Infosys and TCS............not by words(WorthReading)

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Know its long but its very interesting... Do read it when you have time

It was probably the April of 1974. Bangalore was
getting warm and
gulmohars were blooming at the IISc campus. I was
the only girl in my
postgraduate department and was staying at the
ladies' hostel. Other girls
were pursuing research in different departments of
I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a
doctorate in computer
science. I had been offered scholarships from
Universities in the US. I had
not thought of taking up a job in India.
One day, while on the way to my hostel from our
lecture-hall complex, I saw
an advertisement on the notice board. It was a
standard job-requirement
notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now
Tata Motors). It stated
that the company required young, bright engineers,
hardworking and with an
excellent academic background, etc.
At the bottom was a small line: "Lady candidates
need not apply."
I read it and was very upset. For the first time in
my life I was up against
gender discrimination.
Though I was not keen on taking up the job, I saw it
as a challenge. I had
done extremely well in academics, better than most
of my male peers. Little
did I know then that in real life academic
excellence is not enough to be
After reading the notice I went fuming to my room. I
decided to inform the
topmost person in Telco's management about the
injustice the company was
perpetrating. I got a postcard and started to write,
but there was a
problem: I did not know who headed Telco.
I thought it must be one of the Tatas. I knew JRD
Tata was the head of the
Tata Group; I had seen his pictures in newspapers
(actually, Sumant
Moolgaokar was the company's chairman then). I took
the card, addressed it
to JRD and started writing. To this day I remember
clearly what I wrote.
"The great Tatas have always been pioneers. They are
the people who started
the basic infrastructure industries in India, such
as iron and steel,
chemicals, textiles and locomotives. They have cared
for higher education in
India since 1900 and they were responsible for the
establishment of the
Indian Institute of Science. Fortunately, I study
there. But I am surprised
how a company such as Telco is discriminating on the
basis of gender."
I posted the letter and forgot about it. Less than
10 days later, I received
a telegram stating that I had to appear for an
interview at Telco's Pune
facility at the company's expense. I was taken aback
by the telegram. My
hostel mate told me I should use the opportunity to
go to Pune free of cost
and buy them the famous Pune saris for cheap! I
collected Rs 30 each from
everyone who wanted a sari. When I look back, I feel
like laughing at the
reasons for my going, but back then they seemed good
enough to make the
It was my first visit to Pune and I immediately fell
in love with the city.
To this day it remains dear to me. I feel as much at
home in Pune as I do in
Hubli, my hometown. The place changed my life in so
many ways. As directed,
I went to Telco's Pimpri office for the interview.
There were six people on
the panel and I realised then that this was serious
"This is the girl who wrote to JRD," I heard
somebody whisper as soon as I
entered the room. By then I knew for sure that I
would not get the job. The
realisation abolished all fear from my mind, so I
was rather cool while the
interview was being conducted.
Even before the interview started, I reckoned the
panel was biased, so I
told them, rather impolitely, "I hope this is only a
technical interview."
They were taken aback by my rudeness, and even today
I am ashamed about my
attitude. The panel asked me technical questions and
I answered all of them.
Then an elderly gentleman with an affectionate voice
told me, "Do you know
why we said lady candidates need not apply? The
reason is that we have never
employed any ladies on the shop floor. This is not a
co-ed college; this is
a factory. When it comes to academics, you are a
first ranker throughout. We
appreciate that, but people like you should work in
research laboratories."
I was a young girl from small-town Hubli. My world
had been a limited place.
I did not know the ways of large corporate houses
and their difficulties, so
I answered, "But you must start somewhere, otherwise
no woman will ever be
able to work in your factories."
Finally, after a long interview, I was told I had
been successful. So this
was what the future had in store for me. Never had I
thought I would take up
a job in Pune. I met a shy young man from Karnataka
there, we became good
friends and we got married.
It was only after joining Telco that I realized who
JRD was: the uncrowned
king of Indian industry. Now I was scared, but I did
not get to meet him
till I was transferred to Bombay. One day I had to
show some reports to Mr
Moolgaokar, our chairman, who we all knew as SM. I
was in his office on the
first floor of Bombay House (the Tata headquarters)
