Posts Tagged ‘N.R. Narayana Murthy’

One question I’m dying to ask Nandan Nilekani

10 March 2014

Like Arvind Kejriwal overshadowed Anna Hazare leaving the old man suitably stumped and stupefied, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani has taken a giant leap into electoral politics that should leave his former colleague, N.R. Narayana Murthy, moaning in his majjige-huli.

By joining the Congress a day after he was named the party’s candidate from Bangalore South, Nilekani has put his political money where his voluble mouth is, a far cry from Murthy, who after aiming to be the President of India, said he was happy to be India’s ambassador to the US, before finally returning to his parent—and sneaking in his son Rohan Murthy in a fit of meritocracy.

But parachuting in politics is the easy part, especially if you have the ear of Sonia Gandhi and the earpiece of Rahul Gandhi. The difficult part is landing, and in a few weeks from now, Bangalore South will show (and Nilekani will learn) if the “urban, educated, literate, middle-class” truly wants change, or if it is happy with Ananth Kumar.

On his YouTube channel, paid twitter messages, and super-soft interviews with business correspondents whom he courted in his previous avatar, Nilekani paints himself as a son of the soil, being born to a Minerva Mills employee, in Vani Vilas hospital, who lived in BTM layout, etc.

He even tries to speaks in Kannada.

But there is plenty Bangaloreans do not know of Nilekani. So, what is the one question you are dying to ask the Bangalore South candidate?

Like, have his number-crunchers already computed the victory (or defeat) margin on their computers? Like, will he run away, as NRN did from the Bangalore international airport project, at the first hint of criticism? Like, all Congressmen, does he too think Rahul Gandhi is god’s gift to Indian politics?

Like, does he see Rohini, Nihar or Janhavi taking over from him, should he win, in the best traditions of the Congress?

Also read: Not yet an MP, could Nandan become PM?

Can Nandan Nilekani win from Bangalore South?

Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, join politics, start a party

Nandan Nilekani: the six things that changed India

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

MUST READ: 12 things no one is telling us about namma Nandu

Nandan Nilekani: The five steps to success

POLL: Can Nandan Nilekani win Bangalore South?

18 September 2013

Kite-flying effortlessly replaces cricket as the nation’s favourite sport before every election, state or national, and so it is in the run-up to 2014, with “guided rumours” of Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani suddenly but not unexpectedly doing the rounds as a potential Congress candidate from Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency.

For the moment, there is no confirmation from the man, but he has certainly not denied the report which first appeared on the website of the business newspaper, Mint. “It’s speculative,” is how the Sirsi-born software mogul has chosen to greet the unattributed reports which clearly emanate from his “camp”, and all of which uniformally talk of his candidature having Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi‘s imprimatur.

On the face of it, Nilekani has plenty going for him. He is young (58), has a demonstrated track record as an entrepreneur and a technocrat, has ‘written’ an ambitious book on how he imagines India, and is a past-master at charming the pants off the media. On top of that, his wife, the former journalist Rohini Nilekani has pumped in crores into philanthropic projects.

Nilekani’s role in crafting “Brand Bangalore” is not insignificant. It is Infosys that largely put the shine back into Bangalore and made it the country’s unquestionable IT capital. Nilekani was also the brain behind the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) during S.M.Krishna‘s tenure. So, the Congress’s, if not Nilekani’s, calculation is: this is payback time.

The preponderance of IT types in Bangalore South, the large sprinkling of Brahmins, and a five-time sitting Brahmin MP (Ananth Kumar) who is not on the right side of the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate”, Narendra Modi, makes the Sai bhakt’s candidature look all very rosy—on a spreadsheet.

But politics is not a zero-sum, page 3 game as the similarly qualified Captain G.R. Gopinath discovered not too long ago.

It is not only software engineers who go to vote, in fact they can barely get their backsides off a spa table on the weekends. Plus, Bangalore South has a sizeable Vokkaliga population, and who doesn’t know H.D. Deve Gowda‘s antipathy to urban, educated, rich, IT-BT types?

Above all, for all the friendly media coverage of Nilekani’s “Aadhar” card, the fact remains he has essentially presided over an unconstitutional scheme which does not have Parliament’s OK, and which has actually taken millions out of the welfare net, while precisely claiming to do the opposite, by stopping leakage and pilferage. These are the people who vote and, sadly for Nilekani’s and Aadhar’s backers, there are thousands of them in Bangalore South too.

So, does Nandan Nilekani, who can just about speak Kannada, stand a chance, if he gets the chance, or is he like so many billionaires deluded about what his billions can fetch? If he does, could he end up being a potential minister in the next UPA regime, if there is one? And, while we (and he) fantasise, could he even be the kind of quiet technocrat who could be Rahul’s Manmohan Singh? Just kidding.

(Or, tongue firmly in cheek, could Nandan Nilekani’s nomination papers get rejected because his date of birth does not match the DoB on his own Aadhar card?!)

Also read: Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, join politics, start a party

Nandan Nilekani: the six things that changed India

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

MUST READ: 12 things no one is telling us about namma Nandu

Is Infy becoming Narayana Murthy’s property?

26 August 2013

For over a decade starting in the mid-1990s into the early 2000s, Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy enjoyed a well-earned, larger-than-life, holier-than-thou persona through his various public interventions.

As politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen (and everybody else down the food chain, including the media) ran adrift in post-liberalised India, Murthy struck the right note, saying the right thing in just the right sort of way and at the right place, which made him the darling of the urban, literate, English-speaking, TV-watching middle-classes.

While his capitalist-compatriots hogged all the profits, there was Murthy making millionaires out of his own employees by giving them stock options in the company. While everybody shamelessly latched on to power, there he was resigning from the Bangalore international airport project because of a spat with H.D. Deve Gowda.

