Credit – Infosys Annual Report 2010-2011)

Family or Company – How Tough Really It Is?

It was on one of those rare nights at home during the late eighties. I was huddling with my young children, Rohan and Akshata, when Rohan, the most mischievous child I have ever come across, asked innocently whether I loved Infosys more than him and his sister. I got away from that embarrassing situation by saying that I loved my children much more than anything else. However, even today when we reminisce about the incident my children are not fully convinced that I was telling them the truth. When I was busy overseeing every detail of the strategy and the operations of the company from designing the company logo the company song and the presentation materials signing off on every drawing and material used in every building on our campuses around the world and coming home late at night, it was difficult to argue with the innocent but correct logic of my children. When I was spending l6 hour days in the office and was away from home for as many as 330 days in a year it was hard for my children to believe in my commitment to the family.

There is no doubt that the Infosys journey has been an integral part of my life. Most of my colleagues say that Infosys is an inseparable part of me and I am an inseparable part of Infosys I have been the Number One actor in every major decision taken in the company. I have rejoiced in every significant milestone of the company I have commiserated in every false step that this company has taken. The best analogy that I can think of for this separation between Infosys and me is that of ones daughter getting married and leaving her parents’ home. Yes, the parents will be there when she needs them and they will be happy that she is starting a new life in an exciting new environment.

Key Achievements – As Noted by Him :

It is not easy for me to write my last article in the Annual Report of the company. As I write this a mosaic of images from the past whizzes through my mind. The list seems endless and it would be difficult to narrate them all in this article. So let me highlight a few of them. The day we assembled in my tiny apartment in Mumbai to decide that respect from every stakeholder was the most valuable thing for us. The day we convinced our first US customer to close his own operations at SEEPZ and hitch his future with ours was a significant milestone for us. The day we won the MICO data center contract, starting as an underdog and going on to differentiate ourselves based on our advanced mathematical modeling competence, was a day that boosted our confidence as engineers. The day we inaugurated India’s first software campus is still vivid in my memory. Distributing 27 per cent of the company’s equity among our employees was a proud moment for those of us who have always considered the idea of sharing wealth to be an important pan of our social responsibility.

Listing in India in 1993 pushed us to become leaders in corporate governance. The joy of being India’s first software company to be certified at Level 4 of the Capability Maturity Model of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon was clearly what enhanced our own belief in quality. Sitting on a high stool at the NASDAQ headquarters in New York in front of the scorching lights of TV cameras, I borrowed the words of Neil Armstrong to tell the world how important it was for an Indian company to be listed on the NASDAQ. Opening our ultra modern offices in London, Paris, New York, Melbourne, Shanghai and Tokyo heralded our aspirations to be a global company.

The inauguration of the first education centre at Mysore by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the second one by Mrs Sonia Gandhi the President of the Indian National Congress were both sound reaffirmations of our long-held belief in the importance of education and research. Participating in the Billion Dollar Day function declaring several special dividends and bonus shares, becoming part of NASDAQ-100, starting our banking group, creating Infosys Consulting and Infosys BPO, building more than 28 million sq. ft. of world-class development centers, winning several prestigious global awards and establishing the Infosys Foundation are milestones that brought us great pride.

The Sphere of Life – As It Is and It is in fact a Roller-Coaster Ride :

There have been some moments of great dilemmas and sadness too. Bidding goodbye to perhaps the brightest of my co-founder colleagues early in the journey was disheartening. Refusing to accept unreasonable terms and walking away from business with a Fortune 10 company was a test of our resolve. Accepting the resignation of a senior colleague and dealing with the instance where our code of ethics was jeopardized were tests of adherence to our values. Deliberating all alone on the resignation offer of a co-founder is not something I would wish even upon my enemy. Being accused of violating our own high standard of business ethics recently made me lose several nights of sleep.

Occasional incidents of the organization turning bureaucratic the inability of some of our leaders to take quick and firm decisions and the movement company interface becoming less business-friendly from time to time are things that make me sad. But then this tapestry of happy and not so happy incidents is normal and keeps life exciting.

What have been the lessons from this extraordinary marathon? Assembling a team of extraordinary people who have displayed outstanding capabilities through their value system competence, low ego and high energy is crucial to the progress of any institution. The differentiation comes from ideas and ideas come from bright minds. Therefore, good people are the primary assets of a great organization. It is essential to realize that even the best people may not be able to run the entire marathon.

