Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Brass took pay cuts but honoured job offers : Infosys Narayana Murthy

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Infosys Ltd. honoured job offers to freshers during the dotcom bust, even as its senior management took the largest salary cuts, said co-founder NR Narayana Murthy. “In 2001, there was the internet bust. We had given offers to about 1,500 freshers … Then, the think tank of the company sat down and decided to take the largest salary cut,” Murthy said, on the sidelines of the Nasscom Technology and Leadership Forum in Mumbai, on Thursday. “And then, we welcomed every one of the 1,500 freshers…”

Murthy’s comments come in the wake of media reports that Wipro Ltd. has cut salary offered to freshers who are awaiting onboarding. The Bengaluru-based IT services firm has asked those who were offered Rs 6.5 lakh per annum to join at Rs 3.5 lakh per annum. An IT employees’ union has called the move “unjust” and “against the principles of fairness and transparency”. However, the Infosys co-founder refused to comment on that matter.

“I’m glad to say that we were the only company that did that. And I’m very proud of that,” Murthy said, of Infosys’ move in 2001. “Beyond this, I’m not going to say what is the fair thing, what’s not. Because I don’t know what the situation is.” He also refused to comment on the widening pay gap between top and bottom rungs of an IT company.

The demand for digital technology—artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and cloud computing—has brought to the fore the need for reskilling Indian IT engineers. According to Nasscom, about 2 million of India’s 5.4-million strong IT workforce is digitally skilled. Infosys had realised pretty early that youngsters coming out of engineering colleges in India needed reskilling, Murthy said. “We realised as early as 1996-97 that the freshers did not have the skill to be very useful for the Indian companies. Therefore, Infosys mounted the world’s largest corporate training programme,” he said. “On any given day, Infosys could train 15,000 employees for a 24-week programme. In a year, we could train 30,000 people.”

About the challenge that AI platforms like ChatGPT pose for entry-level coders? The viral “ask me anything” chatbot, created by Microsoft Corp.-backed OpenAI, spits out lines of code within seconds of a prompt. They aren’t at the risk of losing jobs, Murthy said. “In 1977-78, we had something called program generators. Everybody said the youngsters will lose jobs. That didn’t happen because the human mind is the most flexible instrument, it can adapt very well,” he said. “All that happened was people started solving bigger and bigger problems, which these program generators could not handle.” “ChatGPT is wonderful, we should welcome it. However, we use ChatGPT as the base and then show our creativity.”

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