when, suddenly JRD
walked in. That was the first time I saw "appro
JRD". Appro means "our" in
Gujarati. This was the affectionate term by which
people at Bombay House
called him.
I was feeling very nervous, remembering my postcard
episode. SM introduced
me nicely, "Jeh (that's what his close associates
called him), this young
woman is an engineer and that too a postgraduate.
She is the first woman to
work on the Telco shop floor." JRD looked at me. I
was praying he would not
ask me any questions about my interview (or the
postcard that preceded it).
Thankfully, he didn't. Instead, he remarked. "It is
nice that girls are
getting into engineering in our country. By the way,
what is your name?"
"When I joined Telco I was Sudha Kulkarni, Sir," I
replied. "Now I am Sudha
Murthy." He smiled and kindly smile and started a
discussion with SM. As for
me, I almost ran out of the room.
After that I used to see JRD on and off. He was the
Tata Group chairman and
I was merely an engineer. There was nothing that we
had in common. I was in
awe of him.
One day I was waiting for Murthy, my husband, to
pick me up after office
hours. To my surprise I saw JRD standing next to me.
I did not know how to
react. Yet again I started worrying about that
postcard. Looking back, I
realise JRD had forgotten about it. It must have
been a small incident for
him, but not so for me.
"Young lady, why are you here?" he asked. "Office
time is over." I said,
"Sir, I'm waiting for my husband to come and pick me
up." JRD said, "It is
getting dark and there's no one in the corridor.
I'll wait with you till
your husband comes."
I was quite used to waiting for Murthy, but having
JRD waiting alongside
made me extremely uncomfortable.
I was nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I looked
at him. He wore a simple
white pant and shirt. He was old, yet his face was
glowing. There wasn't any
air of superiority about him. I was thinking, "Look
at this person. He is a
chairman, a well-respected man in our country and he
is waiting for the sake
of an ordinary employee."
Then I saw Murthy and I rushed out. JRD called and
said, "Young lady, tell
your husband never to make his wife wait again."
In 1982 I had to resign from my job at Telco. I was
reluctant to go, but I
really did not have a choice. I was coming down the
steps of Bombay House
after wrapping up my final settlement when I saw JRD
coming up. He was
absorbed in thought. I wanted to say goodbye to him,
so I stopped. He saw me
and paused.
Gently, he said, "So what are you doing, Mrs
Kulkarni?" (That was the way he
always addressed me.) "Sir, I am leaving Telco."
"Where are you going?" he
asked. "Pune, Sir. My husband is starting a company
called Infosys and I'm
shifting to Pune."
"Oh! And what will you do when you are successful."
"Sir, I don't know
whether we will be successful." "Never start with
diffidence," he advised
me. "Always start with confidence. When you are
successful you must give
back to society. Society gives us so much; we must
reciprocate. I wish you
all the best."
Then JRD continued walking up the stairs. I stood
there for what seemed like
a millennium. That was the last time I saw him
alive. Many years later I met
Ratan Tata in the same Bombay House, occupying the
chair JRD once did. I
told him of my many sweet memories of working with
Telco. Later, he wrote to
me, "It was nice hearing about Jeh from you. The sad
part is that he's not
alive to see you today."
I consider JRD a great man because, despite being an
extremely busy person,
he valued one postcard written by a young girl
seeking justice. He must have
received thousands of letters everyday. He could
have thrown mine away, but
he didn't do that. He respected the intentions of
that unknown girl, who had
neither influence nor money, and gave her an
opportunity in his company. He
did not merely give her a job; he changed her life
and mindset forever.
Close to 50 per cent of the students in today's
engineering colleges are
girls. And there are women on the shop floor in many
industry segments. I
see these changes and I think of JRD. If at all time
stops and asks me what
I want from life, I would say I wish JRD were alive
today to see how the
company we started has grown. He would have enjoyed
it wholeheartedly.
My love and respect for the House of Tata remains
undiminished by the
passage of time. I always looked up to JRD. I saw
him as a role model for
his simplicity, his generosity, his kindness and the
care he took of his
employees. Those blue eyes always reminded me of the
sky; they had the same
vastness and magnificence.

*(Sudha Murthy is a widely published writer and
chairperson of the Infosys
Foundation involved in a number of social
development initiatives. Infosys
chairman Narayan Murthy is her husband.) *

<Article sourced from: Lasting Legacies (Tata Review-
Special Commemorative
Issue 2004), brought out by the house of Tatas to
commemorate the 100th
birth anniversary of JRD Tata on July 29, 2004.>

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