While everybody was hailing India’s education system, there he was pointing out the problems in them. Why, he was even credited with contemplating to revive Rajaji‘s Swatantra Party, which opposed socialism and rigid controls, as a way out of the morass that mainstream political parties and politicians had pushed India into.

Narayana Murthy was even spoken of as a possible President.

But of all things that Murthy said in his strange, American twang, the one that struck a chord among “People Like Us” (PLUs) was his defence of merit as the lifeblood of a country on the ascendant. As politicians rolled out reservations left, right and centre to protect votebanks, Murthy (who idolised Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew) bravely batted for meritocracy.

Merit is the lifeline of any organisation, he said.

“Infosys is an absolute meritocracy. Even in a meritocracy, other things being equal, you have to give opportunity to the more experienced candidate. Whether it was Nandan Nilekani, Kris Gopalakrishnan or Shibulal, they are absolutely top class and they have been running this marathon longer than some others. Their is no question of (any discrimination) between founder, non-founder. I have no hesitation in saying we are the most professional company in the world,” he said in a 2011 interview.

Which is why the drama surrounding Narayana Murthy’s 30-year-old son Rohan Murthy shows NRN in poor light.

First the 30-year-old (who is married to the heiress of the TVS group) was brought in as an executive assistant to NRN following Murthy’s return to Infosys, which in itself was something NRN did not advocate in public. (Rohan Murthy, who is “on leave” from Harvard, was paid a farcical salary of one rupee a month, apparently at his request.)

Now, less than three months of the appointment, comes a move to elevate executive assistant Rohan Murthy as vice-president Rohan Murthy although NRN had said just three months ago that there would be no leadership role for his son. Obviously, questions of corporate governance, a phrase that repeatedly tripped out of NRN’s tongue have been raised.

Does Narayana Murthy’s hypocrisy stand exposed with the latest move? Should the ministry of corporate affairs allow Rohan Murthy’s elevation to go ahead? Can a publicly listed company be so susceptible to the pressures of a founding family? Does NRN’s move to elevate his son show that blood is thicker than water?

Is something rotten at the Sikkapatte Important Company of Karnataka?

Or is it all OK because dynasties are a way of life in India?

 

Also read: Come again, in spite of government or because of…?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Infosys a ‘body shop’?

‘Indian IT does not benefit its own people’

Designed for humans, inspired by nature?*

11 June 2012

It certainly does not look like the iPhone or Vertu, so which mobile phone brand does N.R. Narayana Murthy (net worth $1.7 billion) secretly swear by? Could it be Samsung Galaxy S III?

After receiving the Pride of Karnataka award from Round Table India in Bangalore on Friday, the Infosys chief mentor delicately punches the screen alongside the actress Ramya known in these parts as Divya Spandana.

* Search engine optimisation techniques shamelessly at work

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Who is your role-model?

30 January 2012

As the old saying goes, nostalgia is no longer what it used to be. Even so, in a discourse dominated by the here and now and the ephemeral, Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has struck the right note by talking of the nation’s diminishing stockpile of role models.

“The number of role models that our youngsters can look up to is decreasing. How many people in our public life can you be proud of for honesty, courage, commitment and hardwork? And that number is dwindling. Our youngsters don’t have role models to look up to and therefore, and sadly because of corruption, some of the people who are doing exactly the opposite — dishonest, deceit, ‘chalta hai’ and all of that… they are becoming more and more powerful… they are becoming wealthier,” Murthy has been quoted as saying.

Not just in politics but in business, industry, economics, science, art, music, media, films, cricket, etc, there clearly is a dearth of people to look up to. Sure, the standard Miss India responses—”Mother Teresa, “A.P.J. Abdul Kalam“, “Narayana Murthy”—are still valid, but who beyond and beside them?

So, who in this day and age, in big bad India do you think is the ideal role model? Do today’s young who are connected to a wider world really need Indian role models?

CHURUMURI POLL: President Narayana Murthy?

17 October 2011

One day, last week, he was quoted as saying that “it would be a great honour to be the next president of the country” if all political parties agreed to his candidature. The very next day he was quoted as saying that “he had no presidential ambitions whatsoever” and that words had been put into his mouth.

On other days, of course….

Is N.R. Narayana Murthy indulging in a bit of kite-flying or does the Infosys co-founder and chairman-emeritus still have the political and popular cache to be the Rashtrapati? Is there likely to be a consensus on the presidential candidate, as Murthy desires, or is it too fanciful a dream in the current surcharged atmosphere?

Should a corporate honcho, who once expressed interest in becoming the Indian ambassador to the United States, become President of the world’s most populous democracy? Or will his attempts at reviving the pro-capitalist Swatantra Party and his stand on the national anthem and subsidiary Freudian slip-ups go against him?

And if it isn’t NRN, who should it be?

Also read: Cho Ramaswamy on Narayana Murthy as president

Has Narayana Murthy bid goodbye to dream of public office?

Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor President

One question I’m dying to ask Janardhana Swamy

12 October 2011

The well-earned reputation of the average Indian politician—of a lying, looting, hypocritical, bogus, backstabbing rogue, with his eyes forever focussed on wheeling and dealing, and using his position to make a quick pile to last the next three generations of his extended family—is cynical, of course, but rarely inaccurate.

Which is why “the educated middle-class” is beside itself with joy when one of its ilk makes the cut. The presumption is that their education qualifications and professional experience will somehow make a difference to our polity.

Bangalore Mirror reports today on Janardhana Swamy, a masters from IISc who swiped his greencard at Cisco, Dell, Sun Microsystems and other giant American firms before throwing his hat in the hurly-burly of Indian politics and being elected as a BJP MP from Chitradurga.