Different people run out of endurance and intellectual horsepower at different points of time. Some people drop out of the marathon since they do not see any value in an organization when their own time under the arc light is over. A leader’s responsibility is to recognize this, provide them opportunities outside the organization, and usher in suitable replacements. Infosys’ journey is replete with many such examples.

The Essence of Leadership :

Many intelligent people possess a high ego and low patience to deal with people less capable than themselves. Leaders have to manage this anomaly very carefully; counsel these errant people from time to time, and allow them to operate as long as they do not become dysfunctional and start harming the organization. If they do cross the threshold it takes courage to inform the individuals that their time in the organization is over and that they have to leave. However, one aspect that marks out a truly superior organization is the ability of its employees at all levels to be driven by values and to ensure adherence and compliance under any circumstance. No individual is high or important enough for an organization to put up with non compliance.
Leadership by example is what creates trust in people to follow a leader. As long as a leader is able to show his or her sacrifice and commitment to a cause others will follow him or her I am glad we decided on respect from our stakeholders (customers, employees, investors, vendor, partners, government of the land and the society) as the primary objective of the company. I have seen hundreds of instances of such leadership-by-example at Infosys.

A sense of ownership among employees is extremely important to build a long term future for a corporation. Such ownership comes from fair merit based and generous sharing of wealth and perquisites among each member of the company. This is my answer to many of my friends who wonder why when Infosys was founded I took a small percentage of my earlier salary while every other cofounder’s salary was increased by at least 10 per cent. The same friends tell me that they do not know of any other instance where as much as 10 to 15 per cent of the company equity was given to co-founders who had just 12 to 18 months of work experience.

I do not know of any Indian company that has given away as much as Rs 50,000 crore (at current stock prices) of stock options to employees. Today; every Indian employee at every level who joined us on or before March 2010 is a stockholder of Infosys. The point I would like to make is that such acts demonstrate that our leaders walked the talk in sacrifice and commitment. Strategy is about ensuring sustained differentiation m a changing environment for better net income margins Differentiation without better net income margins is meaningless. In my opinion operating margins and earnings before taxes depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are not appropriate measures. In fact the best measure of differentiation is the per capita free cash flow generated. Such cash flows bring cash to invest in better people research and development infrastructure training and better customer and employee confidence The famous Harvard historian Niall Ferguson says in his book Civilization: The West and the Rest that the six attributes that have made Western civilization dominant during the last five hundred years are competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumption and a good work ethic. I have been saying for many years now that the factors that differentiate a corporation from its competitors are an enduring value system open mindedness, pluralistic and meritocratic approach and practicing speed, imagination and excellence in execution. Leaders have to focus on creating such an environment.

Leadership is about taking bold and firm decisions with incomplete information in an environment of uncertainty: Leaders who waffle do not inspire confidence in their people. It is important to use as much data and modeling as possible to eliminate clearly bad decisions. My decision to walk away from a Fortune 10 company when they contributed 25 % of our revenue was one such example of decision making under uncertainty. It was a tough decision that was taken so firmly and calmly that the head of sales at Infosys at that time thought I was not bothered about the future of the company! I had to explain to him that I did indeed agonize over it but that as a leader I could not be driven by panic since such an important decision required a calm and composed mind.

Every leader must have a mental model of his or her business with at best five to seven parameters that determine sensitivity to revenue and net income. It is important to update that model suitably as the business landscape changes. Any leader who cannot quickly do such sensitivity calculation would not be able to take quick and bold decisions. Even today I carry and update the mental model of our business in my mind.

Generosity is an essential part of a leader. It is the foundation on which teamwork is built. The ability to share the limelight with ones colleagues, the ability to step aside and give opportunity to younger people when they want that fame, power and glory: and the ability to provide a safety net of advice for them is an important aspect of strengthening the future of an organization. It is not easy to give up power, particularly when you have been the object of so much adulation. I must say that Infosys has done a good job in bringing two such transitions before I leave the portals of this company.

What Makes an Organization Worldclass :

Scalability is the true test of the endurance of an organization. The ability to grow successfully without losing quality productivity employee investor and customer satisfaction and the spirit of a small company is what makes Infosys a great company. We have grown from 50 customers to 620 customers from 10 projects to 6,500 projects from 100 employees to 130,820 employees from 100 sq ft to 28 million sq ft of built up space and from 100 investors to over 450,000 investors. Such a scalability exercise has been successful thanks to our PSPD model of operation. PSPD stands for Predictability of revenues, Sustainability of such predictability, Profitability of such realized revenues and Derisking. Predictability happens because of a good forecasting system that derives realistic data from the trenches and tempers it with the wisdom of senior business leaders. Sustainability refers to the systems that help the efforts of sales people beating the pavement and meeting customers to make the prediction true, the efforts of our delivery people to deliver quality products on time within budgets, and to the efforts of our finance people raising the invoice on time and collecting money on time. Profitability refers to the systems that help our people make value-based sales, follow rigorous budgeting exercises, control costs, get best value for money and ensure the agreed-upon profitability. Derisking refers to systems that identify risks in various dimensions of our operations – people, geographies, technologies, application areas and services – collect periodic data, review the risk levels and mitigate them.

