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NR Narayana Murthy: Worked 70+ hours a week for over 40 years,it wasn’t a waste, says Infosys’ Narayana Murthy

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Infosys cofounder NR Narayana Murthy doesn’t seem perturbed by the kerfuffle he sparked by suggesting recently that youngsters ought to work 70 hours a week to boost productivity and enhance India’s competitiveness.

He himself had put in the hours when setting up Infosys in 1981, said Murthy, 77.

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“I used to be in the office at 6:20 am and leave office at 8:30 pm and worked six days a week,” he told ET in an interview. “I know every nation that became prosperous did so through hard work.”

This work ethic was instilled in him early on.

“My parents taught me very early in life that the only way we could hope to escape poverty was to work very, very hard – of course, assuming that one gets the best productivity from each hour of work,” he said.

Murthy was the fifth of eight children in a family of modest means – his father was a schoolteacher in Mysore. He acquired a degree in electrical engineering from Mysore University and later studied computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur.

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“During my entire 40-plus years of professional life, I worked 70 hours a week,” he reiterated. “When we had a six-day week – till 1994 – I used to work at least 85 to 90 hours a week. That has not been a waste.”On a recent podcast with former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai, Murthy had said that India’s work productivity was among the lowest in the world.

Good work ethic and honesty
Murthy said India has much ground to cover. “We must remember that with a per-capita (income) of $2,300, India is a poor country,” he told ET. “For us to become a middle-income country (with a per-capita of $8,000-10,000) it will take about 16 to 18 years even with an annual growth rate of 8%.”

Such a commitment is needed to escape the cycle of poverty.

“My parents told me that the only way I can escape from the orbit of poverty was by good values – honesty, hard work, discipline, and good work ethic,” he said. “Putting the interest of the community ahead of one’s personal interest in the short and medium term will lead to personal betterment. I know every nation that became prosperous did so through hard work.”

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