In a world where CEOs and business leaders have come under immense scrutiny, and where their ethical behaviour and ability to walk the talk ranks as highly as their ability to deliver shareholder value, I found it absolutely refreshing to attend a briefing held by an Indian NGO called Akshaya Patra (http://www.akshayapatra.org) which had invited Narayana Murthy, Founder & Chairman of Infosys, to speak about why he supports them.
If there’s a business leader in the world who symbolises integrity and transparancy, the award should surely go this this tech titan.
It’s easy to see him through the lense of entrepreneurship, after all he founded what is today, one of India’s most international and prestigious firms’. His story is the stuff of legend and there’s no need to repeat it here, but you can read about him in my forthcoming book (http:://www.indiaincthebook.com).
What he captured in his speech tonight floored an audience comprising some very prominent people. Akshaya Patra runs a mid-day meals programme in India. Since 2000 they have grown from providing meals to five schools in Bangalore to feeding 1.2million kids over 7 states through leveraging the use of technology and understanding best practices and other management techniques to scale up their NGO.
Murthy narrated a life experience, which I cover in the first chapter of the book from a different angle, about when in 1974 he decided to return to India from France, he went without food and water for over 4 days after being locked up in Yugoslavia / Bulgaria for speaking to a girl on a train (!), which made him realise the injustices and inequalities of life. Having experienced starvation himself, he offered to the august audience that was gathered today that they should dig deep to support Akshaya Patra’s ambitions of delivering mid-day meals to 5 million malnourished kids by 2015.
What astounded me was the simple maths. One meal costs a mere Rs5.52, so to feed one child for a year, the cost is no more than £8 per year!
With Murthy backing them, they have my support.
Going back to how I started, its par for the course for large companies to have corporate social responsibilty programmes that support such NGOs, but Infosys isn’t a run-of -the-mill type of company, and what shone through once again is that Murthy isn’t an ordinary guy.
To end with he said it beautifully, he explained that rather than a fat bank balance, the ability to illicit a smile on the face of child is a better measure of success.
“You can have a comfortable night’s sleep knowing that you’ve helped another child sleep better”