Innovation is the best instrument for creating sustained differentiation. However it must be accepted that revenues for a corporation come from well understood ideas and business models. For example, most of a bank’s revenues will come from borrowing money at a certain rate and lending it at a higher rate. Part of the profits from such models will be used for research and development to generate new ideas. A few of these ideas will be seeded and some of them will become mainstream revenue earners. Therefore, it is very important for a leader to focus on innovation particularly when the times are good.

Customers put food on our table. Therefore, we have to have a laser focus on exceeding their expectations, being open and honest with them, and ensuring that they look good in front of their customers. Employees are the only instruments we have to make our customers and investors succeed. Therefore, we have to create an environment of openness, meritocracy; fairness, transparency, honesty and accountability amongst our employees.

Our investors understand that businesses will have their share of up and downs. They want us, the management, to level with them at all times. Therefore, “when in doubt, please disclose” is a good policy for a corporation. Society provides customers, employees, investors, bureaucrats and politicians. Therefore, earning the goodwill of every society that we operate in is extremely important for us. Global benchmarking is a powerful instrument that helps us to improve our self-confidence, compete with the best global competitors and serve our customers better.

Success and Failure – We are our best friend and We are our Worst Enemies :

We Indians must recognize as we have done at Infosys that we are our main enemies. There is no external enemy. Our failures are because of our lack of commitment to our cause, our inability to accept meritocracy and our indifference to honesty and want of a good work ethic amongst our leaders. Performance alone is the key differentiator. This stems from my belief that performance leads to recognition brings respect and respect brings power. Therefore if India wants to be a superpower as we keep hoping the only instrument we have is performance.
We have demonstrated that businesses can be run legally and ethically that it is possible for an Indian company to benchmark with the global best and that any set of youngsters with values hard work team work and a little bit of smartness can indeed be successful entrepreneurs. This way we have enthused millions of young men and women in India. This in my opinion is Infosys’ greatest contribution.

I have realized that humility grace and courtesy are genuine only when you have power and glory. That is why the leaders at Infosys have practiced this time and again. Humility provides us the strength of mind to learn from people better than us. Grace and courtesy make us worthy competitors. They also remind us that such glory and power are ephemeral and give us the strength to handle the days when we too could lose our shine.

The crucial things we have to do in the future are to recognize our weaknesses; be open-minded about learning from people better than us; learn from our mistakes and not repeat them; be humble, honest and courteous; benchmark with the best in every dimension; use innovation to perform at global levels; and create a worthwhile vision and improve every day. This is how our mantra of focusing on speed imagination and excellence in execution will take this company very far.

I have absolutely no doubt about it. I wish Kris and my fellow Infoscions the best in their journey forward. The board has been kind enough to name me the Chairman Emeritus. Therefore, I will always be there to add value if asked.

Narayana Murthy

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dont let them say you can't do it

Officials rejected a candidate for a news broadcasters post since his voice was not fit for a news broadcaster.
He was also told that with his obnoxiously long name, he would never be famous.
He is Amitabh Bachchan.

A small boy--the fifth amongst seven siblings of a poor father,
was selling newspapers in a small village to earn his living.
He was not exceptionally smart at school but was fascinated by religion and rockets.
The first rocket he built crashed.
A missile that he built crashed multiple times and he was made a butt of ridicule.
He is the person to have scripted the Space Odyssey of India single-handedly.
He is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

-- - --------------------------------------------

In 1962, four nervous young musicians played their first record audition for the executives of the Decca Recording Company.
The executives were not impressed.
While turning down this group of musicians, one executive said,
"We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out."
The group was called The Beatles.


In 1944, Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency told modeling hopeful
Norma Jean Baker, "You'd better learn secretarial work or else get married".
She went on and became Marilyn Monroe.


In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired a singer after one performance.
He told him, "You ain't goin' nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck".
He went on to become Elvis Presley.


