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What keeps you awake at night Mr Gates, Mr Murthy?

08-December-2005
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What keeps you awake at night Mr Gates, Mr Murthy?

It was a packed hall that listened in rapt attention as NDTV's Prannoy Roy quizzed and cajoled and revealed facets of the lives of two of the biggest giants in the IT world today – Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft, and N R Narayana Murthy, Founder and Chief Mentor, Infosys.

It was a series of 'Did you know…' that the two IT stalwarts revealed, on some gentle coaxing by the seasoned Roy. For instance, did you know that the major turning point in Gates life was when he left school? Or did you know that Infosys, which has a current market cap of $17 billion, was almost sold for $1 million way back in 1991? Or did you know that Gates biggest dream these days is to build a software that will enable us to listen to our computers talk to us?

True, the question-answer session, which was telecast on NDTV 24X7 and NDTV Profit on Wednesday evening, skirted touchy topics like the Microsoft Anti-Trust issue, Google breathing down Microsoft's neck and Murthy's recent unpleasant experience with Deve Gowda over Bangalore's infrastructure and land allotment.

Roy started out the session by mentioning several similarities between Gates and Murthy – for instance, besides being iconic entrepreneurs, both started life as hardcore software guys, both today have given up being CEOs and taken a step back, both have superb right hand men – Steve Ballmer and Nandan Nilekani, both have huge businesses but an equally large contribution to social goals, both believed in spreading their wealth among employess through ESOPS and both withdrew that later on.

Listing among the major turning point in his life, the world's richest man said it was a chance to get to work on a school computer when he was all of 13, that developed a love for computers, which shaped his life. The second one was when he left school to set up Microsoft along with Paul Allen.

For Murthy, it was a very unpleasant experience of being incarcerated in a Bulgarian prison that set him on the path – through a series of events – to entrepreneuship and setting up of Infosys.

And what keeps these two IT icons awake at night? Said Gates, tongue firmly in cheek, "Every two years, someone comes to me and says, 'this is the end of your company'. I keep answering, 'not yet'." For Murthy it was, "I am most passionate about work and we want to make Infosys a globally respected corporation. Infosys has to keep achieving more scalabilites in all spheres. My colleagues at Infosys keep pushing for higher and higher growth every year. And I keep getting worried about how to achieve these targets."

Not surprisingly, when at the end of the interesting session Roy asked Gates and Murthy whether they would ever enter politics, both replied with a resounding 'No".

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