This is written by Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys Chairman Narayanamurthy,in Ananda Vikatan (newsletter), about her life and the story of How Infosys was born......its goes like this from the proverbial horse's mouth...
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. Most of the books that
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
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
in the group. But Murty was relentless and we all decided to meet for
the next day at 7.30 p.m. at Green Fields hotel on the Main Road, Pune.
next day I went there at 7 o clock since I had to go to the tailor near
hotel. And what do I see? Mr Murty waiting in front of the hotel and it
Till today, Murty maintains that I had mentioned consciously!) that I
be going to the tailor At 7 so that I could meet him... And I maintain
I did not say any such thing consciously or unconsciously because I did
think of Murty as anything other than a friend at that stage. We have
to disagree on this matter. Soon, we became friends. Our conversations
filled with Murty's experiences abroad and the books that he has read.
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
said, I want
to tell you something.
I knew this was it. It was coming. He said, I am 5'4" tall. I come from
lower middle class family. I can never become rich in my life and I can
never give you any riches. You are beautiful, bright, intelligent and
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
build an orphanage... When I went to Hubli I told my parents about Murty
his proposal. My mother was positive since Murty was also from
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
research assistant and was earning less than me. He was willing to go
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
man to take care of my daughter if he cannot keep an appointment, asked
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
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
become a politician in the communist party and wanted to open an
My father gave his verdict. NO.
I don't want my daughter to marry somebody who wants to become a
and then open an orphanage when he himself didn't have money to support
family. Ironically, today, I have opened many orphanages something,
wanted to do 25 years ago. By this time I realized I had developed a
towards Murty, which could only be termed as love. I wanted to marry
because he is an honest man. He proposed to me highlighting the
his life. I promised my father that I would 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.
Murty refused saying he will not do things in life because somebody
him to. So, I was caught between the two most important people in my
The stalemate continued for three years during which our courtship took
to every restaurant and cinema hall in Pune. In those days, Murty was
broke. Moreover, he didn't earn much to manage. Ironically today, he
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 aintained a book on Murty's debt to me.
No, he never returned the money and I finally tore it up after my
The amount was a little over Rs 4000. During this interim period Murty
his job as research assistant and started his own software business.
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
wanted to marry me since he was to go on training to the US after
My father gave in as he was happy Murty had a decent job, now.
WE WERE MARRIED IN MURTY'S HOUSE IN BANGALORE ON FEBRUARY 10, 1978 WITH
OUR TWO FAMILIES PRESENT. I GOT MY FIRST SILK SARI. THE WEDDING EXPENSES
CAME TO ONLY RS 800 (US $ 17) WITH MURTY AND I POOLING IN RS 400 EACH.
went to the US with Murty after marriage. Murty encouraged me to see
on my own because I loved travelling. I toured America for three months
backpack and had interesting experiences, which will remain fresh in my
Like the time when I was taken into custody by the New York police
they thought I was an Italian trafficking drugs in Harlem. Or the time
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
midnight. He thought I was either killed or kidnapped.
IN 1981 MURTY
TO START INFOSYS. HE HAD A VISION AND ZERO CAPITAL... initially I was
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 paycheck and I didn't want to
the boat. But Murty was passionate about creating good quality software.
decided to support him. Typical of Murty, he just had a dream and no
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
sabbatical leave. I will take care of the financial needs of our house.
go and chase your dreams without any worry. But you have only three
Murty and his six colleagues started Infosys in 1981, with enormous
and hard work. In 1982 I left Telco and moved to Pune with Murty. We
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
and stayed with his mother while I went to Hubli to deliver my second
Rohan. Ten days after my son was born, Murty left for the US on project
I saw him only after a year as I was unable to join Murty in the US
my son had infantile eczema, an allergy to vaccinations. So for more
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
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,
assistant et al. Nandan Nilekani (MD of Infosys) and his wife Rohini
While Rohini babysat my son, I wrote programmes for Infosys. There was
car, no phone, just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling
lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape. It was not only me
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...
was involved with Infosys initially. Nandan Nilekani suggested I should
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
company my husband was building and that I would have to give up a job
I am qualified to do and love doing. It took me a couple of days to
the reason behind Murty's request.
I realised 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.
the two of us had to give 100 percent to Infosys then what would
our home and our children? One of us had to take care of our home
other took care of Infosys. I opted to be a homemaker, after all
was Murty's dream. It was a big sacrifice but it was one that had to be
Even today, Murty says, Sudha, I stepped on your career to
You are responsible for my success. I might have given up my career for
husband's sake. But that does not make me a doormat... Many think that
have been made the sacrificial lamb at Narayan Murty's altar of success.
