Friday, October 10, 2008

Azim Premji’s speech at the Pratibha Puraskar awards


Respected President, Mr Behar, Guest of Honour Mr. G Ramesh, the office bearers of the Karnataka State Secondary Teachers’ Association, Bangalore South, ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure to be present here among so many young achievers who are being felicitated by the Karnataka State Secondary Teachers’ Association Bangalore South District. I heartily congratulate all the young achievers, their teachers and also their parents and family members. Believe me, the pleasure of being here is far higher than the pleasure of achieving accolades in the boardroom. I must say that the idea of felicitating the achievers under Pratibha Puraskar Felicitation is an outstanding idea and I thank the organisers for inviting me here.

I sincerely believe that these young achievers are the future leaders of our country and they need to be looked at as role models by the other children present here.

If those who are being felicitated here carefully think through, they will realise that their success is a result of some of the common ingredients that are normally responsible for any success. In my opinion, those are

Hard Work

This debate whether hard work is necessary or smart work is necessary has long been settled and everyone now knows that both are required. Believe me that the world out there is very competitive and there is no substitute to hard work. Even today, I find it difficult to fully cope with the demands of my responsibility despite putting in the work of over 16 hours a day, six days a week. It is possible that today some of you get good results even with less than hard work, but as you grow, you will find that you will have to put in more and more work to get better grades. If you have other interests such as sports and recreation, the number of hours you have to put in only go up. Whether it is Mr. Amitabh Bachchan or Sachin Tendulkar, one of the key ingredients of their success is hard work.

Sincerity and Consistency

Only if you take your responsibilities seriously, you will concentrate and do justice to what you are supposed to do. Whether it is studies or sports activities or any other form of art, you will realise that you need sincerity of purpose and a consistent effort towards the goal. There is no individual or organisation in this world that can sit on its laurels and enjoy permanently in life. Many a times, it is easy to achieve peak performance but very difficult to remain there unless you have a consistency of effort. This requires a lot of will power and urge to excel in what you are doing all the time. The world around you has very short memory. Even a Sachin Tendulkar will be quickly forgotten if he does not score runs for five consecutive matches. There is no alternative to consistency for continued success.

Unflinching Faith in Yourself, Your Teacher and in Your Parents

To start with, you must believe that you will be able to achieve excellence in life. Self-confidence plays a vital role in doing anything well in life. And self-confidence has to be maintained despite a few failures in life. In the corporate world, we give a lot of importance to self-confidence as a leadership quality.
Remember that the chances of the patient getting cured of illness are far higher if that patient has faith in the doctor that he/she consults. Similarly, you must have full faith in your teachers and parents that they mean well for you. You must strongly believe that your teacher or your parents are the best in the world and must carry the highest respect for them. You are where you are, only because of your teacher and your parents.

You have achieved something because you wanted to achieve it

Please realise that the success you have achieved is not by default or by sheer coincidence but is a result of what you set out to achieve consciously. Anything that happens by accident does not last long. You have huge challenges before you in life and you are just entering the battlefield of competition. You can continue to be successful, only if you do continue to put in hard work, with the same sincerity, integrity of purpose and complete same confidence about self.

Many people say I am successful in what I am doing, though I personally feel that I have to achieve so much more. I sincerely believe that there are some fundamental reasons that help in achieving results in life:

The first contributor is upbringing. Our first learning happens at home. Our parents sacrifice so many things for us and ensure that we get the best of everything. My parents very consciously taught me the middle class values of respecting the elders, respecting the good values in life and above all respecting the value of money. So if your parents also make efforts to inculcate these values in you, embrace these values willingly.

The second contributor is the educational institutions we study in. I loved my school and my college. I learnt so many things there. The teachers were very kind and paid individual attention to me. I also learnt a lot from my co-students. I would urge each one of you to get the best out of your schools and colleges since this period in life will not return.

The next important thing in life is to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in life. Your vision will act as a lighthouse that guides the path for you all the time. Even in the organisations, we find that vision helps us in guiding our actions.

No vision can work unless you have a clear plan of execution. I always found that a vision is meaningless unless it is backed by a clear action plan. So if you have a vision to become a doctor or a lawyer or an astronaut, you must think through and plan what actions are required to achieve this vision. There has to be a complete alignment of your vision and your actions. You cannot become a doctor or an engineer if you spend most of your time in playing cricket. Nor can you become a top class cricketer if you spend most of your time indoors.

