After heading Infosys Foundation, the philanthropic arm of IT services firm Infosys, for 25 years, chairperson Sudha Murty will retire from the foundation in December 2021
Sudha Murty has been heading the Infosys Foundation since its inception in 1996. She was set to retire on October 10, but her term was extended by the board until December 2021. When she does retire, Murty hopes to continue her work through the Murty foundation, which is a family foundation.
In an interaction with Moneycontrol, Murty shares her thoughts on working with Infosys Foundation, philanthropy during the pandemic, and her plans.
You have been part of the foundation for 25 years. How did it all start?
Sudha Murty (SM): My daughter, who was 15, used to read to a blind person. One day, she asked if she could sponsor his education. I told her to sponsor it herself. She told me: “Amma you don’t even give me pocket money and you are asking me to sponsor.” Then she said: “If you are not doing social service, then you have no right to ask others to.”
That got me thinking. I was 45 at that time.
For the first 25 years I worked hard to excel in education. The next 20 years I worked for Infosys, Narayana Murthy, children and family. Then the children were all grown up. Then I thought of starting a foundation because growing up with my grandparents, who were always helping people, I wanted to help people too. So, I went to Infosys and told them I want to start a foundation. They said: “We are thinking of starting a foundation and you be the head.”
It was 1996. We started with Rs 32 lakh and 25 years later, it is Rs 400 crore.
I was just thinking, 25 years is a long time. But I am happy that with the foundation we touched so many lives. We learnt so much. It was a great journey.
What will you do after retiring from the Infosys Foundation?
SM: We have our own foundation, Murty foundation. All these years I have not bothered because I have put everything into Infosys foundation. There was no time for anything else. Now, I will pick up the threads and continue in Murty foundation.
I may retire from Infosys foundation. But philanthropy, I will not retire. I will continue whether there is CSR or no CSR, with my own money.
Could you tell us more about your plans for the Murty Foundation?
SM: It will be the same work I did at the Infosys Foundation. In 1996, Murty was the one who made the charter for the foundation. So, he has made the same rules for the Murty foundation. We will focus on areas like healthcare, and education, the same as Infosys Foundation.
The only difference is that I am sharper and smarter because when the Infosys Foundation started, I had said I was the mother and the foundation was the baby. Now, as I am retiring, the foundation is the mother and I am the baby. It has become much bigger than me. So, I have learnt a lot and I will be using that in the Murty foundation. Because there is no need for experimental time, I can start on the project from Day 1.
Could you give us an idea about the scale at which Murthy foundation will operate?
SM: We may not be able to match the scale at which Infosys Foundation operates. We will do whatever is proportionately needed. I will be able to share more once I sit in that position. But we will do as much as possible.
Will your son and daughter be involved with the foundation?
SM: This is a family foundation, so they will be. But ultimately I am the chairperson. Later, definitely they will be involved. They know my style of working, and they will pick up fast. For me the focus is reaching the right person. We can spend money on anything but reaching the right person is the aim at Infosys Foundation and that will be the same at the Murty foundation.
Who will succeed you at Infosys Foundation?
SM: The board of directors and management decides the successor.
Could you share your thoughts on how Covid-19 shaped your perspective on philanthropy?
SM: As part of the foundation, we have seen 13-14 disasters. We were able to handle these disasters. So, if there was a flood, it would go away. In case there was an earthquake, it would be for a short period. The rest of the country would be normal.
But here, the entire country is involved. This is the kind of situation I never saw in my life. I remember my grandmother’s stories of plagues. It is happening now, in this pandemic.
But there is no point worrying about it. The only question is what we can do and how we can solve it. That is how we worked. During the 6-7 months amid the pandemic, we built hospitals, bought PPE kits, and spent more than Rs 150 crore.
What about life beyond philanthropy? Your name has cropped up as a potential Rajya Sabha nominee…
SM: I don’t want to be connected to any party. I don’t like to be identified with anybody, any party. When it comes, let me see. It is all imagination for now. If it comes, I will think it over.
Your son-in-law Rishi Sunak is the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. How do you feel about his success in British politics?
SM: He is a son-in-law and son to me and I am affectionate with him. More than that I don’t get into. I would like to keep it separate.
First Published on Oct 16, 2020 10:41 am