According to the report, Swamy secured a 50×80 plot in posh Raj Mahal Vilas (RMV) extension in Bangalore for Rs 7.56 lakh (market rate: Rs 4 crore) after furnishing an affidavit that he owned no other property in Bangalore, although he had told the election commission (EC) that he owned three sites, two in his name and one in his wife’s, worth over Rs 1.5 crore.

“If I had stated that I own three sites, the BDA would never have allotted me the plot. The other sites I have are total waste,” the MP tells the paper nonchalantly.

Swamy’s hunger for land will surprise only a few, but what the 43-year-old MP shows is that the more things change in Indian politics, the more they remain the same; only the protagonists change. So, what is the one question you are dying to ask this “educated, middle class” BJP MP?

Like, how many sites, waste or otherwise, does a three-member family really require? Like, would his “mentor”, N.R. Naryana Murthy, approve such subterfuge? Like, should L.K. Advani‘s anti-corruption yatra pass through Chitradurga? Like, what would he caption a cartoon on his scam, if he were to draw one?

Please keep your queries short, civil and self-righteous. And ‘cc’ your comment to jswamy@jswamy.com

Image: courtesy Bangalore Mirror

Also read: And a snapshot of a simple devotee of Lord Rama

George Fernandes: Pati, patni aur woh & some crores

Mayawati: For doyen of downtrodden, assets is all maya

Kanimozhi: How many poems fetch a poet rs 8.5 crore?

Priya Krishna: One question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

H.D. Deve Gowda: A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

R.V. Deshpande: A 1,611% jump in assets in five years? Hello!

Should editors and journalists declare their assets?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Infosys a ‘body shop’?

5 October 2011

The supermarket author turned columnist Chetan Bhagat has hit Infosys where it hurts most by calling the Sikkapatte Important Company of Karnataka a “bodyshopping” company, in response to N.R. Narayana Murthy‘s comments on the quality of engineers being churned out by the IITs.

“It is ironic when someone who runs a body shopping company and calls it hi-tech, makes sweeping comments on the quality of IIT students,” Bhagat wrote on his Twitter account.

Narayana Murthy, a graduate from India’s first private engineering college, the National Institute of Engineering (NIE), Mysore, had said earlier that 75% of modern BEs were unemployable. Others like Tata Steel boss B.Muthuraman and enviroment minister Jairam Ramesh have made similar comments on IITs before to little damage.

But it is Bhagat’s blanket branding of Infosys, which has assiduously cultivated its image as an emblem of hi-tech India, as a bodyshopping company—id est putting cheap Indian bums on seats for crackling American dollars by twisting visa rules—with all its attendant stigma that will surely rankle.

So, is Infosys what Chetan Bhagat says it is or is it unfair to the contributions of Murthy and Infosys? If Infosys is a body shopper, where does that leave other Indian IT companies? Is it OK if Infosys is a body shopping company, considering the difference is has made to the lives of thousands of young Indians and their families?

Is Chetan Bhagat right in labelling Infosys a “body shopping company”, or will Infosys be well within its rights to get its awesome legal and PR machinery whirring into action?

Also read: Why Tata Steel (and others) won’t recruit IITians

Would India be heaven if all of us went to IIT?

To: Nandan Nilekani. From: American senators

‘Indian IT doesn’t benefit its own people’

If IT takes away Bangalore’s values, burn IT

Plus: Chetan Bhagat has a piece of advice for Lingayats

BCCI, Infosys, Anil Kumble & a silly PR exercise

15 June 2011

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: You scratch my back and I will scratch yours, is India’s most famous sport, especially in the upper crust of society. And the country’s richest sporting body, BCCI, and the country’s second largest IT company, Infosys, have just shown how it is played, in full public glare.

Monday’s Times of India had a story that BCCI was in talks with Infy to prepare, hold your breath, “an exhaustive injury database” following the flurry of injuries to its top players—Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, S. Sreesanth—who have all skipped the ongoing West Indies tour because of various aches, pains and niggles.

According to the report, former India captain, KSCA president and NCA chairman, Anil Kumble, was in touch with Infosys to develop a software for injury management of players.

“But the talks are informal and at a very preliminary stage,” said BCCI chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty. “We have been using the infrastructure of Infosys like their ground at Mysore on a regular basis.”

Reading the report, the first thought that crossed my mind was: who first scratched whose back first? And who is deriving more pleasure out of the experience?

Infosys or BCCI?

Think about it.

Indian cricket for all its dhoom-dhamaka is still a stiflingly small sport. The number of international players, and the number of domestic players seeking to gradaute to the international level, is small. And to tabulate their injuries, you need Infosys, when a coach in shorts with a spreadsheet can do the job?

And what about Infosys?

The $7 billion company refrains from getting into the product-making zone, doesn’t make big mergers or acquisitions that will take it to the next level, but is happy to be doing silly odd jobs that a 20-year-old with a 486 could be doing after class-hours?

Today’s Hindustan Times hits the nail on the head by calling the BCCI-Infosys what it is: a silly PR exercise. Reason: sports clubs around the world have long used software to spot talent, plot diet plans, record medical data, and track players from the junior to professional levels.

HT says Brentford FC, a lower-division English football club, asked a software developer called PlayersElite to come up with the required software to manage its players.

“It cost £5,000 (approximately Rs 3.5 lakh) to develop the software, and requires a further £400 (Rs 30,000) per month to maintain it,” says its head of youth recruitment, Shaun O’Connor.

But to see BCCI, Infosys and Anil Kumble in this tech tango—as if they are sending a man to the man—offers a sobering insight into both Indian sport and Indian business. Why haven’t we heard of Cisco or Microsoft or Sun Microsystems doing likewise with NBA or World Series or whatever?

Because it is not rocket science, Sherlock.