A few women journalists have even accused me of setting a wrong example
giving up my dreams to make my husbands a reality. Isn't freedom about
living your life the way you want it? What is right for one person
wrong for another. It is up to the individual to make a choice that is
effective in her life. I feel that when a woman gives up her right to
choose for herself is when she crosses over From being an individual to
doormat. Murty's dreams encompassed notonly himself but a generation of
people. It was about founding something worthy, exemplary and
It was about creation and distribution of wealth. His dreams were
than my career plans, in all aspects.
So, when I had to choose between Murty's career and mine, I opted for
I thought was a right choice. We had a home and two little children.
Measles, mumps,fractures, PTA meetings, wants and needs of growing
do not care much for grandiose dreams. They just needed to be attended
Somebody had to take care of it all. Somebody had to stay back to
home base that would be fertile for healthy growth, happiness, and more
dreams to dream. I became that somebody willingly. I can confidently
that if I had had a dream like Infosys, Murty would have given me his
The roles would have been reversed. We are not bound by the archaic
marriage. I cook for him but I don't wait up to serve dinner like a
traditional wife. So, he has no hassles about heating up the food and
having his dinner. He does not intrude into my time especially when I
writing my novels. He does not interfere in my work at theInfosys
and I don't interfere with the running of Infosys.
I teach Computer Science to MBA and MCA students at Christ college for a
hours every week and I earn around Rs 50, 000 a year. I value this
independence greatly though there is no need for me to pursue a teaching
career. Murty respects that. I travel all over the world without Murty
because he hates travelling. We trust each other implicitly. We have
another understanding too. While he earns the money, I spend it, mostly
through the charity. Philanthropy is a profession and an art... The
Foundation was born in 1997 with the sole objective of uplifting the
less-privileged sections of society.
IN THE PAST THREE YEARS WE HAVE BUILT HOSPITALS, ORPHANAGES,
REHABILITATION CENTRES, SCHOOL BUILDINGS, SCIENCE CENTRES AND MORE THAN
3500 LIBRARIES. Our work is mainly in the rural areas amongst women and
children. I am one of the trustees and our activities span six states
including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Orissa, Chandigarh and
Maharashtra. I travel to around 800 villages constantly. Infosys
has a minimal staff of three trustees and three office members.
We all work very hard to achieve our goals and that is the reason why
Infosys Foundation has a distinct identity. Every year we donate around
Rs 5- 6 crore (Rs 50 - 60 million). We run Infosys Foundation the way
runs Infosys in a professional and scientific way. Philanthropy is a
profession and an art. It can be used or misused. We slowly want to
the donations and we dream of a time when Infosys Foundation could
large amounts of money. Every year we receive more than 10,000
Everyday I receive more than 120 calls. Amongst these, there are those
genuinely need help and there are hood winkers too. I receive letters
asking me to donate Rs five lakh to someone because five lakh is, like
peanuts to Infosys. Some people write to us asking for free Infosys
Over the years I have learnt to differentiate the wheat from the chaff,
though I still give a patient hearing to all the cases. Sometimes I
I have lost the ability to trust people. I have become shrewder to
It saddens me to realize that even as a person is talking to me I try
analyse them: Has he come here for any donation? Why is he praising my
or enquiring about my health, does h e want some money from me? Eight
of ten times I am right. They do want my money. But I feel bad for the
other two whom I suspected. I think that is the price that I have to
for the position that I am in now. The greatest difficulty in having
is teaching your children the value of it and trying to keep them on a
Bringing up children in a moneyed atmosphere is a difficult task. EVEN
TODAY I THINK TWICE IF I HAVE TO SPEND RS 10 ON AN AUTO WHEN I CAN WALK
TO MY HOUSE. I cannot expect my children to do the same. They have seen
money from the time they
were born. But we can lead by example. When they see Murty wash his own
plate after eating and clean the two toilets in the house everyday they
realise that no work is demeaning irrespective of how rich you are. I
DON'T HAVE A MAID AT HOME BECAUSE I DON'T SEE THE NEED FOR ONE. When
children see both parents working hard, living a simple life, most of
time they tend to follow.
