Infosys Co-founder Dinesh Shares His Story at TiE-SV


An image of K Dinesh, co-founder of Infosys, Limited
K Dinesh

On March 3, 2014, K Dinesh, co-founder of Infosys Limited, mesmerized a TiE Silicon Valley (SV) audience with keen insight and perspectives on Infosys along with general principles of success for companies and individuals. He also shared his personal journey from his early life in India to a billionaire retired businessman.

For several decades, Infosys has been a global leader in Information Technology, Business Consulting and Process Outsourcing Solutions. According to former TiE-SV President Vish Mishra, “Infosys put India on the map,” for its high quality software and services capabilities.

Dinesh (he only goes by that one name) served on the Board of Directors of Infosys from its 1981 inception until his retirement in 2011. During his 30 years with Infosys, Dinesh and his six co-founders successfully converted an initial investment of about $250 into one of the largest and most successful consulting companies in the world. Today, Infosys operates in over 30 countries, employs over 150,000 associates and has a market-cap of approximately $34 billion.

Widely regarded as one of the best managed companies in the world, Infosys has been voted “India’s Most Admired Company” in every Wall Street Journal -Asia survey since the year 2000. Infosys has achieved on time delivery of quality software a remarkable 95 to 98% of the time!

Presentation to TiE-SV:

Dinesh enumerated a few time-line highlights of Infosys:

  • Founded in 1981 as “Infosys Consultants Pvt Ltd” in Pune. Leader was N R Narayana Murthy. Other co-founders were Dinesh, Nandan Nilekani, Kris Gopalakrishnan, S D Shibulal, N S Raghavan and Ashok Arora.
  • 1983- company’s corporate headquarters relocated to Bangalore
  • 1992 -Boston Sales office opened (1st U.S. presence)
  • 1993- company went public in India
  • 1999-NASDAQ listing-first Indian firm to list on Nasdaq; crossed $100 million in annual revenues
  • 2006-$2B in annual revenue
  • December 2012 -Infosys transferred the listing of its American Depositary Shares from the NASDAQ to the NYSE
  • 2013- $4.2B in annual revenue

Dinesh then told some of his own personal life story. It was quite interesting and entertaining! There were eight children in his family. His father, Krishnaswamy, was a High School Headmaster. His mother, Savithramma, and father prepared extra food for the milk vendor and others that came to their home to eat in the 1950s and 1960s. The family believed in sharing what they had with others in their community. Undoubtedly that sharing mentally rubbed off on Dinesh who has always been very gracious.

After graduating with a mathematics degree from Bangalore University, Dinesh could not find an engineering job. He sorted letters and was later a cable inspector in Karnataka. Several government jobs led him to Patni Computers as a software project manager. There he met up with Mr. Murthy- the principal founder of Infosys in 1981.

Shortly after the company was founded (in 1981), Dinesh lived in Tampa, FL for a very brief period of about 6 months. His very first overseas air journey was the trip from Bombay to New York (via Frankfurt) to visit Data Basics Corporation- Infosys’ first client. Then on to Tampa with co-founder Ashok Arora to join the other Infosys co-founders.

Some pearls of professional wisdom offered to the audience:

  • If you build a great corporate culture, you’ll attract high qualtiy employees. Infosys built an open company culture.
  • Corporate leaders should constantly learn all the time. They should strive to, “Hire people better than us.”
  • Leaders are human beings that sometimes get emotional. It’s important for them to, “Keep their emotions in check.”
  • Cultivate a group (of co-workers) that will support you.
  • Employees should respect each other and think more about what’s good for the company rather than their own personal interests.
  • For entreprenneurs: “Believe in your journey. Don’t shy away from your innovative dream. Believe in it with passion and confidence.”

Dinesh then enumerated the A, B, C, D, E’s of management (learned at Infosys):

A. Adventure

B. Belief and self confidence

C. Character

D. Dream big

E. Execute to excellence

Via email, Dinesh provided a few other rules: Focus, Hard Work, Success, Innovation, Learning, etc. “In my dictionary “W”comes before “S”, as success follows work and hard work brings that faster,” he wrote. Dinesh’s father taught him “to have five friends from our birth to death as human beings in order to foster innovation.”