When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876,
it did not ring off the hook with calls from potential backers.
After making a demonstration call, President Rutherford Hayes said, "That's an amazing invention, but who would ever want to see one of them?"


When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he tried over 2000 experiments before he got it to work.
A young reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times.
He said, "I never failed once. I invented the light bulb.
It just happened to be a 2000-step process".


In the 1940s, another young inventor named Chester Carlson took his idea to 20 corporations, including some of the biggest in the country.
They all turned him down. In 1947, after 7 long years of rejections, he finally got a tiny company in Rochester, NY, the Haloid Company, to purchase the rights to his invention--an electrostatic paper-copying process.
Haloid became Xerox Corporation.


A little girl--the 20th of 22 children, was born prematurely and her survival was doubtful.
When she was 4 years old, she contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her with aparalyzed left leg.
At age 9, she removed the metal leg brace she had been dependent on and began to walk without it.
By 13 she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle.
That same year she decided to become a runner.
She entered a race and came in last.
For the next few years every race she entered, she came in last. Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running.
One day she actually won a race.
And then another.
From then on she won every race she entered.
Eventually this little girl--Wilma Rudolph, went on to win three Olympic gold medals.


A schoolteacher scolded a boy for not paying attention to his mathematics and for not being able to solve simple problems.
She told him that you would not become anybody in life.
The boy was Albert Einstein.

Love Story of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy…….from Sudha Murthy's Autobiography!!!

It was in Pune that I met Narayan Murty through my friend Prasanna who is now the Wipro chief, who was also training in Telco (TataMotors). Most of the books that Prasanna lent me had Murty's name on them which meant that I had a preconceived image of the man. Contrary to expectation, Murty was shy, bespectacled and an introvert. When he invited us for dinner, I was a bit taken aback as I thought the young man was making a very fast move.I refused since I was the only girl in the group. But Murty was relentless and we all decided to meet for dinner the next day at 7.30 p.m at Green Fields Hotel on the Main Road, Pune.
The next day I went there at 7o'clock since I had to go to the tailor near the hotel. And what do I see? Mr. Murty waiting in front of the hotel and it was only seven. Till today, Murty maintains that I had mentioned (consciously!) that I would be going to the tailor at 7 so that I could meet him…And I maintain that I did not say any such thing consciously or unconsciously because I did not think of Murty as anything other than a friend at that stage. We have agreed to disagree on this matter.

Soon, we became friends. Our conversations were filled with Murty's experiences abroad and the books that he has read. My friends insisted that Murty was trying to impress me because he was interested in me. I kept denying it till one fine day, after dinner Murty said, I want to tell you something. I knew this as it. It was coming.He said, I am 5′4″ tall.I come from a lower middle class family. I can never become rich in my life and I can never give you any riches. You are beautiful, bright, and intelligent and you can get anyone you want.But will you marry me?
I asked Murty to give me some time for an answer. My father didn't want me to marry a wannabe politician (a communist at that) who didn't have a steady job and wanted to build an orphanage…

When I went to Hubli I told my parents about Murty and his proposal. My mother was positive since Murty was also from Karnataka, seemed intelligent and comes from a good family. But my father asked: What's his job, his salary, his qualifications etc? Murty was working as a research assistant and was earning less than me. He was willing to go dutch with me on our outings. My parents agreed to meet Murty in Pune on a particular day at 10 a.m sharp. Murty did not turn up. How can I trust a man to take care of my daughter if he cannot keep an appointment? asked my father.At 12 noon Murty turned up in a bright red shirt! He had gone on work to Bombay, was stuck in a traffic jam on the ghats, so he hired a taxi (though it was very expensive for him) to meet his would-be father-in-law.Father was unimpressed. My father asked him what he wanted to become in life. Murty said he wanted to become a politician in the communist party and wanted to open an orphanage. My father gave his verdict. NO. I don't want my daughter to marry somebody who wants to become a communist and then open an orphanage when he himself didn't have money to support his family.

Ironically, today, I have opened many orphanages something, which Murty wanted to do 25 years ago. By this time I realized I had developed a liking towards Murty which could only be termed as love. I wanted to marry Murty because he is an honest man. He proposed to me highlighting the negatives in his life. I promised my father that I will not marry Murty without his blessings though at the same time, I cannot marry anybody else. My father said he would agree if Murty promised to take up a steady job. But Murty refused saying he will not do things in life because somebody wanted him to. So, I was caught between the two most important persons in my life.