The next element I want to share with you is the need for speed in life. The world around us is moving at an unbelievable pace and if you feel to keep pace with the world, you will be left behind. So whatever you do has to be done quickly and now. There is no place for tomorrow if you have to do something today.

The world of today is not simple but very complex. It will constantly throw at you challenges, paradoxes and conflicting messages. Nothing will be available for you in an easy way. You will have to develop the ability to make meaning out of this and choose what is right for you. In other words, you will have to develop the ability to deal with ambiguity.

Above all, my suggestion to you is to play to win. The new meaning for playing to win is to understand the depth of your potential and utilise it to the fullest. Winning does not mean playing dirty. Cutting corners would not give you the satisfaction of a real win. At Wipro, we achieved what we achieved without compromising in any manner on integrity. We believe in certain values strongly and do not compromise on them in any situation.

It is only a well-meaning education system that develops the competence and self-confidence among human beings. As you might have heard, in Azim Premji Foundation we have a dream of impacting the life of millions of children through universalisation of elementary education under Azim Premji Foundation. We strongly believe that every child in this country has a fundamental right to education and therefore, must be in school. We also believe that every child must remain in school and joyfully learn. My personal experience, after having worked in this area is that we have in our country a huge number of passionate teachers who, in a self-less manner are carrying out the responsibility of educating children in thousands of school. Especially in the government schools there is a lot of talent among the teachers and they are trying to make the best of their limited resources all the time. You are really fortunate that some of these teachers are taking cognisance of your achievements and are felicitating you. I would like to salute and respect the contributions of teachers across the country in shaping the future of the youth of this country.

I once again thank the teachers’ association for inviting me and wish all of you the very best for your future.

Abraham Lincoln’s letter to headmaster

A letter written by Abraham Lincoln to the Headmaster of a school in which his son was studying. It contains an advice, which is still relevant today for executives, workers, teachers, parents and students.

Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.

It will take time, I know; but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found.

Teach him to learn to lose and also enjoy the winning.

Steer him away from envy, if you can .

Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early that bullies are easiest to lick.

Teach him if you can the wonder of books…but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on the green hill-side.

In school teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.

Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong.

Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the band wagon.

Teach him to listen to all men but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him if you can how to laugh when he is sad.

Teach him there is no shame in tears.

Teach him to scoff at cynics and be aware of too much sweetness.

Teach him to sell of his brawn and brain to the highest bidders; but never put a price tag on his heart and soul.

Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob…and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.

Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel .

Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave.

Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.

This is a big order; but see what you can do…he is such a fine little fellow, my son

~Abraham Lincol

Words of Wisdom

Just now, got a meaningful (rarely so) forward (e-mail). These are the words of wisdom by Swami Vivekananda! I really find this interesting!


When I asked God for strength
He gave me difficult situation to face.

When I asked God for Brain & Brawn
He gave me puzzle in life to solve.

When I asked God for Happiness
He showed me some unhappy people.

When I asked God for Wealth
He showed me how to work hard.

When I asked God for Favors
He showed me opportunities to work hard.

When I asked God for Peace
He showed me how to help others.

God gave me nothing I wanted
He gave me everything I needed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Life lessons from Infosys Narayana Murthy

R Narayana Murthy, chief mentor and chairman of the board, Infosys Technologies, delivered a pre-commencement lecture at the New York University (Stern School of Business) on May 9. It is a scintillating speech, Murthy speaks about the lessons he learnt from his life and career. We present it for our readers:

Dean Cooley, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, and, most importantly, the graduating class of 2007, it is a great privilege to speak at your commencement ceremonies.

I thank Dean Cooley and Prof Marti Subrahmanyam for their kind invitation. I am exhilarated to be part of such a joyous occasion. Congratulations to you, the class of 2007, on completing an important milestone in your life journey.

After some thought, I have decided to share with you some of my life lessons. I learned these lessons in the context of my early career struggles, a life lived under the influence of sometimes unplanned events which were the crucibles that tempered my character and reshaped my future.

I would like first to share some of these key life events with you, in the hope that these may help you understand my struggles and how chance events and unplanned encounters with influential persons shaped my life and career.

Later, I will share the deeper life lessons that I have learned. My sincere hope is that this sharing will help you see your own trials and tribulations for the hidden blessings they can be.

