Posts Tagged ‘Infosys Technologies Limited’

Narayana Murthy and the Netaji Bose fixation

25 January 2011

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: Cutting across all ideological colours, many of us seem to enjoy playing an occasional game of counterfactual fantasy.

It’s called, “If only we had the right leader!

Socialists, for example, like to fantasise on how India would have turned out had Jayaprakash Narayan been Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s choice, first to assist him in creating a new India and thereafter to succeed him as the undisputed leader of India.

What inspires such fantasising is not only JP’s impeccable moral core but also his leadership for nearly two decades of the socialist faction within the Indian National Congress, which enabled him to build a stronger left-centre alliance by bringing in stalwarts such as Ram Manohar Lohia and Acharya Narendra Dev into a governing coalition.

Admittedly, JP, Lohia and Narendra Dev were Nehru’s ideological cohorts rather than any of his cabinet colleagues. At the heart of this fantasy is also the fondest hope that such a move would have eliminated the need for Indira Gandhi to have entered into politics.

Many to the right of the socialists fantasise how India could have overcome many of our security and development related issues, if only Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had led India instead of Nehru after India attained independence in 1947.

To these, Subhash Chandra Bose would have been even better.

I am a professional student of history and yet, many a times, I do not understand this never-ending ‘man-crush’ on Subhash Chandra Bose.

On Sunday, Bose’s 114th birthday, our beloved Infosys chief mentor, N.R. Narayana Murthy, delivering the annual Netaji oration “If only Netaji had participated in post-independence nation building” in Calcutta, suggested that Netaji Bose could have taken ‘India past China’.

The Economic Times quotes Murthy as saying the following:

# “I believe India would have been a powerful exporter much before China if only Netaji had a frontseat in our policy making along with (Jawaharlal) Nehru… India would have seized the opportunity the world offered and would have become the second most powerful economy in the world…

# “Netaji was one of the most courageous leaders in India. Netaji was a real bold Indian leader who could have stood up to anyone… courage is one attribute which is more important in leadership than any other quality…

# “India would have embraced modern methods of scientific agriculture and made us food surplus year on year. India would have embraced industrialisation better and become more export oriented than relying on import substitution which has led to all kinds of problems.”

# “He would have continued and perhaps would have accelerated our efforts to control population through fair and transparent method.”

There’s no denying that the muscular, aggressive centre-right nationalism of Netaji Bose will always be appealing to some. Bose also famously differed with Gandhi throughout the 1930s, and that too makes him an attractive character for the Gandhi–haters amongst us.

His prison break, and the subsequent travels all over the world in search of allies and arms to fight against British imperialism is an absolutely romantic story, although one could say there is nothing romantic about joining hands with Nazis and Fascists, even if it is to liberate one’s homeland.

Still, I don’t get the love for Bose.

Narayana Murthy seems to believe that the courage displayed by Netaji Bose is an indicator of leadership qualities, and more importantly, the kind of public policy he would have advocated.

How could we surmise, as Murthy does, that had Netaji been part of the post-independent leadership, India would have benefited “in areas like economic progress, population control and adopting modern agricultural methods”?

Here is the danger in the kind of lazy thinking Murthy seems to be indulging in: that we reduce all the great problems faced by humanity—be it poverty and hunger, sickness and general well being, inequality and oppression—to the absence of the right kind of leadership.

Our corporate titans, in India and in the west, are often guilty of exaggerating the role of leadership. All that is required is the right, aggressive, problem-solving leader and humanity would be better off!

Our politicians too seek to cash in on the Netaji. Karnataka’s beleaguered chief minister, B.S.Yediyurappa found time to promise a one crore rupee grant so that a book on the Netaji could be written and distributed to the school children of Karnataka.

Now, this is something which the historian in me finds worthy of backing. Only if I were to get the contract to write and publish the book. And why not? I am a credentialed historian and very, very eager to serve my State.

