The poster boy of Indian entrepreneurs of the 21st century, Narayana Murthy, is back in business at Infosys – the third biggest Indian tech firm – with a renewed mission to reverse the slide that had happened in his absence. Of course the economic slowdown had its own role to play, but the Infosys slide has been mainly engineered by a rising attrition rate, probably because of eroding values of employee welfare; values that were initially laid down by Murthy himself. The catchword of ‘employees first’ resonating with equal importance to ‘customers first’ was pioneered in India by Infosys, not just as a business strategy to foster higher revenues but also higher happiness levels of its workers. You can call it altruism, but trust me, despite some new-age philosophies preaching against this construct, it is better than the ‘me only’ capitalist doctrines. Even the heartland of United States that was built on the ideals of ‘survival of the fittest’ and showed little sympathy for those who couldn’t make it, has been eventually forced to acknowledge the pain, frustration and miseries of the weak as was evidenced through the Occupy Wall Street campaign and President Obama’s second term.
Barack Obama is often castigated by the Conservatives and media for being a socialist, and hence labeled as weak – a typically stereotyped capitalistic prophecy – only to find out that the overwhelming middle-class voters are behind him, despite his belonging to a racial minority. That’s leveling scores of socialism with capitalism, which many thought is indispensable. Without any doubt, capitalism forms the backbone of almost any economy; and centrally-controlled government planning or equal wage distribution based on principles of communism alone cannot take a country far and on the path of being economically prosperous. But an equitable distribution of wealth is as much important in an economy as ‘wealth creation’ per se is. And Narayana Murthy understood this perfectly, an understanding that set the standard for ESOPs in Infosys. He distributed Rs.50,000 crores among his employees and made all of them shareholders of Infosys. Even when he founded Infosys with his and his wife’s savings, in a first ever in India, he made his top employees top shareholders of Infosys, making many multi-millionaires. That’s socialism at its best – upholding dignity and ownership from the topmost to the lowermost in a flat employee structure. But that doesn’t mean he did not pursue capitalism – Murthy created wealth through capitalism and prudently distributed it to his people as an exemplar of socialism. His motto of following capitalism in his mind and socialism in his heart was thus fulfilled. Truly, this set the pattern for many others in similar businesses; and Indian entrepreneurs, at large, now follow his exemplary principles as Murthy showed that it is possible to build a business empire with socialist values.