Infosys Foundation

Plan Your Exit Strategy | Sudha Murthy

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“Whenever you take a project, there should be an exit policy. You cannot help people forever. You can help for 3 years or 5 years, depending upon what you want to do and you should stop one or the other way…No way people who receive money should become dependent on you.”

Sudha Murthy, the founder and Chairperson of Infosys Foundation knows the true worth of philanthropy, having designed strategies to plough capital back into funding programs on rural development and public health and education.

In this podcast interview Ms. Murthy explains the need to maintain a fine balance between ‘doing good’ and ‘being profitable’ and shares her 5 key learnings with us.

Co-create for Sustainability

Khemka Forum Podcast Series: Transcript of the podcast with Sudha Murthy

Interviewer: Shivraj Parsad, The PRactice



Shivraj: Sudha Murthy, thank very you so much for speaking to the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Sudha Murthy: Its nice actually to know such a Forum are there and they interact.

Shivraj: Ms Murthy, you have been known as the tireless philanthropic, yet it is said that people like you are few and far in between. Do we in India lag behind the West in giving?

Sudha Murthy: In a way yes and in a way no. Yes, because we definitely do not think the public good is more important that the personal good, and definitely it isn’t as much as the West. But there is a reason behind that because you know to do philanthropic work you require money and for many centuries Indians did not have that kind of money. I think now with the new policies and all people are becoming economically better and sound. So I say no, the first answer is no, we are not like the West, Yes I say because now people are into philanthropy lot more than before.

Shivraj: Well you see a lot of big business houses because it is a cultural phenomenon give ‘Daan’ but do you think as a nation we are moving beyond cheque book charity to effective giving?

Sudha Murthy: I think so, I think so because you see my knowledge is limited to Infosys Foundation. It is the charity wing of Infosys Technologies. So what I say may be subjective. Maybe with my experience only I can talk, because I do not have other experiences. I have seen youngsters coming to the office asking for volunteer work, donating their last salary. They would like to use a weekend to come and teach poor children in areas of corporation schools, government schools. I see that trend increasing.

Shivraj: And where do you see Infosys Foundation having the greatest impact…what can other donor agencies learn from your experience?

Sudha Murthy: Infosys Foundation has certain strategies and we work accordingly, for example we work in those states where we have Infosys presence. Like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, then….Orissa, Punjab to some extent, Kerala. Second things is we do not take any donation from anybody we get money from Infosys technologies. Then we categorize where we spend money like medical, destitute, education and art and culture. This is the way how we do, because of our strategy.

Shivraj: And from your perspective, what then do social entrepreneurs listening to this interview take away from the work you have the done as the head the Infosys Foundation, what are the top 5 lessons you’ve learnt working in the states you have just mentioned?

Sudha Murthy: Whenever you take a project, there should be an exit policy. You cannot help people forever. You can help for 3 years or 5 years, depending upon what you want to do and you should stop one or the other way, it could be a taper stop or it could be a sudden stop. These are things we have to check with our strategies. Like in some projects we say we will help three years, reduce and then stop it and in some we help 5 years and then stop it. No way people who receive money should become dependent on you. Second thing is, whenever you work you should not think of the political party, whether the project will be politically connected or religiously or language wise, because we do not work with these three things. The project is only good by itself then only we will we help. Most important thing is the project. The third point is never expect anything from the receiver, because if you have expectation from the receiver then you will be totally disappointed. The person receiving the grant from you, you should not have anything from them, any expectations; they’ll recognise, they’ll say good words, otherwise it is very disappointing. And normally human beings do expect, so you try to learn that one with practice that you detach and you do. And, the last one is the most important that you should compassionate words, kind words. It is not money, technically if you are extremely competitive but if you are not using compassionate words and making them feel comfortable with you then only will you be able to do a good project, otherwise the project will fail.

Shivraj: And Ms Murthy, How do you see the field of social entrepreneurship and social business shaping up in India? Do you think it is taking hold?

Sudha Murthy: Yes there are now good social entrepreneurs groups, they are doing fairly good work. See anything with a human being takes time. You can improve the business, you can improve the technologies, within a year you can learn a lot. For example, computer sciences is so fast and so much advancing every year. So it’s a joy to see so much progress in your own lifetime. But anything that you do with a human being and socially conditioned situation it takes time. So what computer science can progress in five years, probably with human beings you can progress in a year or six months at times. So though there is a change, there are people who are changing, it takes more time than you should have patience.

Shivraj: So in your view can you do both good and be profitable??

Sudha Murthy: Well my personal idea is that you have to be wise. Philanthropy is different from social entrepreneurship. Technically different. There is a service provider and there is self sustainable. For example teaching is always service provider, working with an AIDS patient is always service provider, whereas if you start a small group of people who are highly entrepreneurial oriented and give them money to start, it is socially sustainable. So both are different, but if you compare both it depends on the person. Sometimes I am afraid that there maybe you decide you will become only profitable and you may not be a service provider. So if a very mature person is at the top then only he can divide, look this much time and money I will use to generate money and this much time and money I will use to the social service provider. To marry these two things you require an extremely balanced person or else many things can happen. Some social entrepreneurs have become extremely capitalist or I have seen social service providers always with the begging bowl looking for donations. Marrying these two requires a very good balance and a very sensitive balance

Shivraj: Sudha Murthy thank you so much for speaking to the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

Sudha Murthy: Thank you Shivraj.


Views expressed here are solely that of the person interviewed and may not represent the views of The Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation.