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What Tata, Murthy want from politicians

Last updated on: December 22, 2009 20:07 IST

What Tata, Murthy want from politicians

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Manu A B in Mumbai

Ordinary people inspire extraordinary entrepreneurs. India's best-known entrepreneur, N R Narayana Murthy, draws inspiration from Pandu Ranga, his secretary. His courteousness, hard work and loyalty to the company have been very inspiring, says Murthy.

Ratan Tata, who was awarded the TiE 'Entrepreneur Extraordinaire' lifetime achievement award, said the Taj Mahal hotel staff, who were ordinary people, did an extraordinary job of saving and rescuing people during the terrorist attack, some even ending up giving their lives. They will always remain an inspiration, he said.

Industry icons Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy spoke at length at the TiE Entrepreneurship Summit (TES) in Mumbai on Monday. The summit -- Changing the Nation, Leading the World -- offers a platform to enterprising and innovative Indians who are making a difference in the society.

Murthy asked Tata on how he felt when he took over the reins of the Tata empire from the legendary J R D Tata. "I was confused as to what I should be to fit in my predecessor's shoes. Then I decided to be myself. Many times JRD would come and sit at the chairman's seat and then get up realizing I should be sitting there. So we used to play musical chairs. He was a wonderful mentor who supported my decision of implementing the controversial retirement age," Tata reminisced.

When asked if he would like to ask Murthy anything, Tata said: "There is nothing I do not know about him. He made his own shoes and left them for many others to take over."

In an interesting session hosted by Shekhar Gupta, Editor, The Indian Express, Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy shared their views on each other, entrepreneurship, trust, politicians and their experience of being at the helm of India's most reputed companies. Click NEXT to read on. . .


Image: Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata.
Photographs: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
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India is moving forward in the right direction: Murthy

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Is India headed in the right direction?

Tata: It is satisfying to see India opening up. Indian enterprises are flourishing on merit rather than on influence, there is greater freedom, consumers have a wider choice.

But there is still an over-controlling of the economy. Many vested interests are working against the true potential of India.

Murthy: India is moving forward in the right direction. Licensing has been removed from most sectors, but we need to come forward with flexible labour policies, liberalise education, build infrastructure. . . In cities, the floor area ratio (or floor space index -- FSI) is quite less and this creates several problems. We also need an efficient state government to progress.


Image: Infosys co-founder and chairman Technologies Ltd N R Narayana Murthy.
Photographs: Jagadeesh Nv/Reuters
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The government must be progressive: Tata

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Expectation from the political leadership

Tata: The government must be progressive, committed to economic well being and growth of India, and be truly concerned about every citizen.

The government gives all the right to vote, but does every citizen have the right to facilities? There is a political glorification of poverty and the effort to keep the poor as they are.

Murthy: Every child must have access to education, healthcare and shelter. Ethical businesses must have full opportunity to progress. The government must eliminate poverty with more jobs.

We can progress faster only if we go for inclusive growth.

On climate change

Murthy: We at Infosys have taken several measures to save energy. We do make a sustainability report at Infosys. Every new building that we make uses 40-45 per cent less energy. I will also be looking at green technologies ideas. I have received many ideas from this field.

Tata: We are committed to protecting the environment. We have initiatives in solar, wind, geothermal areas. Water conservation is another major initiative. We need to show the path and make sacrifices for the future generations.


Image: A Greenpeace activist protesting against climate change carries a model of the earth during a mock funeral procession in New Delhi.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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The information sector is saturated: Murthy

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Is there an entrepreneurship drought in India?

Tata: There is no such drought. There are ideas bubbling all around us. But how many good ideas are given the chance to surface? Many problems still exists: like lack of venture capital support, lack of bank loans, no change in established thoughts. . . We have many intelligent and creative people but often they do not get a chance to bring out their talent.

Murthy: The information sector is saturated. There are many other sectors with good ideas. My idea of setting up the Catamaran Venture Fund (which will be launched in March 2010) is to identify innovative entrepreneurs who can leverage opportunities, create jobs and add value to the society.

Land issue in India

Murthy: We need to increase the floor area ratio. We need about 200 sq feet when we hire one engineer. So we need to increase the ratio from 1:1 or 2 to 1:15. Most of the land used by industries is barren land.

India has to create lot of jobs in the manufacturing sector like China has done for the millions who are not well educated. . . and land is crucial for this process. Transparency is the key to solving the problems.

Tata: Land is a hot issue in India. The conflicts that industry faces are often provoked by individuals who are politically inclined. There should be a clear demarcation between agriculture land and barren land.

On the West Bengal fiasco

Tata: We wanted to contribute towards industrialisation in West Bengal. But it did not happen. We feel sorry about it but it was inevitable. We hope West Bengal helps entrepreneurs to exist in Bengal.


Image: Left Front supporters gather in support of the Tata car project at Singur village.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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I have great respect for Rajiv Gandhi: Tata

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On their experience with politicians

Murthy: No politician has asked for any favour.

Tata: Politicians do seek favours and we have lost many benefits by not giving in to their demands.

Interaction with politicians:

Tata: I have great respect for Rajiv Gandhi. If he had come back to power, a lot of things would have changed. He has many fresh ideas in terms of changing India. Narasimha Rao too was an astute person. I also respect Dr Manmohan Singh.

Murthy: Narasimha Rao was very kind. He brought about winds of change with the initial liberalisation.

The importance of trust

Tata: Trust is the underlying foundation for any business organisation. Trust is more important than anything else. Without trust, you become superficial.

Murthy: Trust is the currency that reduces transaction cost in a society. It is the most important things for any business. If you want to succeed, you have to build a trust with the society.


Image: Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi smiles in this March 16, 1991 file photo.
Photographs: KK/CC/Reuters
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In India, vested groups do not allow development: Tata

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Will a 10-year economic vision work?

Tata: It will work if all of us rise above parochial interests. In India, we face a situation where businessmen do not agree on a common platform. To grow, we need to come together.

Many countries are ahead of us in terms of infrastructure. In India, vested groups do not allow development.

Murthy: We have a tendency to be afraid of the government. When the HRD Ministry unilaterally decided to cut the fees of Indian Institutes of Management, I urged the Confederation of Indian Industry to issue a statement saying we must have a dialogue before such decisions are taken. But it was never done. I was disappointed.

On competition between TCS and Infosys

Murthy said it was great to compete with the Tatas, a company that he and his wife admire.

Murthy: It is great that Infosys is worthy of competition; we have great respect for the Tatas. It is an honour to compete with them.

Ratan Tata said he admired Infosys and its huge campus with lots of trees, which TCS does not have.


Image: Tata Consultancy Services chief executive and managing director N. Chandrasekaran.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
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God favours the prepared mind: Murthy

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Murthy on when he heard Ratan Tata's name for the first time

We had all heard about Ratan Tata. It was great to hear that he was going to take over the reins of the company from JRD Tata. Knowing his value systems, simplicity and extraordinary focus, we were relieved to hear Ratan Tata is taking over from JRD Tata.

Ratan Tata on when he heard Murthy's name for the first time

I heard about him when he had established Infosys. When I first met him, he already had a good reputation, and instantly we became friends.

So what's their success mantra?

Tata: Good Luck!

Murthy: God favours the prepared mind. So be prepared to seize the luck.


Image: Indian flag flies high: India's soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia holds the national flag as he celebrates his team's victory over Syria in the final of ONGC Nehru Cup.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
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