The first event occurred when I was a graduate student in Control Theory at IIT, Kanpur, in India. At breakfast on a bright Sunday morning in 1968, I had a chance encounter with a famous computer scientist on sabbatical from a well-known US university.

He was discussing exciting new developments in the field of computer science with a large group of students and how such developments would alter our future. He was articulate, passionate and quite convincing. I was hooked. I went straight from breakfast to the library, read four or five papers he had suggested, and left the library determined to study computer science.

Friends, when I look back today at that pivotal meeting, I marvel at how one role model can alter for the better the future of a young student. This experience taught me that valuable advice can sometimes come from an unexpected source, and chance events can sometimes open new doors.

The next event that left an indelible mark on me occurred in 1974. The location: Nis, a border town between former Yugoslavia, now Serbia, and Bulgaria. I was hitchhiking from Paris back to Mysore, India, my home town.

By the time a kind driver dropped me at Nis railway station at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, the restaurant was closed. So was the bank the next morning, and I could not eat because I had no local money. I slept on the railway platform until 8.30 pm in the night when the Sofia Express pulled in.

The only passengers in my compartment were a girl and a boy. I struck a conversation in French with the young girl. She talked about the travails of living in an iron curtain country, until we were roughly interrupted by some policemen who, I later gathered, were summoned by the young man who thought we were criticising the communist government of Bulgaria.

The girl was led away; my backpack and sleeping bag were confiscated. I was dragged along the platform into a small 8×8 foot room with a cold stone floor and a hole in one corner by way of toilet facilities. I was held in that bitterly cold room without food or water for over 72 hours.

I had lost all hope of ever seeing the outside world again, when the door opened. I was again dragged out unceremoniously, locked up in the guard’s compartment on a departing freight train and told that I would be released 20 hours later upon reaching Istanbul. The guard’s final words still ring in my ears – ”You are from a friendly country called India and that is why we are letting you go!”

The journey to Istanbul was lonely, and I was starving. This long, lonely, cold journey forced me to deeply rethink my convictions about Communism. Early on a dark Thursday morning, after being hungry for 108 hours, I was purged of any last vestiges of affinity for the Left.

I concluded that entrepreneurship, resulting in large-scale job creation, was the only viable mechanism for eradicating poverty in societies.

Deep in my heart, I always thank the Bulgarian guards for transforming me from a confused Leftist into a determined, compassionate capitalist! Inevitably, this sequence of events led to the eventual founding of Infosys in 1981.

While these first two events were rather fortuitous, the next two, both concerning the Infosys journey, were more planned and profoundly influenced my career trajectory.

On a chilly Saturday morning in winter 1990, five of the seven founders of Infosys met in our small office in a leafy Bangalore suburb. The decision at hand was the possible sale of Infosys for the enticing sum of $1 million. After nine years of toil in the then business-unfriendly India, we were quite happy at the prospect of seeing at least some money.

I let my younger colleagues talk about their future plans. Discussions about the travails of our journey thus far and our future challenges went on for about four hours. I had not yet spoken a word.

Finally, it was my turn. I spoke about our journey from a small Mumbai apartment in 1981 that had been beset with many challenges, but also of how I believed we were at the darkest hour before the dawn. I then took an audacious step. If they were all bent upon selling the company, I said, I would buy out all my colleagues, though I did not have a cent in my pocket.

There was a stunned silence in the room. My colleagues wondered aloud about my foolhardiness. But I remained silent. However, after an hour of my arguments, my colleagues changed their minds to my way of thinking. I urged them that if we wanted to create a great company, we should be optimistic and confident. They have more than lived up to their promise of that day.

In the seventeen years since that day, Infosys has grown to revenues in excess of $3.0 billion, a net income of more than $800 million and a market capitalisation of more than $28 billion, 28,000 times richer than the offer of $1 million on that day.

In the process, Infosys has created more than 70,000 well-paying jobs, 2,000-plus dollar-millionaires and 20,000-plus rupee millionaires.

A final story: On a hot summer morning in 1995, a Fortune-10 corporation had sequestered all their Indian software vendors, including Infosys, in different rooms at the Taj Residency hotel in Bangalore so that the vendors could not communicate with one another. This customer’s propensity for tough negotiations was well-known. Our team was very nervous.