The stalemate continued for three years during which our courtship took us to every restaurant and cinema hall in Pune. In those days, Murty was always broke. Moreover, he didn't earn much to manage. Ironically today, he manages Infosys Technologies Ltd., one of the world's most reputed companies. He always owed me money. We used to go for dinner and he would say, I don't have money with me, you pay my share, I will return it to you later. For three years I maintained a book on Murty's debt to me.. No, he never returned the money and I finally tore it up after my wedding. The amount was a little over Rs 4000. During this interim period Murty quit his job as research assistant and started his own software business. Now, I had to pay his salary too! Towards the late 70s computers were entering India in a big way.
During the fag end of 1977 Murty decided to take up a job as General Manager at Patni Computers in Bombay .. But before he joined the company he wanted to marry me since he was to go on training to the US after joining. My father gave in as he was happy Murty had a decent job, now.
I went to the US with Murty after marriage. Murty encouraged me to see America on my own because I loved travelling. I toured America for three months on backpack and had interesting experiences which will remain fresh in my mind forever. Like the time when the New York police took me into custody because they thought I was an Italian trafficking drugs in Harlem. Or the time when I spent the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with an old couple. Murty panicked because he couldn't get a response from my hotel room even at midnight. He thought I was either killed or kidnapped.
IN 1981 MURTY WANTED TO START INFOSYS. HE HAD A VISION AND ZERO CAPITAL…initially I was very apprehensive about Murty getting into business. We did not have any business background .. Moreover we were living a comfortable life in Bombay with a regular pay check and I didn't want to rock the boat. But Murty was passionate about creating good quality software. I decided to support him. Typical of Murty, he just had a dream and no money. So I gave him Rs 10,000 which I had saved for a rainy day, without his knowledge and told him, this is all I have. Take it. I give you three years sabbatical leave. I will take care of the financial needs of our house. You go and chase your dreams without any worry. But you have only three years!
Murty and his six colleagues started Infosys in 1981,with enormous interest and hard work. In 1982 I left Telco and moved to Pune with Murty. We bought a small house on loan which also became the Infosys office. I was a clerk-cum-cook-cum-programmer. I also took up a job as Senior Systems Analyst with Walchand group of Industries to support the house. In 1983, Infosys got their first client, MICO, in Bangalore .. Murty moved to Bangalore and stayed with his mother while I went to Hubli to deliver my second child, Rohan. Ten days after my son was born, Murty left for the US on project work. I saw him only after a year, as I was unable to join Murty in the US because my son had infantile eczema, an allergy to vaccinations. So for more than a year I did not step outside our home for fear of my son contracting an infection. It was only after Rohan got all his
vaccinations that I came to Bangalore where we rented a small house in Jayanagar and rented another house as Infosys headquarters. My father presented Murty a scooter to commute. I once again became a cook, programmer, clerk, secretary, office assistant et al. Nandan Nilekani (MD of Infosys) and his wife Rohini stayed with us. While Rohini babysat my son, I wrote programs for Infosys. There was no car, no phone, and just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape. It was not only me but also the wives of other partners too who gave their unstinted support. We all knew that our men were trying to build something good. It was like a big joint family,taking care and looking out for one another. I still remember Sudha Gopalakrishna looking after my daughter Akshata with all care and love while Kumari Shibulal cooked for all of us. Murty made it very clear that it would either be me or him working at Infosys. Never the two of us together… I was involved with Infosys initially.
Nandan Nilekani suggested I should be on the Board but Murty said he did not want a husband and wife team at Infosys. I was shocked since I had the relevant experience and technical qualifications. He said, Sudha if you want to work with Infosys, I will withdraw, happily. I was pained to know that I will not be involved in the company my husband was building and that I would have to give up a job that I am qualified to do and love doing.
It took me a couple of days to grasp the reason behind Murty's request.. I realized that to make Infosys a success one had to give one's 100 percent. One had to be focussed on it alone with no other distractions. If the two of us had to give 100 percent to Infosys then what would happen to our home and our children? One of us had to take care of our home while the other took care of Infosys.I opted to be a homemaker, after all Infosys was Murty's dream. It was a big sacrifice but it was one that had to be made. Even today, Murty says, Sudha, I stepped on your career to make mine.

Lost in transit

Lot has happened since I last dropped here,got married,adopted 2 canine kids,saw my life turn topsy turvy and my house a wreak as they were teething, resigned from my Job to start a new dream......But I aam back again......a new resolve , with a spring on my fingertips with old memories and new.........hoping someone will drop in .......stop for few seconds and carry on ........I am just hoping dreams and old......