As for future directions, a challenge Dinesh and Infosys now face is, “How to keep a humble culture when you have an embarrassment of riches (due to success of the company)?” Even though Dinesh retired in 2011, he wants Infosys to be the most respected company in the world- not just in India!

Dinesh then outlined his personal Infosys 3.0 aspirations, cautioning that they are NOT official company objectives:

  • 1/3 revenues from consulting for corporate clients
  • 1/3 revenues from software platforms and services
  • 1/3 revenue from “bread and butter” products. He thinks this will involve a different set of customers and investors than for the services business and that the scale (of new software products) will increase in the next few years.

[In a post event email, Dinesh clarified that he is not the official spokesman for Infosys as he retired from the Board of Directors in 2011.]

Dinesh closed by thanking the audience for their attention and saying that great leadership sets a proper example to sustain a thriving corporate culture. He later provided this endearing and inspirational quote via email:

“(Asking) why, what, where, when and how, kept me to search for my true potential from childhood. It made me inquisitive and innovative. This was the hallmark of Infosys as I led the process journey with an innovative mind set!”

Addendum: “Infosys gave me power to believe in oneself”

When he retired from Infosys in April 2011, Dinesh told the Indian Express: “It is a very emotional decision for me after living at Infosys for 30 years. Who I am today is because of Infosys.” He added: “I studied in a Kannada medium (the language of Karnataka). My English, even today,may not be very great. But I learned a lot of things and what Infosys gave me was the power to do what is required by believing in oneself.”

The Indian Express wrote: “The company has turned to Dinesh whenever there were any complex projects to be undertaken. ‘He has handled each of his responsibilities with extraordinary diligence, quality and professionalism,’ Murthy said on Friday.”

From 1981 to 1990 Dinesh managed Infosys software projects in the U.S. He has also subsequently been involved in worldwide software development initiatives, headed Infosys Australia and also the Human Resources Development and Education and Research functions at the company.

Nigel Fenwick wrote on Dinesh’s LinkedIn Profile:

“I worked with Dinesh on a major re-engineering project while I was CIO for Reebok in the UK and I can say he is a man of integrity, honor and determination to ensure he delivers on the results he has promised.”

The Exit Interview

I envisioned the perfect title for a video interview that wasn’t to be. Since this was his last day in the industry before setting off for warmer climes, a video interview would be a great way to recognize and capture parting thoughts from an affable and humble GM who led the transformation of a telephone cooperative into a broadband provider of multiple services. Of course, his answer to my query of what made him successful would have been, “It is the team.”

His deflection of credit to his team would have been correct, but he was the one who assembled the team and nurtured the culture of the company. He showed the industry how to diversify and create new lines of business. Working with other local leaders and businesses, he helped make his community better and the results spoke for themselves as his company’s customer-base grew by over 300% since the late 1990s; during a time when many companies were in decline.

Click to view Paul Freude discussing the innovative way PBC used the OVS process.

As is characteristic for this modest mid-westerner, Paul Freude didn’t want to be on camera this week to talk about his accomplishments. It was a bit disappointing, as I wanted to thank him on camera for his personal support of Viodi through the years.

Brent Christensen, President/CEO Minnesota Telecom Alliance sums up Freude’s influence in this statement, “It’s hard to even put into words the impact that Paul has had on the industry and, even more importantly, the members of Paul Bunyan Communications. It’s overwhelming when you look at all the accomplishments achieved under Paul’s leadership.”

As I was writing this article, I decided to search ViodiTV for Freude and I found this video that provides pearls of wisdom from an industry leader who will be missed. Fortunately for the members of Paul Bunyan Communications, their company is in good hands with the team Freude built and led by new GM, Gary Johnson. Congratulations Gary and best wishes Paul at the start of your new journey in retirement.

Paul Allen on Microsoft Then and Now – Interview at CHM in Mt. View, CA

On April 25th, “idea man” Paul Allen discussed his life and work at the Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mt View, CA. In 1975, Mr. Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He is currently the chairman of Vulcan Inc. and founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. He was interviewed by multimedia journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas.

This event was part of the CHM 2011 lecture series celebrating Revolutionaries, featuring conversations with and about some of the most distinguished thinkers in the computing field. The Revolutionaries lecture series complements the launch of the Computer History Museum’s permanent exhibition, Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing (which this author has toured and highly recommends). This particular event was co-sponsored by Kepler’s book store, which is selling Mr. Allen’s Idea Man book.

