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Topic : How to Start a Successful Startup?
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By : Sudeep Tarafdar, Senior Consultant, BCG
Activity:  6 comments  19619 views  last activity : 06 29 2012 02:22:43 +0000

INFOSYS CASE STUDY - ‘Narayana Murthy and Infosys'

The case study ‘Narayana Murthy and Infosys' describes how Narayana Murthy, set up India's leading software company - Infosys. Narayana Murthy turned a small software development venture that he had set up with his friends in 1981, into one of the leading companies of the country. Infosys grew rapidly throughout the 1990s Narayana Murthy distributed the company's profits among the employees through a stock-option program, and adopted the best corporate governance practices. All this earned him praise and respect. In 1999, the company became the first Indian firm to be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market. In 2000, Infosys was poised to become a true global company.By 2000, Infosys' market capitalization reached Rs.11 billion and by 2001, Infosys was one of the biggest exporters of software from India. Narayana Murthy had built an organization that was respected across the country, with very strong systems, high ethical values and a nurturing working atmosphere.In February 2001, Infosys Technologies Ltd. (Infosys) was voted as the Best Managed Company in Asia in the Information Technology sector, in leading financial magazine Euromoney's Fifth Annual Survey of Best Managed Companies in Asia.


With his sound management skills, Narayana Murthy seemed to have taken Infosys to the pinnacle of success with the following key success factors :

 1. Leadership team : The leadership team needs to balance vision with practical experience. In most cases, a technology start-up will have a visionary and/or a technical genius (most often, these are the founders) in place from day one. However, all to often, the leadership team is not rounded out by people who actually know how to run a business and how to drive sales. Building a strong balanced team can be one of the trickier aspects of creating a successful start-up because it necessarily requires the visionary and the technical genius (founders) to admit their practical shortcomings and give up some of the control of the business. The idea behind a start-up is often somebody's "baby" and, quite naturally, they want to control every aspect of its development. Once you move these people away from micromanaging the business, the start-up begins to have a chance.

2. Well-conceived business plan :  This is an area where the practical experience of a well-rounded leadership team gives the start-up a leg up. The business plan needs to be practical and detailed. The business plan provides the blueprint for the growth of the company. Perhaps more importantly, the business plan is how you demonstrate the viability of the business to third party investors.

3. A strong product : It is a given that the product needs to be special – something that will differentiate itself from the universe of competing products - but there are other important factors. Ideally, the product will be one that can be protected by patent. If the products cannot be protected by a patent, then the start-up has to be positioned to capitalize on being the first to market. Absent patent protection, being the first to market and capturing as much market share as you can before the copy-cats arrive is the next best thing. The product needs to have a ready market meaning that there is a market for it and that either there is no real competition or that the product allows the company to differentiate itself from the competition.

4. Scalability : The scalability of the business may not be critical to the success of every business, but it is critical to drive a start-up to a large scale business. In other words, if the goal is to become a large, valuable company, scalability is key. However, if the goal is a little less lofty, then scalability is a little less important.

5. Adequate capital :. Without adequate capital, the business will struggle. Perhaps the business will have phenomenal sales, but be unable to deliver the product. Or, the business may build the product, but lack the cash to adequately market it. Or the business will be unable to attract the leadership team it needs and the team it has is diluted to ineffectiveness. Or, the business is unable to capitalize on its "first-to-market" status. While it is true that the management team for a start-up has to be versatile and willing to wear different hats, a capital-starved start-up can force the dilution of the management team to the point of everything being done poorly. Quite obviously, in many cases, the luxury of having adequate capital does not exist from day one. Finding the capital in a timely way can be very difficult. The more that can be done to address the other four points, the easier it will be to find capital.

Launch of Infosys

Narayana Murthy obtained his Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Mysore in 1967 and his Master's degree in Technology from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 1969. He started his career as head of the computer centre at IIM, Ahmedabad.In 1972, he went to Paris where he was part of the team that designed a 400-terminal, real-time operating system for handling air cargo for Charles De Gaulle airport. Narayana Murthy was a left-wing activist and mingled with French communists during his stay in Paris but his outlook changed while traveling around Europe. He believed that the only way to pull India out of poverty was to create more jobs, by setting up new companies.In 1975, he returned to India and joined Systems Research Institute, Pune,(Maharashtra). He then headed Patni Computer Systems Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, (Maharashtra) before founding Infosys in 1981, along with six other professionals.  

The Strategist

From the beginning, Narayana Murthy focused on the world's most challenging market - the US. He had two reasons for this. First, there was no market for software in India at the time. He believed that Indian software companies should export products in which they had a competitive advantage.In 1987, Infosys entered into a joint venture with Kurt Salmon Associates (KSA), a leading global management consultancy firm. KSA-Infosys was the first Indo-American joint venture in the US.

People Management

Analysts felt that one factor which helped Infosys to grow at a faster pace than others was the low employee turnover.The turnover rate at Infosys was around 11% as opposed to industry average for software companies' of over 25% during the 1990s.Infosys' retention capability was a function both of its rigorous selection procedures as well as proactive HRD practices. About 80% of the middle and senior level executives were promoted from within the organization...
Corporate Governance and Infosys

Analysts felt that Infosys became one of the most respected companies in India, through its corporate governance practices, which were better than those of many other companies in India. Narayana Murthy's move to adhere to the best global practices was driven by his vision to become a global player. Infosys adopted the stringent US Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) many years before other companies in India did...

Leaders in the Making

 Narayana Murthy set up a Leadership Institute in Mysore, India, to manage the future growth of Infosys. The institute aimed at preparing Infosys employees to face the complexities of a rapidly changing marketplace and to bring about a change in work culture by instilling leadership qualities.

I would like to end with a comment from Sri Narayana Murthy: He said, “It is our vision at Infosys, to create world-class leaders who will be at the forefront of business and technology in today's competitive marketplace...

This has been at the forefront of their corporate culture !!!

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6 comments on "INFOSYS CASE STUDY - ‘Narayana Murthy and Infosys'"
  Commented by  Business Management Consultant, Business Management Consultant, Strategic Planner & Strategic Management Specialist    | 06 29 2012 02:22:43 +0000
Very informative.It's always highly important to have right leadership in a business.
  Commented by  Nirmalya Sujib Biswas, Marketing Manager, Brother International (I) Pvt. Ltd.    | 06 09 2010 21:05:49 +0000
truly inspiring and incredibly motivating!!!
  Commented by  sakshi gupta, B.Tech/B.E. student, Arya college Of Engg and IT    | 04 25 2010 12:36:33 +0000
A case study which can motivate new entrepreneurs
  Commented by  aishwarya, B.Tech/B.E. student, rishiraj inst. of technology    | 12 12 2009 15:35:16 +0000
very good case study....
  Commented by  shubhra jain, student, HR    | 11 24 2009 07:03:40 +0000
really a gud case study
  Commented by  JAPI, HR Manager, ACME Consultants    | 01 18 2009 15:25:21 +0000
Add your comment on "INFOSYS CASE STUDY - ‘Narayana Murthy and Infosys'"

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