All BCCI needs to understand why its players are falling like flies is to look at its own timetable and an exhausting  circus called the Indian Premier League (IPL). But why would BCCI or Anil Kumble cut off their own legs, when one runs the IPL and the other advises the Royal Challengers (RCB)?

OK, this is nitpicking.

Maybe Kumble as the new KSCA president wants to build sport-industry relationships, with the “future” in mind. Well then, BCCI doesn’t even have a website of its own. Maybe, they should also ask N.R. Narayana Murthy & Co to help them design a website while they are working on “an exhaustive injury database”.

It will be total paisa vasool.

***

Photograph: Anil Kumble with wife Chethana arrives for the wedding reception of Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy‘s son Rohan Murthy, who married Lakshmi Venu of the TVS family at the Leela Palace in Bangalore on Sunday, June 12 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Why don’t we hear of IT excelling in sport?

Biggest. Largest. Highest. Mostest. Anywhere.

BCCI & Infosys: Made for each other in Mysore

Questions for Anil Kumble & Javagal Srinath

CHURUMURI POLL: Why did Mohandas Pai quit?

17 April 2011

In normal circumstances, the exit of a lone individual from a giant company would not have attracted too much attention. But then, T.V. Mohandas Pai is no ordinary employee; he was chief financial officer (CFO) of India’s bellwether information technology company, Infosys, and a director on its board.

Pai claims that it was not a sudden decision; that he had decided to leave a year ago; that he discussed his exit with Infy chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy nine months ago (a conversation Murthy remembers), and that he had said “no” when asked if he was looking at a higher position like a COO or CEO.

However, most media reports hint at the opposite: that he was indeed piqued at the possibility of never becoming CEO in the normal course of things.

Rumours that Pai, the most visible face of the company after the departure of Murthy and Nandan Nilekani with a view on everything under (and beyond) the Bangalore sun, wanted to enter politics, have been shot down by Pai himself, saying he wants to devote 30 per cent of his tie to higher education.

Pai, 51, says he never had aspirations to be CEO and that he had left the company to pave the way for youngsters, although just a week earlier, he had featured in an Economic Times lead story saying he was “front runner” to be chief operating officer (COO). In other words, the claim that it was not a sudden decision or that he wasn’t looking for a bigger role are both bogus.

However, most media reports on Pai’s resignation also overlook the enormous activity that’s been building up on the human resources (HR) front, an area Pai was directly involved in as director.

Attrition rate continues to be very high. A controversial HR initiative called iRace that resulted in the demotions of 4,000-5,000 staff has attracted much criticism. An Infosys employee (a Muslim) fired from his job after the 2008 Jaipur blasts, has been ordered to be reinstated by the courts. And, above all, Infosys is facing plenty of heat in the United States over misuse of H1B visas and age discrimination.

So, why do you think Pai left?

Hopefully, nothing has been lost in translation?

9 March 2011

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: There are ways and there are ways of convincing your critics, but as a pioneering entrepreneur, N.R. Narayana Murthy clearly believes in taking the road not taken.

Lampooned by the writer Baragur Ramachandrappa for being asked to open the world Kannada conference (Vishwa Kannada Sammelana) to be held in Belgaum this weekend despite his “anti-Kannada stance”, the Infosys chief mentor has given interviews today to underline his Kannada credentials.

But surprise, surprise—or maybe not—Murthy sits down with Asha Rai of The Times of India and Asha Krishnaswamy of Deccan Herald to make his point, not with any of the many Kannada newspapers or news channels operating out of Bangalore.

As if his Kannadiga-ness is only to be reiterated to English readers.

The ToI and DH interviews have been dutifully translated into the Kannada publications of the two English giants, Vijaya Karnataka and Praja Vani, respectively, but surely Infosys’ well-oiled PR machine could have done better by getting their admirable chief to also sit with a few Kannada journalists?

Link via P. Ramesh

Images: courtesy Praja Vani, Vijaya Karnataka

Also read: Should NRN open the world Kannada conference?

Should NRN open world Kannada conference?

28 February 2011

The letters to the editor of Kannada Prabha carries this epistle from the Kannada writer, Baragur Ramachandrappa (translated):

“I am writing this letter against the backdrop of reports that Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has been invited to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana (world Kannada conference), to be held in Belgaum from March 10 to 12, 2011.

“If there is any truth to these reports, my humble request is that the honour should instead go to Kannada cultural personalities or to VIPs like the President, prime minister or vice-president.

“I do not have anything personal against Narayana Murthy. He is a Kannadiga entrepreneur and we are justly proud of him. But that is exactly why we must be getting him to inaugurate the global investors’ meet, not the world Kannada conference.

“Outside of his entrepreneurship, what is his contribution to Kannada? Not even a Kannada font has come out of his multinational company. On top of it, he has been a vociferous champion of education in the English medium from the first standard itself. It is to be noted here that learning English and teaching in the English medium are two different things.

“It is also to be remembered that he had lobbied with the S.M. Krishna government to change the State education policy to open English medium schools to help children of his employees, and had even had a discussion with me when I was chairman of the Kannada development authority in this regard.

“Besides, the income-tax department has only just slapped Infosys with a demand for Rs 450 crore for wrongfully claiming tax exemption.

“Instead of Narayana Murthy, the invitation could have been extened to poet laureate G.S. Shivarudrappa, Jnanpith Award winners U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad, veterans like Patil Puttappa, D. Javare Gowda or M. Chidananda Murthy, renowned poets like Chandrasekhar Kambar, Chennaveera Kanavi or Nissar Ahmed, etc.

“Or we could have called upon a folklore artiste.

“On the other hand, by calling upon somebody who is just a entrepreneur to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana is an insult to Kannada culture, literature and folklore. If the invitation cannot be revoked at this juncture, it is best Narayana Murthy is invited as a ‘guest’ to the inauguration.”