This doesn't mean we expect our children to live an austere life. My
children buy what they want and go where they want but they have to
certain rules. They will have to show me a bill for whatever they buy.
daughter can buy five new outfits but she has to give away five old
son can go out with his friends for lunch or dinner but if he wants to
to a five star hotel, we discourage it. Or we accompany him. So far my
children haven't given me any heartbreak. They are good children. My
daughter is studying abroad, whereas my son is studying in Bangalore.
don't use their father's name in vain. If asked, they only say that his
name is Murty and that he works for Infosys. They don't want to be
recognised and appreciated because of their father or m e but for
I DON'T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT HAVING MONEY FOR WE HAVE WORKED HARD FOR IT.
I DON'T FEEL COMFORTABLE FLAUNTING IT... IT IS A CONSCIOUS DECISION ON
PART TO LIVE A SIMPLE, SO- CALLED MIDDLE CLASS LIFE. WE LIVE IN THE
TWO- BEDROOM, SPARSELY FURNISHED HOUSE BEFORE INFOSYS BECAME A SUCCESS.
only extravagance is buying books and CDs. MY HOUSE HAS NO LOCKERS FOR
HAVE NO JEWELS. I WEAR A STONE EARRING WHICH I BOUGHT IN BOMBAY FOR RS
I don't even wear My mangalsutra until I attend some family functions
I am with my mother-in-law. I am not fond of jewellery or saris. Five
ago, I went to Kashi where tradition demands that you give up something
I gave up shopping. Since then I haven't bought myself a sari or gone
shopping. It is my friends who gift me with saris. Murty bought me a
long time ago. It was not to my taste and I told him to refrain from
saris for me
in the future. I am no good at selecting men's clothes either. It is my
daughter who does the shopping for us. I still have the same sofa at
which my daughter wants to change. However, we have indulged ourselves
each one having their own music system and computer. I don't carry a
and neither does Murty most of the time. I do tell him to keep some
change with him but he doesn't. I borrow money from my secretary or my
driver if I need cash. They know my habit so they always carry extra
with them. But I settle the accounts every evening. MURTY AND I ARE VERY
COMFORTABLE WITH OUR LIFESTYLE AND WE DON'T SEE THE NEED TO CHANGE IT.
THAT WE HAVE MONEY.
Murty and I are two opposites that complement each other... Murty is
sensitive and romantic in his own way. He always gifts me books
to From Me to You. Or to the person I most admire etc. We both love
We are both complete opposites. I am an extrovert and he is an
love watching movies and listening to classical music. Murty loves
to English classical music. I go out for movies with my students and
secretary every other week. I am still young at heart.
I really enjoyed watching "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" and I am a Hrithik Roshan
fan. It has been more than 20 years since Murty and I went for a movie.
My daughter once gave us a surprise by booking tickets for Titanic.
had a prior engagement that day, Murty went for the movie with his
secretary Pandu. I love travelling whereas Murty loves spending time at
e. Friends come and go with the share prices... Even in my dreams, I
not expect Infosys to grow like the way it has.
I don't think even Murty envisioned this phenomenal success, at least
in 1981. After Infosys went public in 1993, we became what people would
call as rich, moneyed people. I was shocked to see what was happening
Infosys and to us. Suddenly you see and hear about so much money. Your
and photo is splashed in the papers. People talk about you. It was all
SUDDENLY I HAVE PEOPLE WALKING UP TO ME SAYING, OH, WE WERE SUCH GOOD
FRIENDS, WE HAD A MEAL 25 YEARS AGO. THEY CLAIM TO HAVE BEEN PRESENT AT
WEDDING (WHICH IS AN UTTER LIE BECAUSE ONLY MY FAMILY WAS
PRESENT AT MY WEDDING). I DON'T EVEN KNOW ALL THESE PEOPLE WHO CLAIM TO
KNOW MURTY AND ME SO WELL. But that doesn't mean I don't have true
friends. I do have genuine friends, a handful, who have been with me
very long time. My equation with these people has not changed and vice
I am also very close to Narayan Murty's family, especially my
Kamala Murty, a school teacher, who is more of a dear friend to me. I
discovered that these are the few relationships and friendships that
fluctuate depending on the price of Infosys shares. Have I lost my
as a woman, in Murty's shadow?... No.
I might be Mrs Narayan Murty. I might be Akshata and Rohan's mother. I
might be the trustee of Infosys Foundation. But I am still Sudha..I
different roles like all w omen. That doesn't mean we don't have our
identity. Women have that extra quality of adaptability and learn to
into different shoes. But we are our own selves still. And we have to
exact our freedom by making the right choices in our lives, dictated by
and not by the world. SUDHA URTHY Habitat for Humanity
Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when I add value
others. - JCM
Sent by Mr.K.VENKATA RAVI SEKHAR