Thursday, November 01, 2007

Narayan Murthy on Respect

It was the latter part of May 1981 when the seven founders of Infosys met at my apartment in Mumbai to decide on the objectives for Infosys. The conversation ranged from becoming the software company with the highest revenue in India to becoming the company with the highest profits and the highest market capitalisation.

After a passionate four-hour debate based on data and facts, in what was to become the Infosys norm, we decided to strive to become India’s most respected software services company. Our logic was that in striving for respect we would ensure that we did not shortchange our customers; were fair and open with our colleagues; transparent and accountable to our investors; fair to our vendor-partners; did not violate the law of the land wherever we operated; and created goodwill in society.

Indeed, these values are at the foundation of our value system – CLIFE (customer focus, leadership by example, integrity and transparency, fairness and excellence in execution). Our vision is to become a globally respected corporation, providing best-of-breed, end-to-end business solutions leveraging technology and employing best-in-the-class professionals.

Why has Infosys been cited as the most respected company more often than any other company in India? It is clearly due to our steadfast commitment to CLIFE. This recognition by Businessworld is yet another pat on our back. Such acts of generosity, kindness and encouragement will keep us working harder and smarter to continue our quest for respect. Thank you, Businessworld. We, Infoscions, are grateful to you.

We emphasise the importance of respect from our stakeholders from the very first day new Infoscions walk into our Global Education Centre at the Mysore campus. I learnt pretty early in my career that the best way to make my colleagues return to our offices happy and enthusiastic every morning was to make Infosys more and more respectable. Every time I address a new batch, as part of the orientation, I tell them that I can guarantee them only three things at Infosys. First, their respect and dignity will be maintained and enhanced in every transaction. Second, the company will always conduct itself in a fair and ethical manner so that they will never have to hang their head in shame in front of their loved ones and friends. Third, and finally, they will be able to learn three times more than in any other environment. Youngsters like it because they are idealistic, the respect of peers and family matters to them the most, and they place a high premium on learning. I am glad that Infosys has lived up to its promises so far.

We ensure that we put the interest of the customer highest in everything we do. The customer champions within the company fiercely defend the interest of the customer in every action of ours. Let me demonstrate this philosophy with an example. In July 1996, we had signed a project contract with a customer in Canada. The customer champion had promised to start the project on a certain Monday. Our project team was to leave India for Canada on the prior Friday. However, there was a delay in obtaining visas from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi.

It became apparent by Wednesday that the team would not be able to travel to Canada on Friday. Our customer champion insisted that we have to start the project the next Monday, else the client MIS Director would look bad in front of his people. Hence, a decision was taken to inform the Client MIS Director that he could start the first phase of the project taken up on Monday with a vendor of his choice and that we would defray the difference between our price and the cost to the customer. As great admirers of Mahatma Gandhi, Infoscions believe that the best instrument of creating trust in our people is to lead by example and by walking the talk. Whether it is coming to the office early, working hard, sacrificing financial and material comfort to reduce costs, or focusing on excellence in execution, the managers at Infosys always lead from the front.

Integrity is the lifeblood of our existence as Infoscions. We can excuse incompetence but not lack of integrity. One of the most difficult decisions we have taken was choosing integrity over talent in the case of an extraordinary individual that we let go several years ago. Integrity is predicated upon our belief that we must always stand by our word. That is why the phrase ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ is a much revered motto at Infosys. Investors understand that every business will have its ups and downs. What they want the management to do is to bring bad news proactively and early.

This is why transparency becomes very important. Our belief in transparency is driven by our desire to disclose when in doubt. Infosys has always believed in bringing any possible bad news voluntarily to its investors. I can recount several examples. Bringing the news of loss of business from our biggest client, our loss due to investments in the secondary stock market, forecasting a slower growth in 2001, and admitting early the possible financial liability in a harassment case are a few of these.

Fairness is the foundation on which all happy and sustainable relationships are built. The best instrument of ensuring fairness is using data and facts to decide on every transaction. My discussions with younger colleagues tell me that they are willing to accept an adverse decision as long as we go through a fair and due process, use data and facts to arrive at a transparent decision, and provide full opportunity to the affected individual to present his or her data. So we live by the maxim: ‘In God we trust, everybody else brings data to the table’.

Excellence in execution is extremely important since brands are built on product or service experience. No rhetoric will convince a customer as much as delivering more than you promised. We believe that our actions speak the loudest and that they create trust in every stakeholder. Hence, the focus at Infosys is on execution rather than words. That is why, even today, we spend most of our time enhancing the quality of recruitment, training and project execution. Every week, we receive reports on how clean our security gates are since they are the first touch points for our stakeholders.

Another important aspect of excellence in execution is the speed of response to requests, suggestions and grievances from our stakeholders, particularly, fellow Infoscions. Every mail we receive is answered within 24 hours with a suitable action initiated, if not completed. In the end, respect comes from creating trust and confidence in every transaction with your stakeholders. Let us remember that performance brings trust and confidence, trust and confidence bring respect, respect brings recognition and recognition brings power. That is the mantra at Infosys.

Source: Businessword

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