File photograph: N.R. Narayana Murthy watches and Infosys CEO and MD, ‘KrisGopalakrishnan, speak at a conference organised by the all India management association, in Bangalore in October 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

***

Also read: Narayana Murthy and the Netaji Bose fixation

The Mahatma, Narayana Murthy and information technology

Who’s U.R. Anantha Murthy? What is his contribution?

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

From Murthy to Reddy, and from IT to ‘looty’

22 January 2011

On the eve of the 61st anniversary of the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India, the historian Ramachandra Guha bemoans the state of the State in the latest issue of Outlook*:

“At the close of the last century, my home town, Bangalore, was a showpiece for the virtues of liberalisation. Access to global markets had allowed the skilled workforce of the City to generate vast amounts of wealth, which in turn spawned a new wave of Indian philanthropy.

“At the beginning of the presen decade, my home State, Karnataka, has become a byword for the darker side of globalisation. The loot of minerals and their export to China has wreaked large-scale environmental damage and polluted the political system through the buying and selling of legislators.

“A State once represented to the world by N.R. Narayana Murthy was now being represented to itself by Janardhana Reddy…. Had Manmohan Singh not been so reluctant to act against his tainted ministrs, B.S. Yediyurappa would not so easily have ridden out press exposure of his corrruption and that of his cabinet colleagues.”

* Disclosures apply

Read the full article: A nation consumed by the State

Also read: ‘A heady confluence of crime, business & politics’

How China changed the face of Karnataka’s politics

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

ARAVIND ADIGA: A 21st century Adiga’s call to Kannadigas

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?

Like charity, cleaning up begins at home & party

7 January 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was watching the news and shouted suddenly, “Lo Ramu, avanu Quarter Ki alva?”

Ajji! He is not Quarter Ki. He is Quattrocchi. Ottavio Quattrocchi.”

Yeno sudugadu! I had seen his picture long back in the papers. There were rumours that he had taken money for Baafars gannu or something during Rajiv Gandhi‘s time.”

Ajji! Although you mispronounce names, your memory is as sharp as a kitchen chaaku. You’re right. He was accused of taking a bribe when India bought Bofors guns.”

“Didn’t Quarter Ki get some kicks?”

“Kicks alla Ajji, kickbacks. In a way, you are right. He needs kicks. Lots of them!”

Alvo! Just last week madam Sonia Gandhi sat cross-legged under huge photographs of Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel etc, on loads and loads of pillows and thundered to all, ‘We will not tolerate corruption’.”

“This is normal in all Congress meetings, Ajji. It seems, an angry Jawaharlal Nehru used to throw the cushions on some sleeping Congressman or the other. Now, most of them sleep on them anyway.”

Ajji ignored my interruption.

“She wanted the world to hear about her war on corruption. If she is serious about it, why doesn’t she start eradicating corruption from her house itself. Like they say, ‘Charity begins at home’.”

Ajji, volle Kumble googly haakkde. If that happens, her son, grandson or anybody from her family cannot become India’s Prime Minister. Ever.”

Howdu, Nija. This came out only because of an IT report by Narayana Murthy.”

Ajji, this IT is income tax, not information technology IT. Narayana Murthy has nothing to do with it.”

Sudugaadu, whatever it is, some government body thinks Quatrappa made money with kicks.”

“Quatrappa? Soon you will make him Yediyurappa.”

“Don’t interrupt me. Shouldn’t Sonia Gandhi start the war against corruption by sending our police or CID to arrest him?”

“Not CID, it is the CBI’s job. Our CBI still don’t want to get him even if other countries are willing to hand him over.”

Manehaalaru.  One more thing…”

Enajji?”

“North nalli, ‘Ji‘ is used as a suffix for all their names. Manmohanji, Soniaji, Pawarji…”

Ajji, you are also a ‘Ji‘! What are you trying to say?”

“I understand in the GG case the fact that there was corruption was brought out by a government body. I don’t know the name. Income tax inspector hendthi Iravathamma told me it was some CAG  or GAG.”

“Ha, ha. So Iravathamma is your latest source?”

“Software Seethamma interdus maadidru temple nalli. Iravathamma says country is running because of some honest officers. Otherwise this GG galaate would have never come out.”

Galaate alla, ghotala. but your friend Iravathamma is right. Only because of the good work by CAG, IT tribunal and to some extent the media, all the scams are tumbling out one after the other.”

Yenoppa. Poltishans are only busy making illegal money. That is their first love, it seems.”

“Correct, Ajji.”

“First and last love, koodano?”

“Absolutely, Ajji.”

Has NRN bid goodbye to dream of public office?

28 April 2010

In 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee apparently offered him a ministership. In 2004, Manmohan Singh apparently invited him to be chairman of the investment commission.

Then his name apparently did the rounds for President of India (before the national anthem controversy singed him). There was an all-too-brief flirtation with reviving the Swatantra Party, and he himself expressed interest in becoming India’s ambassador to the United States.

Now, the business paper Mint hints that Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy may have decided once and for all that public office is not a good fit.

“I’m used to an orderly way of life. I’m used to a disciplined set of people. I’m used to delivering on promise. I’m used to working with civilized people. Unfortunately in public life in India these are not the attributes that you see.”

Read the full article: Narayana Murthy‘s new passion

Also read: Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor Prez

Cho Ramaswamy: Why NRN won’t wash as President

Narayana Murthy to revive Swatantra Party?

The Mahatma, Murthy and Information Technology

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nandan Nilekani trouned NRN?

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.

CHURUMURI POLL: Bangalore airport, a disaster?

