We have often wondered what makes people do what they do; what motivates them to do either extraordinary good or bad. Thus it is was very interesting to read one of the reasons that motivated Narayana Murthy to set up Infosys.
In a story to CNN, he has narrated that a hitchhiking trip across 25 countries in Europe in his late 20s and then getting stranded in Serbia could be one of the reasons why Infosys came into being.
Narrating the incident, Murthy has said:
“A defining moment of my life came from an unexpected incident that happened in what was then Yugoslavia. In Niš (now in Serbia), a kind man dropped me off at the railway station at 9:30pm, from where I had to take a train to Sofia the next day. The restaurant at the station refused to give me any food, since I did not have any Yugoslavian currency. The next day was a Sunday, and all banks were closed. I spent the day lying down at the station to conserve my energy and boarded the Sofia Express at 8pm.
Sitting opposite me in the train were a boy and girl. I was well-versed in English, French and Russian, and tried to strike a conversation. While the boy did not respond, the girl knew French and was kind and friendly. While we were talking, the lad walked up to a few policemen standing nearby and said something. The next thing I knew was that my bag was being ransacked. I was dragged out of the train and thrown into an 8 x 8ft room and my passport was confiscated. The room had just a toilet in a corner; the floor was hard and cold. There was no bed, no chair or table.
On Thursday morning, after about 120 hours without water and food, the doors opened. I was dragged out and locked up in the guard’s compartment of a freight train. I had lost the ability to think.
It had been almost two days since I had eaten anything. The next morning, I was hoping they would give me something to eat. When it was past breakfast, I thought there would be lunch at least. There was no lunch either. They had locked me up and were gone. At 4 in the evening, I thought I was going to die.
On Thursday morning, after about 120 hours without water and food, the doors opened. I was dragged out and locked up in the guard’s compartment of a freight train. I had lost the ability to think. They told me that they would not allow me to get down in Bulgaria, and that my backpack and passport would be returned in Istanbul. “You’re from a friendly country called India, so we’re letting you go”, they said.
I got my passport and backpack back, but the incident turned me from a confused Leftist to a determined capitalist. It left me disappointed in communism, and got me thinking about the method of governance that is best for a country’s development. While staying in Paris, I had also had a chance to meet George Marchais, the then head of the French communist party. I realized that a country can prosper only through the creation of jobs, and the only people who can do that are entrepreneurs. I realized, that a government’s job is not to create jobs but to make it easy for entrepreneurs to create jobs.
It happened many years ago and a lot has happened since, but I believe this event had something to do with the creation of Infosys.”