Surprise – The children of Infosys’s founding fathers are striking out on their own

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What explains their foray into enterprises that have nothing to do with the family legacy?
When their fathers converted a paltry capital of Rs 10,000 into a Rs 20,000 crore company commanding a market cap of roughly Rs 1,15,000 crore, they rewrote the story of India Inc.

A generation later, the fabulously rich children of Infosys’s founders have decided to ditch the binary table for Spanish tapas, clothing lines and funding others’ dreams. This is in keeping with founder-chairman N R Narayana Murthy’s belief that family members should keep off Infosys. Akshata, Murthy’s first born, after stints in the corporate world, is getting ready to launch an eponymously branded clothing line.

S D Shibulal is Infosys co-founder and chief operating officer. His daughter Shruti, too, is launching a Mediterranean grill called Fava after a debut in Bangalore’s restaurant scene with a tapas lounge, Caperberry. Former joint Infosys MD N S Raghavan’s sons, Sriram and Anand, are well-known venture capitalists running Nadathur Holdings & Investments and the newly formed Ojas Ventures.

Other Infosys kids are still getting an education. While Murthy’s son Rohan is pursuing a doctoral programme in computer science at Harvard, Nandan Nilekani’s — who quit as Infosys chairman to head the government’s Unique ID project — children Jahnavi, an aspiring economist, and Nihaar are both at Yale University.

While the youngsters say they hadn’t deliberately planned to end up in careers at the other end of the IT spectrum, taking over the reigns of Infosys was out of question, if only because it goes against the professional ethics of the company.

Akshata Murthy, who did her schooling in Bangalore and college in Claremont McKenna in Los Angeles, held a couple of corporate jobs (consulting with Deloitte and, later, a spell with Unilever) before doing her MBA from Stanford. After a stint at the venture capital firm Siderian Ventures, she’s found her true calling in fashion.

Now, with the launch of her clothing line around the corner, Akshata says that she wants to maintain a low profile until she’s truly successful. “I understand that there may be some curiosity around what ’m doing given my parents’ achievements, but I hope that one day this business is able to stand on its own feet and I’m able to speak on its merit rather than anything else,” she says. “This is my passion and I couldn’t imagine being engaged in anything else but the business of this venture,’’ says Akshata, who married Stanford classmate and third generation British Indian, Rishi Sunak, in August.

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Murthy’s daughter Akshata is getting ready to launch an eponymously branded clothing line, while son Rohan is pursuing a doctoral programme in computer science at Harvard; (Above) S D Shibulal’s daughter Shruti, who owns Caperberry in Bangalore, is launching a Mediterranean grill
With her clothing line, Akshata hopes to marry social activism with a successful commercial proposition. Her new label aims to revive traditional fabrics, motifs and weaves and in the process provide livelihood to rural artisans. According to reports, she plans on working with NGOs to source material and then team it with Western styling. The label is expected to retail in the US for between $ 150 - $ 400.

Shruti Shibulal too has had her share of corporate jobs. A major in chemistry and minor in philosophy from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, Shruti did a one-year stint at Merrill Lynch. “I didn’t find the job fulfilling and decided to return to India after a year,’’ she says. “My parents were a bit taken aback at my decision. But there was no pressure on me to do IT, I never had any interest in it,’’ she says, recalling that at a younger age she thought she would grow up to become a doctor.

Raghavan’s sons were both in the US doing their own thing, when the pull of continuing their father’s work of building an ecosystem in India to fund young entrepreneurs proved too compelling. At Nadathur Investments, they have funded over a dozen ventures in the life sciences and healthcare space. Companies backed by them include Metahelix, Indegene Life Systems, Medi Assist and Connexios.

Like Akshata’s abiding interest in fashion, Shruti has “always been interested in hospitality,” and knew that one day she’d own a restaurant. Through common friends she connected with Abhijit Saha (former director, food and services at The Park, Bangalore) and thus was born Caperberry. Shruti is set to go to an Ivy League business school next year to hone her business skills.

Shruti, Akshata, Sriram and Anand spent their formative years in the US and worked there for a few years. What brought them back? “Opportunities were great in India. If you wanted to make a difference to society, India was the place to be. There were few people like me who were gifted with the resources as well as the wherewith al to make a difference,’’ says Shruti.

This bunch needn’t work for their lunch. They are independently wealthy as they hold substantial Infosys shares. Akshata’s net worth is Rs 2000 crore. Shruti’s is Rs 900 crore.

While making money per se doesn’t drive them, they seem very conscious about husbanding their inheritance. Shruti says that what keeps her ticking is that the idea of empowering others through employment. “If I start a business and I’m able to hire 40 people, I’m actually empowering 40 different families and through that innumerable opportunities open up,’’ she says.

How do their parents view their children’s journey? “When Shruti first told us about her entrepreneurial venture, we had our fair share of concerns. But when she explained the finer details, we were convinced We knew that this is what she was really interested in and we supported her decision completely,’’ says Shibulal. Shibulal says he wants his daughter to learn from obstacles that come her way. “Like any other entrepreneur, she will have her share of ups and downs. We want all of those experiences to be entirely hers,’’ he says.

Does the Infosys shadow loom large? Shruti says Infosys allowed her to understand that business in India can be fair, just and transparent. “It’s the same philosophy with which I do my job.”

Source: TOI


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  Posted on Saturday, December 5th, 2009 at 11:18 AM under   Current Affairs | RSS 2.0 Feed
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