First of all, with revenues of only around $5 million, we were minnows compared to the customer.

Second, this customer contributed fully 25% of our revenues. The loss of this business would potentially devastate our recently-listed company.

Third, the customer’s negotiation style was very aggressive. The customer team would go from room to room, get the best terms out of each vendor and then pit one vendor against the other. This went on for several rounds. Our various arguments why a fair price – one that allowed us to invest in good people, R&D, infrastructure, technology and training — was actually in their interest failed to cut any ice with the customer.

By 5 p.m. on the last day, we had to make a decision right on the spot whether to accept the customer’s terms or to walk out.

All eyes were on me as I mulled over the decision. I closed my eyes, and reflected upon our journey until then. Through many a tough call, we had always thought about the long-term interests of Infosys. I communicated clearly to the customer team that we could not accept their terms, since it could well lead us to letting them down later. But I promised a smooth, professional transition to a vendor of customer’s choice.

This was a turning point for Infosys.

Subsequently, we created a Risk Mitigation Council which ensured that we would never again depend too much on any one client, technology, country, application area or key employee. The crisis was a blessing in disguise. Today, Infosys has a sound de-risking strategy that has stabilised its revenues and profits.

I want to share with you, next, the life lessons these events have taught me.

1. I will begin with the importance of learning from experience. It is less important, I believe, where you start. It is more important how and what you learn. If the quality of the learning is high, the development gradient is steep, and, given time, you can find yourself in a previously unattainable place. I believe the Infosys story is living proof of this.

Learning from experience, however, can be complicated. It can be much more difficult to learn from success than from failure. If we fail, we think carefully about the precise cause. Success can indiscriminately reinforce all our prior actions.

2. A second theme concerns the power of chance events. As I think across a wide variety of settings in my life, I am struck by the incredible role played by the interplay of chance events with intentional choices. While the turning points themselves are indeed often fortuitous, how we respond to them is anything but so. It is this very quality of how we respond systematically to chance events that is crucial.

3. Of course, the mindset one works with is also quite critical. As recent work by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, has shown, it matters greatly whether one believes in ability as inherent or that it can be developed. Put simply, the former view, a fixed mindset, creates a tendency to avoid challenges, to ignore useful negative feedback and leads such people to plateau early and not achieve their full potential.

The latter view, a growth mindset, leads to a tendency to embrace challenges, to learn from criticism and such people reach ever higher levels of achievement (Krakovsky, 2007: page 48).

4. The fourth theme is a cornerstone of the Indian spiritual tradition: self-knowledge. Indeed, the highest form of knowledge, it is said, is self-knowledge.

I believe this greater awareness and knowledge of oneself is what ultimately helps develop a more grounded belief in oneself, courage, determination, and, above all, humility, all qualities which enable one to wear one’s success with dignity and grace.

Based on my life experiences, I can assert that it is this belief in learning from experience, a growth mindset, the power of chance events, and self-reflection that have helped me grow to the present.

Back in the 1960s, the odds of my being in front of you today would have been zero. Yet here I stand before you! With every successive step, the odds kept changing in my favour, and it is these life lessons that made all the difference.

My young friends, I would like to end with some words of advice. Do you believe that your future is pre-ordained, and is already set? Or, do you believe that your future is yet to be written and that it will depend upon the sometimes fortuitous events?

Do you believe that these events can provide turning points to which you will respond with your energy and enthusiasm? Do you believe that you will learn from these events and that you will reflect on your setbacks? Do you believe that you will examine your successes with even greater care?

I hope you believe that the future will be shaped by several turning points with great learning opportunities. In fact, this is the path I have walked to much advantage.

A final word: When, one day, you have made your mark on the world, remember that, in the ultimate analysis, we are all mere temporary custodians of the wealth we generate, whether it be financial, intellectual, or emotional. The best use of all your wealth is to share it with those less fortunate.

I believe that we have all at some time eaten the fruit from trees that we did not plant. In the fullness of time, when it is our turn to give, it behooves us in turn to plant gardens that we may never eat the fruit of, which will largely benefit generations to come. I believe this is our sacred responsibility, one that I hope you will shoulder in time.

Thank you for your patience. Go forth and embrace your future with open arms, and pursue enthusiastically your own life journey of discovery!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Motivation Quote

Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as you mind lets you. What you believe, you can achieve. Mary Kay Ash