Photograph: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on the cover of Time magazine in 1938

Also read: Narayana Murthy to revive Swatantra Party?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is it all over for socialism?

The sad truth is Netaji Bose would be 109 years old today

More demcoratic India gets, less the Congress does

To get you the right angle, they sit at odd angles

13 January 2011

Newspaper photographers bend, kneel down and squat to take a bottom-up view of Infosys chief executive officer and managing director, “KrisGopalakrishnan in Bangalore on Thursday.

The IT bellwether’s third-quarter results, which were below expectations of Dalal Street, pushed down the 30-stock Bombay sensitive index, Sensex, by 350 points.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Was Phaneesh Murthy Infy’s real star?

CHURUMURI POLL: Was Phaneesh Infy’s real star?

11 January 2011

Once the ink over the “integration” of the IT company iGate with another IT company Patni dries down, the $1.2 billion deal brings up a nice, bitchy question: has Phaneesh Murthy sent a nice, subliminal message to his old Infosys friends (and foes) by picking up the company where N.R. Narayana Murthy cut his IT teeth?

In interviews with the pink papers, P. Murthy strikes just the kind of I-am-above-that-kind-of-cheap-stuff note that bosses do at occasions such as these, with a cigar in their mouth. In one powwow, he says that the iGate-Patni deal is “not about egos but global ambitions“. In another, he says he is not “settling any personal scores“.

Be that as it may, iGate’s purchase of Patni, a company two-and-a-half times its size, has irony written all over it. For, P. Murthy had to unceremoniously exit The Other Murthy’s company, which he helped grow from $2 million in 1992 to $700 million in 2002 as its global sales head, following sexual harassment charges.

Although the sexual harassment charges, levelled first by his former executive assistant Reka Maximovitch and later by another former Infosys employee, are not to be sniffed at, there were plenty of rumours in Silicon Halli back then, especially given the buzz was P. Murthy was actually N.R.N. Murthy’s chosen one.

In other words….

In managing to dust off the allegations, in starting successful consulting and tech companies, in unsuccessfully bidding for Satyam, and now picking up Patni in just eight short years, has P. Murthy finally shown what he is made of? That you can’t keep a good man down, at least not for too long?

That he, Phaneesh Murthy, was the real star, the brains, behind Infosys’ rise as an IT giant, before his flight was suddenly grounded?

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world

5 January 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: At the outset, let me state three things loudly and clearly before the bricks start landing.

1) All things considered, the honesty and integrity of prime minister Manmohan Singh and his family is beyond debate.

2) Some things considered, the reputation of Infosys as a practitioner of “best practices” is well earned.

3) Whatever we might argue, Amartya Sen is one of the glittering stars on our intellectual firmament.

That said, we have to ask if either or all three of them have covered themselves with glory with Professor Upinder Singh of Delhi University being honoured with the inaugural Infosys Prize in social sciences “in recognition of her contributions as an outstanding historian of ancient and early medieval Indian history.”

The booty: a cash award of Rs 25 lakh, a 22 carat gold medallion, and a citation.

The catch: Upinder Singh happens to be Manmohan Singh’s daughter.

***

The academic qualifications of Upinder Singh (an MA and MPhil in history from Delhi University, and a PhD from Canada for an epigraphic study of kings, brahamanas and temples in Orissa) are not in question. Nor are her professional accomplishments: a 2008 history of India from the stone age to the 12th century.

Her commitment to free speech is well known: she has challenged the Marxist view of Indian history and challenged right-wing fundamentalists who questioned her inclusion of A.K. Ramanujan‘s Three Hundred Ramayanas for reading in the BA syllabus of Delhi University.

The question, plainly and simply, is of propriety.

