Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Love Story of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy and Sudha Murthy

A Love Story of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy and
Sudha Murthy

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 7.30p.m. at
Green Fields hotel on the Main Road, Pune.
The next day I went there at 7 o’ 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 as 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 12noon 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 people 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 and 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.
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 normous
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 b! orn, 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 sacrificebut
it was one that had to be made. Even today, Murty says, Sudha, I stepped on your career
to make mine. You are responsible for my success.
Great, isn’t it? …. That’s the Power of Love.


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