23 December 2009

The joint house committee of the Karnataka legislature has slammed the holy cows of Bangalore and the multinational corporations that built the Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) at Devanahalli for “faulty” design and construction, and “poor quality of workmanship”.

The panel has said the new airport looked like an “industrial shed” and not an airport of international standards; that did not reflect the “culture and glory” of Karnataka; that the public-private partnership (PPP) is not a boon but a bane; and it has accused BIAL of coming up with patchy, non-scientific and thoughtless solutions.

The panel has indicted Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy and Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekhar, and top bureaucrats V.P. Baligar and K. Jairaj. It has recommended appropriate action against officers responsible for the current state of affairs, and wants Larsen & Toubro, Unique Zurich Airport to be blacklisted for a minimum of five years.

Questions: Do you agree with the panel’s conclusions and recommendations? Has Bangalore missed a trick and been shortchanged? Or are politicians up to their usual tricks? What has your “user-experience” been? How does it compare with airports within India and elsewhere? Can the situation be rectified?

Has BIAL’s move to name the airport “Bengaluru International Airport Limited” flopped with the panel recommending that it be named after Kempe Gowda?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Tipu Sultan vs Kempe Gowda?

Us & them: brick and mortar vs click and cursor

PPP is where public is a puppy of the private

Bangalore’s best building since the Vidhana Soudha?

Country cuisine crashlands in new airport

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

18 September 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The “Kitchen Cabinet” meeting began although the chairperson Sonia Gandhi was yet to arrive.

Since it was already past lunch hour, the “Kitchen Cabinet” decided to have a working lunch.

Just as the stewards of the Parliament canteen were getting ready to serve the heavily subsidised lunch, finance minister Pranob Mukherjee aka Pranab Mukherjee put up his hand and asked them not to serve him anything.

“I should practice what I preach,” said the affable FM as he opened his lunch box, the size of a geometry box, and took out pieces of Rui maach (carp fish) marinated in pungent mustard along with a small matka of mishti doi.

“This should keep me going up to evening when I am ready for tea,” Pranabda said, pointing to his hip flask which had two salted biscuits stuck with adhesive tape.

The Prime Minister opened his Jalandhar cloth bag and out came a caserole containing Hilsa fish curry with aloo and pudina parathas wrapped in silver foil.

“Pranabda, don’t look at me like that,” the PM said as the FM’s eyebrows shot up when he saw very expensive hilsa in Manmohan’s dabba.

“The Hilsa fish is free and it is due to the courtesy of Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia from Bangladesh. She keeps sending me two to three refrigerated cans of Hilsa every month due to the rising prices of hilsa here. I have not spent any money for this lunch except for the parathas which my wife Gursharan Kaur made last week. Since they were kept in the freezer, they are still fresh.”

The home minister, used to rava idli with chutney from Sivaganga and thairu sadam, and lemon pickle from home, took out a plastic packet and opened its contents, a hamburger with an apple and an economy size cola.

“This is free and courtesy of Continental Airlines when I allowed them to frisk me. I asked them for a doggie bag and emptied my plate in to it. Though it is more than 36 hours, it still looks fresh and tastes good. That’s the beauty of Aemrican grub,” explained Chidambaram.

Labour Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge got up and took out a crumpled paper packet from his left kurta pocket and opened and out popped a ragi mudde. From his other pocket, he took out an onion. “This was grown by me while I was busy canvassing for election. Both ragi and onion are the symbols of the aam aadmi.”

Environmental minister Jairam Ramesh took out a bushel of herbal leaves grown in Assam and started chewing with gusto. Of late he had started this both as austerity measure plus as an effort to save his teeth.

S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor, the ‘external affairs twins’ were seen sharing a one-by-two masala dose from Karnataka bhavan and puttu from Kerala Bhavan. Ever since they vacated the 5- star hotels they had begun mostly sharing their breakfast, lunch and dinner brought from their Bhavans free of charge as they are ministers from Karnataka and Kerala.

Just then the door opened, and in breezed Sonia Gandhi all flustered as she was rushing for the meeting direct from Mysore.

“Madam you please rest and have your lunch .You have had a long flight.” offered the Prime Minister.

“Bene, bene, la sono ok (I’m OK). I am ready. I had asked N.R. Narayana Murthy at the Infosys campus in Mysore to pack my lunch for the flight. He has given bisibele bath and Mysore pak. So I have not spent any amount towards lunch. This should make our finance minister happy,” she said as she opened her bag.

Just then Prime Minister’s secretary buzzed him and said the Commonwaelth President Michael Fennel wanted to have a dinner appointment with him to discuss whether Delhi would be ready for the 2010 Games.

“Oh, no! What shall we do? These people come as a delegation and they are usually used to a grand 10-course dinner,” wailed the PM.

“We will call them for our iftar party. The whole delegation can come; there is no problem. For breaking the fast, we will serve pakodas, dahi pulkiyan, chana chat and fruit juices. For dinner, we will serve mutton biryani or pulav, chicken, vegetable, kebabs and naan. For dessert, there will be kheer, ras malai, gulab jamun and sheer khurma. It will be a 20-course food park,” said health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Azad was entrusted with the task of organizing the government’s iftar party. It was some kind of promotion for him after his bloody bouts with state health ministers against the rampant H1N1 virus.

“There’s goes my austerity plan to the moon,” sighed the Finance Minister.

Is that tap water the austere madam is drinking?

15 September 2009

KPN photo

After having flagged off a very bogus drama on “austerity” in New Delhi, the Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi sips a glass of ordinary, municipal, tap water that the drought-affected aam admi and aam aurat of India consume, at the inauguration of the global education centre at the Infosys campus in Mysore on Tuesday.

Either that, or Ms Gandhi does not believe in drinking treated, bottled, “mineral” water straight from the bottle.

