The founder of tech giant Infosys said young people must “accelerate” the country’s progress with more dedication at work
Narayana Murthy, the founder of tech giant Infosys, sparked controversy this week when he suggested that youngsters in India should work at least 70 hours every week, as he lamented the country’s “low work productivity.”
“Our youngsters must say: this is my country, I want to work 70 hours a week,” Murthy said in a podcast. This is “exactly what Germans and Japanese did” after World War II, he noted, adding that young people in India have a habit of “taking not-so-desirable habits from the West and then not helping the country.”
Unless India improves its work productivity, reduces corruption in the government, and reduces the delays in the bureaucracy in making decisions, it will not be able to compete with countries that have made “tremendous progress,” Murthy said.
“This is the first time that India has received some respect,” the Infosys founder claimed, adding that now is the time “to consolidate and accelerate the progress.”
Murthy’s comments triggered debate on social media, which highlighted the stark contrast in the expectations of the country’s young workforce and the corporate leaders who have witnessed India’s emergence as a powerful global player, particularly in sectors such as IT development and business process outsourcing.
While some business leaders expressed support for Murthy’s views, many people criticized them, raising concerns about disparities in earnings and work-life balance.
“Billionaires agree to have cheap labor and long working hours (in other words, low-cost slaves)! They are probably praying for an even worse job market to make this a reality,” Amitranjan Gantait posted on X (formerly Twitter). According to Forbes, Murthy has a net worth of $4.3 billion.
“Youth unemployment in India is 45%,” S.L. Kanthan wrote. “Perhaps, we can employ 2 workers who work 40 hours a week?”
India’s Infosys founder #NarayanaMurthy: “Young IT workers should work 70 hours a week. A new work culture is needed.”
Umm… youth unemployment in India is 45%. Perhaps, we can employ 2 workers who work 40 hours a week?
Let’s reject Neoliberalism & America’s cruel capitalism. pic.twitter.com/QlRntWEjKfADVERTISEMENT
— S.L. Kanthan (@Kanthan2030) October 27, 2023
Millions of Indians have left the job market without even looking for a new job, Indian media outlets reported last year, citing data from a Mumbai-based private research firm, the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, which showed that between 2017 and 2022, the overall labor participation rate dropped from 46% to 40%.
Prominent members of India’s corporate sector who came to Murthy’s defense included Bhavish Aggarwal, the co-founder of Indian cab company Ola, a rival to Uber. He said he “totally agreed” with the billionaire’s views. “It is not our moment to work less and entertain ourselves,” he replied on X. “Rather it is our moment to go all in and build in one generation what other countries have built over many generations.”
Sajjan Jindal, the chairman of JSW Group, also came to Murthy’s defense: “It’s not about burnout; it’s about dedication. We have to make India an economic superpower that we can all be proud of in India 2047.”
Jindal added that “a 5-day week culture” is not what a rapidly developing nation of India’s size needs, as the country’s “circumstances are unique and its challenges distinct from those of developed nations.”
Journalist Chandra R. Srikant said, “To disparage the Indian IT industry and Infosys with terms like sweatshop and coolie is uncalled for.”
“These companies put India on the global map,” she wrote on X, adding that these firms “created superb outcomes for the Indian middle class and shareholders.”
October 28, 2023 at 12:54PM