Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review - A Better India A Better World

A Better India A Better World - N. R. Narayana Murthy: This is a collection of lectures or speeches from the founder and former CEO of Infosys, given at university convocations, leadership seminars, or published in business magazines. It is interesting to learn Infosys' early challenges to even import a computer or make a week long foreign trips, when licensing and stifling for-ex and import customs control were in place, as well as how the founders formulated the vision to be the most respected software services company. The book cites the typical challenges in India - corruption, poverty, over-population, inordinate delays, inefficiencies, lack of political leadership, good education, intellectual honesty, responsibility, accountability and so on. The solutions proposed are a bit more insightful than in "Imagining India", written by his fellow Infosys founder Mr. Nandan Nilekani, but again lacks the punch as to why they would lead to a better India. For example, it suggests creating a judiciary with a jury system, and use eminent citizens to head corruption courts - but it is not clear why this would this work when intellectual dishonesty prevails, and when private individuals are also corrupt? He himself admits private scandals such as Harshad Mehta's stock scam and cricket match fixing scams were bigger than public corruption! He'd like English and more Religion taught in schools - it is possible to appreciate his views, since he claims being articulate in English is important, and teaching religion inculcates values and appreciation for other beliefs. However, one may argue it can cause more drop-outs since much of the population can't even read/write in their own language and may quickly give up on English, and it is not necessary to teach religion to inculcate values - fact is many schools are already religion based (Christian missions, Hindu, Sikh or Muslim trusts), and indulge in a boat load of religious indoctrination starting with prayers, so the country might be better off not teaching more religion! The book quotes from so many leaders such as Gandhi, Churchill, Kennedy, Greenspan, Aristotle, Mark Twain, Samuel Johnson, Bernard Shaw, C. K. Prahlad, Einstein and others, as well as many Sanskrit hymns - of course, it is useful for speeches, but it also makes it seem one can easily fill a book with others' quotes! Also, some of them repeat since they were reused in different speeches. Criticism aside, it was interesting to read about his request for 240 page passport, since Indian IT professionals travel so much and require visas, seminars for 25 years in Bangalore for a power plant that still hasn't happened, and the leadership of JRD Tata who paid attention to detail by even inspecting plane toilets. The book also talks about Compassionate Capitalism, Travails of Philanthrophy and Entrepreneurship and has some good advise and insights on these topics. Overall, good as a library pick, but not sure if the collection of lectures warrants a 500 rupee price tag!

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