Meanwhile, Sudha Murthy, the spouse of the original “Mr Austere”, N.R. Narayana Murthy, takes a swig of Aquafina. Either that, or Mr Murthy filled an empty bottle with ordinary, municipal tap water that the drought-affected aam admi and aam aurat consume, before they left for the inauguration in a KSRTC bus to Hootagalli.

Photographs: Narayan Yadav/ Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Biggest. Largest. Highest. Mostest. Anywhere.

Sure austerity begins at home, but not my home

Is the Indian media losing touch with reality?

When Azim Premji’s father said no, and no again

20 July 2009

Bangalore’s IT industry invokes a schizoid voyeurism. Although it has been around longer than Infosys, not too many doff their hat to Wipro. Although its founder didn’t have to get his wife to part with 12,000 rupees, Azim  Premji doesn’t quite have VIPs traipsing through the turnstiles and drooling over his campus.

The reasons have as much to do with Infy’s PR as, perhaps, Wipro’s ownership pattern. In the just-released book The Long Revolution—the birth and growth of India’s IT industry (HarperCollins), the science journalist Dinesh C. Sharma narrates a telling story on the extraordinary (and exemplary) nationalism of Premji’s father:

“The initial success of companies like DCM in the area of computer manufacturing and the growing popularity of microprocessor-based systems attracted many Indian commercial houses to this sector. Among them was a company named Western Indian Products Limited, based at Amalner, a small town in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra. It used to manufacture cooking oil under the brand name Sunflower Vanaspati, and a laundry soap called 787, a byproduct of oil manufacture.

“The company was established by Mohamed Hasham Premji in 1945. He was a leading rice merchant and commission agent in Bombay. When Mohammed Ali Jinnah set up the planning committee of the Muslim League (on the lines of the national planning committee of the Indian National Congress) in September 1944, he invited Hasham Premji to be a part of it. But Premji did not want to join the League formally for ‘personal and business reasons’. He was then assured by Jinnah that he could serve without publicly signing the Muslim League pledge¹.

“Jinnah reportedly sought out Premji once again when he was forming the first cabinet in Pakistan to serve as his fnnance minister. But Premji rejected the offer and decided to stay on in India and nurture his oil business².”

¹ Ian Talbot, “Planning for Pakistan: The Planning Committee of the All India Muslim League 1943-46″, Modern Asian Studies, 1994, pp 875-89

² Rohit Saran, The World’s Richest Indian, India Today, 6 March 2000

***

Also read: Can Azim Premji do what government can’t/won’t do?

Look, who’s ordering a by-two coffee at Wipro?

12 things no one’s telling us about namma Nandu

26 June 2009

Nandan Nilekani‘s appointment as the head of the national ID card project has been greeted with the same seriousness that an appointment to the Vatican would have received. Sure, it’s an important assignment and all that, and it’s a relief to see a technocrat with $1.3 billion in his hip pocket handling it.

But all we have got from the morning’s papers are details anybody with a slow broadband connection could ferret out from Wikipedia. That, and senti-pap like “I feel it’s like a younger brother leaving home.” But Nandan is a more interesting chap than that, with a life, a sense of humour, and a Twitter account.

So, did you know…

***

bestbusbigONE: Nandan used to take a BEST bus from Santa Cruz, where he then lived, and come to Nariman Point where the offices of Bombay magazine were located to meet a young journalist called Rohini Soman, who worked in the magazine brought out by the India Today group. Ms Soman, who became Rohini Nilekani, later became the Bangalore correspondent of Sunday magazine under Vir Sanghvi. Rohini turns 50 on June 30.

TWO: Nandan’s elder brother by eight years, Vijay, is with the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, DC.

popeTHREE: Nandan is a top-quality quizzer. He was part of the IIT Bombay quiz team that came third in the 1979 Mood Indigo final. A competitor recalls him as being laidback and generous, unlike the IIT Kanpur team. However, neither IIT team could answer a question that was flung at them: “What is common to the first 35 Popes?” The correct answer came from a young boy from South Indian Education Society: “They were all saints.” The boy turns 51 on June 28.

FOUR: At Patni Computer Services, where Nandan and N.R. Narayana Murthy became colleagues and friends, Nandan’s salary was Rs 1,200, the same as his father Mohan Rao Nilekani earned then.

FIVE: Nandan is not an MBA. He believes that being general secretary of the IIT Bombay students’ union was more education than any B-school could give him. A key test of his man-management skills came in 1977 when a massive cyclone hit Andhra Pradesh when the leftwingers on the campus felt it was inhuman to splurge cash on the college festival Mood Indigo. Eventually, Nandan found a middle path. The festival was held, but money was also sent to the flood-affected.

jairamSIX: When Infosys went public in 1993, no one picked up the stock. Among the first people Nandan tried to sell the Infy stock before the Initial Public Offering was his IIT Bombay senior by one year, co-Kannadiga, and now Union minister, Jairam Ramesh.

India TodaySEVEN: In 2002, Nandan is famously rumoured to have provided the editorial inspiration for an India Today cover story that had nothing to do with Infosys or IT. Suffice it to say, neither the magazine’s current editor nor its then managing editor are likely to have sent him their best wishes on his latest appointment but Phaneesh Murthy is likely to have quietly chuckled.

EIGHT: Despite being born in Sirsi (Wikipedia) or Bangalore (his own blog), Nandan is a not natural with Kannada, and is routinely confused on when to use neevu and neenu. He once referred to Narayana Murthy’s wife Sudha Murthy as “avalannu“, till his secretary Malliga corrected him. Malliga, like Narayana Murthy’s Man Friday A.G. Panduranga alias Pandu, has been with Nandan for 20 years now.

deepika-padukone-kingfisher-calendarNINE: Deepika Padukone is apparently his niece, which should make Prakash Padukone a cousin, which should make Guru Dutt and Shyam Benegal part of the family. (If she is not his niece, bad luck; that should teach these stinking rich IT types that even $1.3 billion in the family kitty can’t buy you the right relatives.)