The interview was more a life story of a renaissance man than a look back at the early days of Microsoft. Nonetheless, Mr. Allen offered a few talking points about that time. Moderator Vargas started the interview with a great lead in question: “What was your biggest surprise?” Mr Allen replied that it was being able to complete writing his book, despite fighting cancer. “Meticulously going through drafts, edits, changes. The book gives everyone a sense of what iit was like (in the early days of Microsoft). I was able to tell it like I experienced it in an untarnished way.”

Mr. Vargas followed up that theme: “There’s a lot of dirty laundry in your book. It seems that your work at Microsoft went from a highly productive partnership (with Bill Gates) to loathing at the end. Did you talk to Bill Gates or Steve Balmer about the book?” Paul replied that he didn’t talk to Gates, but he did talk to Balmer who told him, “The book portrays everything you knew about Microsoft (at the time), but we deny it.”

Mr. Vargas next made reference to a “1974 Popular Electronics*” magazine article about the Altair PC, which he thought might have inspired Paul Allen and others at Microsoft. The article described the Altair Basic MITS using the Intel 8008 microprocessor. Many say that machine was the first PC. One would have thought that article would’ve caused Microsoft executives to believe that PCs would be widespread. Instead, Mr Allen stated, “We had no idea of how fast the PC market would take off. When the (Intel) 8080 microprocessor came out, Bill said let’s wait for someone to build a computer using it. At that time, we thought that, maybe, someday, Microsoft would have 35 employees.”

*Author’s Note: According to Wikipedia: “The (Altair) computer in the January 1975 issue of captured the attention of the 400,000 or so readers of Popular Electronics.” There is no reference to a 1974 article about “PCs in every home” as the moderator stated. In fact, Microsoft didn’t exist in 1974!

The CHM web site states: “Allen and Gates had no access to an Altair when they wrote their BASIC programming language interpreter for it. They debugged the program on a DEC PDP-10 timesharing computer using a simulator of the Intel 8008 microprocessor that Allen had written.” But during the CHM interview, Mr. Allen remarked that “Bill Gates was programming using IBM 360 and Univac mainframe computers.” Paul stated that his job in the early days of Microsoft was to “look at what will be coming next.”

The moderator asked: “Did Microsoft recognize the effect of Moore’s law at the time?” Paul repled that they were aware that (microprocessor) chips were getting much faster and cheaper, but he could not quantify what the implications of that might be for the computer industry and specifically for PCs.

Paul continued, “Bill (Gates) was an amazingly shrewd business person. We worked shoulder to shoulder writing initial code (at Microsoft).” He said the nature of their friendship was very important in starting the company. Paul was attracted to new technologies, while Bill looked after the business and marketing side.

Mr. Vargas asked, “What advice do you have for young technology company leaders, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook?” Paul responded: “You hve to be eternally vigilent and aware of new platforms coming down the pike. If they evolve rapidly and are accepted, they could replace the technology your company has.” It’s also important to have and retain great people, he said. “You also have to see new big things coming. For example social networks, which both Google and Microsoft missed capitalizing on.”

Fast forwarding to the present, Mr. Allen said that Microsoft faces fierce competition today. He said, “They have to fight multi-front wars. Yet it’s hard to innovate and get people to change their habits.” Paul identified three areas he thought Microsoft was lagging in: social networking, mobile apps and (Internet based) platforms. While acknowledging Microsoft’s leadership in PC and enterprise software as well as game platforms, he surprised this author by saying “Microsoft has had a breath taking fall from grace.” They are lagging in new areas, such as mobile devices, tablets and other new platforms, he said. Paul did not mention the advances Microsoft has made in web search, especially with the Bing search engine which has been adopted by Yahoo.

Mr. Allen was not too kind to Microsoft’s mobile computing software platform. “Windows mobile is coming from behind (more popular mobile OS’s/ software platforms such as Android, Apple, RIM). It needs to have persuasive new features to get people to switch. Shorter development cycles, agility and better employees are needed,” he said. He singled out media tablets as a key area for Microsoft to improve on.

The remainder of the interview dealt with Mr. Allen’s other interests. For example, he said his biggest failure was Charter Communications and his biggest investment was in oil and gas pipelines. Interval Research (a company he founded and owned) was described as “a good experience; they developed a lot of IP, but it was not a commercial success.” There was talk about brain research, philanthropy, commercial space travel, intelligent design and facing one’s mortality. But all that is beyond the scope of this article, which is focused on computing.

Mr. Allen’s closing comment may be quite prophetic. He said, “The rate at which young people adopt new technology is breathtaking. They spend an enormous amount of time on-line, but may not be inquisitive about how things work or creative about the technology world of tomorrow.” And that just might be an impediment to future innovation and technology breakthroughs.

Support and Warm Messages

This is from a friend who is in Japan –

“Please pray for Japan and efforts my fellow workers are making to restore nuclear reactors’ safety. And please tell everyone that many Japanese engineers and workers are fighting and will never give it up.  Supports and warm messages from people in America and other foreign countries are most important for them now.”

One way to help


Congratulations OPASTCO Award Winners

Congratulations to Steve Meltzer of JSI for winning the OPASTCO Associate Member Distinguished Service Award for 2009. For 32 years, Steve has been making valuable contributions to the independent telco industry. See him on ViodiTV in our conference coverage.

Congratulations to Harry Baker for receiving the well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. There will be coverage of Harry on ViodiTV.

Film Distribution 101


Stacey Brooks of Film Specific interviews Brian Stevenson, a long-time friend and long-time veteran of content licensing, discusses the challenges for an independent producer in getting distribution in various on-demand and pay television platforms. He provides good insight into pricing and the type of revenue a filmmaker can earn and how they can go about selling their product to studios and pay television outlets.  He stresses the importance of marketing to gain exposure and credibility with the studios. Promotional and marketing ideas that Stevenson suggests include submissions to film festivals, theatrical release and having name stars, even if they are B-stars.  Click here to listen to the post

Continuing to Bridge the Heartland and Hollywood

After 7+ years of going it alone, I have taken full plunge back into the Silicon Valley start-up culture by joining a company that is in stealth mode.  Over time, I will be able to reveal more details. It is in the broadband television space, but its model is so unique that it really is creating a new space in the world of television. 

One of the things that attracted me to this company was that they saw the value in the Viodi View and ViodiTV in helping to inform, connect and, hopefully, occasionally entertain the independent telco industry concerning the topic of video services.   Thanks to the foundation this company brings, our plan is to enhance our coverage of industry events and provide increased value to the telco trade associations and their members.  This relationship should give us a new channel for distributing the Viodi View and ViodiTV. 

The plan is to continue as well as expand  the coverage of independent telco tradeshows.  Editorial control will still be by the individual authors.   Our posts will still be a function of what we feel like writing at any given time and will cover what we think is relevant to independent telcos and their efforts to offer video.  

Roger Bindl and/or partners, depending upon the specifics of a particular opportunity, will handle Viodi business efforts. I will forward on article opportunities, which may present potential conflicts of interest (although I don’t think there will be many), to Roger Bindl.   That is it for now.  Please continue to read/view the Viodi View and ViodiTV and I will provide updates as appropriate.

Kudos to Alan Weissberger

I have always appreciated Alan Weissberger’s ability to analyze and write about complex technical challenges. He is never afraid to take a strong view on a topic. A former FCC Commissioner commented on one of his articles by stating, “Your articles were right on target and I very much enjoyed them.” 

Further, Weissberger is quoted in the 3/28 issue of the Online NewsHour by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions

"No one knows what the other players are going to do, because this spectrum doesn’t dictate what wireless technology you use," said Alan J. Weissberger, a Silicon Valley telecommunications consultant with DCT Advisors.

Thank you Alan for your contributions to the Viodi View and congratulations.

MTA Public Service Award Winner – Gary Johnson

One of the best things about the MTA conference is seeing friends, old and new. One person I did not catch up with is

Gary Johnson of Paul Bunyan Telephone

. He should have been there to accept his MTA Public Service Award. The irony is that the reason he was not there was the reason he won the award. He was chairing a Rotary Club meeting and missed the awards ceremony. In conjunction with the Rotary, Johnson spearheaded the

Lake Bemiji Dragon Boat Festival

, which drew 63 teams and over 1,300 visitors in 2007. This festival, scheduled for August 1-2nd, has been a boon to economic development for his community, drawing people from adjacent States.