Mean accidental billionaires

EducationWorld May 2019 | Postscript

On April 12, TCS and Infosys Ltd (estb.1981), the latter promoted by N.R. Narayana Murthy and several others including Nandan Nilekani, architect of the Big Brother Aadhar ID card, declared their annual 2018-19 results. TCS with a sales revenue of Rs.146,463 crore and net profit of Rs.31,472 crore beat Infosys with Rs.82,675 crore and Rs.15,410 crore hands down.

The huge gap between TCS, a mere division of Tata Sons Ltd until 2004 and Infosys, which when it listed on the NASDAQ in 1999 had a higher valuation than TCS, is attributable to the quality of leadership and culture of the two companies. Whereas TCS inherited the liberal (JRD) Tata culture, Infosys’ founder-CEO N.R. Narayana Murthy is an individual who prides himself on his thrift and simplicity. In 2014 when Vishal Sikka, a Silicon Valley professional, was belatedly appointed CEO of the company, he was subjected to sniper attacks by the penny-pinching Murthy for his allegedly lavish expenditure, forcing Sikka’s resignation in 2017.

Your editor has had unpleasant experiences with mean-spirited IT industry billionaires. Since IT companies are the largest employers of well-educated youth, we naturally expected them to support EducationWorld. But Murthy abruptly torpedoed the anuual EducationWorld-Infosys Young Achievers Awards in 2008 (annual budget: Rs.4 lakh) and N. Chandrasekhar, CEO of TCS, immediately withdrew support from the annual TCS-EW Teachers Awards (Rs.8 lakh) instituted by Faqir Chand Kohli, the founder-CEO who built TCS from ground up over 40 years, on the ground of corporate austerity even as his remuneration zoomed to Rs.17 crore per year. The obfuscated reality is that the high and mighty of the IT industry are accidental billionaires who struck it lucky.

The blunt truth is that but for your editor’s relentless advocacy of liberalisation of the Indian economy which fructified in 1991, the sawdust caesars of the IT industry would be floundering in shallows and misery. Go figure!

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