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):
B. Belief and self confidence
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!”
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.”