Suck Goes to High-Tech India


Next time you're in Bangalore, you might try to arrange your own interview with Murthy; another facet of his mythology is that, schedule permitting, he'll talk with most anyone. A Web producer friend of mine had visited him several months earlier on no greater pretext than that she was in town doing "research." I simply emailed him and asked for an appointment; he set a time and it was done.

Monday afternoon the Singhs volunteer to drive me out to the Infosys complex — they have never seen it before and also have to collect a flower-delivery debt from an INFY employee. The ride out on the bomb-cratered, cow-filled highway takes about thirty minutes; we park in a dirt lot that would soon house one of the next Infosys buildings — another in the series of California-style low-slung tech-park offices that several thousand Bangaloreans commute to each day. Then the Singhs happily sit in the headquarters' lobby while I go upstairs to Murthy's second-floor boardroom.

After some introductory questions, the talk turns to Murthy's revolutionary stock-option plan. In Silicon Valley, employee options began as an incentive for engineers, and only gradually did they filter out to other parts of companies. Murthy went all-out from the start: everyone got stock. He couldn't be more proud that the guy serving me my milky, supersweetened tea, who has evidently been serving Murthy's guests for many years, is worth something like half a million US.

There it is, Internet myth #1 — the legend of the wealthy secretary. What's impressive, or seemed impressive, about this is that social mobility in India (by which, of course, I and most everybody else means economic mobility) has traditionally been much harder to come by than in the US. Of course I have no real idea whether my tea-man has a university degree or a 5th-grade education. He's dressed in a nice shirt. But then again, he has a half-million bucks in a country where a nice shirt costs $6 custom-made.


Speak your mind about today's Suck
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