Business Today

What makes Nandan uber-cool?

I'm glad that the time has come for Nandan to make good on his dream of adding value to the country through his technology knowledge, writes N.R. Narayana Murthy.

N.R. Narayana Murthy | Print Edition: August 9, 2009

It was a nice, wintry Saturday morning in December 1990 that four of the seven founders sat down in the small Infosys office in a leafy, residential suburb in Bangalore. There was lot of excitement in the air with the possibility of selling our company for an unimagined sum of $1 million.

Having led an austere life with no cars and no houses, and having run the Infosys marathon for over nine years in the then business-unfriendly India, we had very little hope of seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Obviously, this likely offer was seen as a godsend. I let my younger colleagues talk about what we would do after we sold Infosys. One wanted to be a Deputy EDP Manager in a small enterprise; another wanted to do his PhD in mathematics; and it was Nandan’s turn to speak.

Nandan spoke in his usual confident-yet-understated style about his dream of joining Sam Pitroda in one of his eight missions and making the life of the common Indian better. He did not spend a minute about his future or the future of his family—his wonderful wife Rohini, and his charming children—Jahnavi and Nihar.

Narayana Murthy (left) with Nilekani
Narayana Murthy (left) with Nilekani

His eyes sparkled when he spoke about how he would use his knowledge of technology to create a better India. His high aspirations came out very clearly. In less than five minutes, Nandan demonstrated why he is a rare Indian of whom we can all be proud. He did fulfil his dream of working with Sam when Sam invited him to join as a member of the Knowledge Commission. I am glad that the time has come for him to make good on his dream of adding value to the country through his technology knowledge.

That was the day I realised that Nandan was destined for nobler stuff in life than just the next Maybach car or the next Beaujolais wine bottle. He is a clear thinker, a great conceptualiser and a wonderful articulator. There is none at Infosys to rival his extraordinary facility with English language. His memory is prodigious. He is a walking lexicon. His research on any topic is always deep. He can reel out data and facts in a jiffy from umpteen sources. His imagination knows no boundaries. No wonder, then, that his book Imagining India is clearly a best-seller and, in my opinion, the best book on contemporary India.

When I decided to start Infosys, I was clear that I wanted a pretty youngish team with me. In fact, other than N.S. Raghavan, who was three years older than me, the rest were all at least 10 years younger than me. They had less than two years of experience as software professionals at the time of founding of Infosys. Nandan was the third person that I spoke to, the first two being N.S. Raghavan and Kris Gopalakrishnan. He was brave and took a quick decision to come on board.

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