A colleague and I were having a conversation on Friday, October 26, 2023, and he asked me about my views on Co-Founder of Infosys, Narayana Murthy’s interview regarding working 70 hours a week. I was surprised by this and unsure of what Mr. Murthy had said. I explained to my colleague that I hadn’t watched the interview and also mentioned that in today’s age, it might not be possible for someone to work 70 hours a week because it would leave very little time for other life priorities such as children’s school, household chores, and more. My initial perspective was that if Narayana Murthy had said this, it seemed old-fashioned.
On the same day, I came across a few articles on this topic. I chose not to read them as I didn’t want to get consumed by this news on a workday. (This tendency has occurred before, but this time, I consciously chose not to engage.) Later, on Saturday, October 27, I went to YouTube. As soon as I typed in “Narayana,” the first thing that popped up was “Narayana Murthy 70 hours.”
I decided to watch one of the videos that was listed first from a major news company. It was about 8 minutes long. I also glanced at the headlines of major news outlets with 1 million+ subscribers on YouTube.
Are You Ready to Work 70 Hours a Week?
You can also read some of the comments from the users who consumed either the content or the headline.
From watching a couple of videos that were listed on YouTube (by a simple search), I learned that Mohandas Pai (the former CFO of Infosys) had interviewed Mr. Narayana Murthy for the first episode of “The Record,” and 3One4 Capital was the source of the interview. The channel had 1.46K subscribers at the time I took the screenshot, compared to the 1M+ subscribers of other news sources.
I decided to watch the actual interview from the source. If you end up watching the full interview of N.R. Narayana Murthy with T.V. Mohandas Pai (which is about 52 minutes long), you will clearly understand that Mr. Narayana Murthy’s interview has been taken out of context, and the headlines by major news outlets (there were even TV debates on this) are completely out of context.
It was a great interview by N.R. Narayana Murthy, and I’m really glad I spent time watching the whole interview.
Mr. Murthy talked about a lot of things, including India post-Independence, the creation of IITs, Atomic Energy, Steel Plants during Nehru’s era, the socialist model of India, adapting from a socialist model to a capitalist model. Murthy’s travels around Europe and the world to understand economics. He understood that the only way a country can solve poverty is through the creation of jobs.
Mr. Murthy also talked about the autobiography of ‘Isher Judge Ahluwalia,’ a renowned economist who wrote about the devaluation of the rupee that happened in June 1996, when the exchange rate went from One Rs. 4.5 per $ to Rs. 7.2 per $ (Sachindra Chaudhuri was the Finance Minister of India). He discussed the license raj, how hard it was to import one computer with approvals from Delhi before 1991, and the long wait times of 8-9 months to import a computer.
He also spoke about the creation of low-tech and low-level manufacturing jobs for underprivileged or rural India, crediting Narasimha Rao for the 1991 reforms and more. He also discussed the branding of Infosys. Around 1994, many recent graduates didn’t consider Infosys, but the company strategized and executed changes. In the survey they conducted again in the 2000s, they found that Infosys was at the top of mind for graduating engineering students. (I can relate to this as I graduated around that time period.)
Mr. Murthy also talked about the advancement of China, the possible decline of the United States, and he also mentioned that India should execute better. During this conversation, Murthy touched upon the need for the youth of India to work hard for 70 hours a week.
In this remarkable interview, we often overlook the valuable insights Mr. Murthy shared and instead focus on the concept of a 70-hour workweek. Even after watching the full interview, I don’t believe Mr. Murthy is advocating for a 70-hour workweek in a company (read: company again). He simply encouraged young individuals to dedicate 70 hours a week to hard work. This 70 could also mean learning, upskilling, staying focused, and a lot more. He did not say that you should work in the office for 70 hours. It all depends on how you interpret it. This interview has been taken out of context, where one headline is created, and other news outlets follow.
Nevertheless, I found it interesting how the interview was taken out of context. This is because I just finished reading ‘Trust Me – I’m Lying’ by Ryan Holiday. In his book, Ryan talks about how media works, how headlines are created, page views, and more. Although these facts are widely known, the book provides a greater insight into the media world. This interview with Murthy was a perfect example of how news is manufactured, how the news can be manipulated to generate interest, have debates, and more. It also illustrates how we can create outrage among readers or the general public with respect to the number of hours one should work in a company. Many people may not have the time to dig into the source and often rush through the headlines. You can call this headline surfing and creating a perception about the person, company, and more, which is often not the truth.