TEN: Nandan predicted the results of the 2008 assembly elections in Karnataka absolutely spot-on. In an SMS to a top TV honcho, he gave BJP 110 seats; the BJP got 110 seats. However, despite his prescience, Nandan could not predict ‘Operation Kamala’.

4_Gold_ring_22K_50712ELEVEN: Like so many others in the IT sector, Nandan is a devotee of the Sai Baba of Shirdi, and even wears a silver ring to boot.

TWELVE: Doesn’t mind talking about Vatal Nagaraj and his innovative ways of protests.

THIRTEEN: That he signs his bank cheques like these and they still honour it!

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nandan trounced NRN?

‘Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, start a political party’

Nandan Nilekani: the 6 things that changed India

Nandan Nilekani: The five steps to success

Should Nandan quit the knowledge panel?

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

25 June 2009

They both hail from Karnataka. They were both colleagues at Patni Computer Services. They are both co-founders of Infosys. Both are former chairmen of the iconic IT company. One is 62, the other is 54. One is a Padma Vibhushan, one is a Padma Bhushan. Both are routinely in the list of influential leaders, admired leaders, etc.

And let’s admit it, both are mighty ambitious with solutions for all the problems in the flat world. One headed the international airport project; the other headed the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. Yet, has Nandan Mohan Rao Nilekani stolen a decisive march over Nagavara Rama Rao Narayana Murthy in the “leadership race”?

First Nilekani earned greater exposure and accolades for his book Imagining India, than Murthy did for his collection of speeches, A better India, A better world. Now, after being mentioned as a possible candidate for the Planning Commission, Nilekani has been appointed head of a project to develop ID cards for all Indians.

Does Nilekani’s appointment to a Cabinet rank post give him a headstart over Murthy, whose hopes of becoming President of India were scuppered by the row over the rendition of the national anthem? Or will Murthy bounce back?

Also read: ‘Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, start a political party’

Nandan Nilekani: the 6 things that changed India

Nandan Nilekani: The five steps to success

Should Nandan quit knowledge panel?

How Siddhartha built the CCD dream cup by cup

22 May 2009

The Bangalore brand that evokes the most immediate recall and recognition around the world may be Infosys, but the Bangalore brand that touches more lives inside the country has to be Cafe Coffee Day.

But…

But, while everybody knows the story of N.R. Narayana Murthy & Co, CCD has had no such luck. Its founder V.G. Siddhartha (in picture) has been a bit of a recluse, letting his stores do all the talking.

The man who has had to work extra-hard to play down the benefits of his proximity to his famous father-in-law, former chief minister S.M. Krishna, has opened up to Subroto Bagchi, the co-founder of Mindtree (of which Siddhartha is now a director), in the launch issue of Forbes magazine’s India edition.

Siddhartha says he could have easily lived off the 350 acres of coffee estate his family owned in Chikamagalur, but he wanted to start something on his own, to make money on his own. His father gave him Rs 5 lakh to “invest”, and to come back if he failed.

Siddhartha was 21 when he went to Bombay:

“I bought a piece of land for about three lakh and kept the rest in a bank. Then, I took a bus to Belgaum and then another to Bombay. I got off near the Fort. I had never stepped into the city before. I walked into a dabba hotel that rented rooms with a shared toilet for Rs 120 a day.

“Next day, I went to meet Mahendra Kampani of JM Financials—I had only heard the name. I had no appointment. I went to his office and the first thing was that I felt intimidated by the two elevators. I had never taken an elevator in my life. So, I climbed up the six floors.

“I met his secretary, a man named Mohan. I told him that I wanted to meet Mahendra Kampani; that I wanted to work with him. Mohan was a Bangalore guy. The man somehow felt sympathetic. He said that I could gatecrash just when he would be coming out of Mahendra Bhai’s room. I did exactly that.

“Mahendra bhai was perplexed with me. He asked me who I was. I told him that I had come all the way from Bangalore and I wanted to work for him. He made me sit down; he fetched me a glass of water. I had never seen an office as large as his. Then he spoke to me, he called someone to show me the research department and asked me to come back at 3 p.m. to see him again.

“I met him at 3 p.m. He said he would take me in but he had no idea who I was. He asked me to get him at least a letter of introduction. That is how it all started.

“I spent all my waking hours to learn about the trade. Every single day, I showed up at 7 am at the office and Mahendra bhai and I were invariably the last to leave well past nine in the night. I would tell the office boys to pack up and it was I who took Mahendra bhai’s dabba to load it in his car as the last item of work.

“In the process, he taught me all about the world of investing. He trusted me. He let me handle the accounts of some really big business houses. After a year-and-a-half with him, I was ready to come back to start on my own. I told Mahendra bhai that. I told him how grateful I was to him, what a lot I owed him.

“He told me that the Universe is connected in a web of timeless relationships. He had merely paid me back for past debt of a previous life — that I owed him nothing.

“So, Siddhartha returned and even though he bought over a stock trading firm called Sivan Securities (later renamed Global Technology Ventures), he really put his heart and soul into the coffee business. He bought out estate after failing estate in the wake of unviable coffee pricing and poor margins dictated by an international cartel. Then one day he decided to be his own master. He realised that the real value addition was in converting the beans into the coffee drinking experience and the rest is history.”

Since a recluse has started making other appearances in the media it could well mean Siddhartha is planning to take Coffee Day public, but that’s another issue.

Read the full article: Serving it hot

Also read: S.M. Krishna on the release of Dr Raj Kumar

What do they know of Mysore who only CCD know


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