# Should a major corporate be handing out huge cash prizes to the progeny of high political figures?

# Should they be accepting it so eagerly and happily, howsoever valid their claims to it?

# And because neither the media nor academia questions it, does it become all right in the eyes of the world?

***

The Infosys Prize is handed out by the Infosys Science Foundation which was set up with a corpus of Rs 45 crore  in February last year “to promote world-class research in the natural and social sciences in India”. (In addition, Infosys will contribute Rs 4.6 crore towards prize money and expenses every year.)

The prize is to be handed out in five categories: physical sciences, mathematical sciences, life sciences, social sciences and economics.

The Prize is “Infosys Technologies’ commitment to the country to promote and honour outstanding research efforts.” Its objective is to “elevate the prestiage of scientific research in India and to inspite young Indians to pursue a career in scientific research.”

As Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy puts it:

“India needs bright minds in academia, government, business, military and society to strive for global excellence. It is academia that provides bright minds for all other areas in any society. Research is an important dimension of excellence in academia. This award honours outstanding researchers who will make a difference to India’s future.”

While all that is commendable and unquestionable, the question remains: was only Upinder Singh worthy of this singular honour in this, the first year of the Infosys Prize?

***

Infosys, which has generated the buzz it sought to create by instituting and awarding the Prize in the presence of the prime minister, can wash its hands off and justly claim that it went by the jury’s recommendations.

The social sciences jury was chaired by the unimpeachable Amartya Sen. But were Prof Sen or his colleagues on the jury especially qualified to recognise Upinder Singh’s stellar qualifications?

The jury’s citation reads:

“Professor Upinder Singh is being recognized for her rich contributions as an outstanding historian of ancient and early medieval India. The depth and breadth of her scholarly research are matched by a rare ability to communicate her findings to a broad audience of students and intellectually curious non-specialists. She has been a pioneer in supplementing literary sources with an impressive array of archaeological, epigraphic and numismatic evidence to brilliantly reconstruct early Indian history. The vast chronological span of her scholarship stretches across millennia from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic ages to 1200 CE.

“Equally impressive is the geographical spread of her research, covering all the diverse regions of India. Attentive to regional distinctions, Singh is able to offer an overarching and subtle interpretation of Indian history and culture. As an innovative scholar who enables her readers to re-envision the idea of India, Singh is an ideal recipient of the inaugural Infosys Prize in Social Sciences – History.”

The social sciences jury comprised, besides economist Sen, two economists and three historians: Princeton economist Avinash Dixit and Berkeley economist Pranab Bardhan; Harvard historian Sugata Bose, Cambridge historian Christopher Alan Bayly and former Oxford historian Tapan Raychaudhuri.

Bose is a professor of modern economic, social and politial history; Bayly is a professor of imperial and naval history; and Chaudhuri is a former professor of Indian history and civilisation.

To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: “Of all the historians in all the Universities of the world, we zeroed in on a professor of ancient and early medieval history who also happens to the prime minister’s daughter?”

***

It can be argued that Clean Mr Singh is not the sort who will be swayed by things like these. As a man of letters himself, he is likely to see the award for what it is: a gifted daughter earning her just desserts on her own merit.

It goes without saying that the prime minister and his daughter are adult individuals and professionals in their own right; it is wrong to club them or see them together beyond a point.

After all, Manmohan Singh’s youngest daughter, Amrit Singh, is a fine lawyer who has fought long and hard for the rights of inmates at Guantanamo Bay. If we do not see Amrit Singh’s efforts in conjunction with Manmohan Singh, why should we smell a rat in Upinder getting an award?

It can also be argued that neither Infosys, which is now the byword for Indian IT, nor its eminent social sciences jury has anything to gain by handing out a prize to his daughter.

So, why should we question it?

The answer is propriety.

Either you can spot it, or you don’t.

***

Photograph: (from left) Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy, Prof Amartya Sen, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prof Upinder Singh, Infosys chief Krish Gopalakrishnan and Infosys director T.V. Mohandas Pai at glittering ceremony at the Taj Palace hotel in New Delhi on 4 January 2009.


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