A bitter experience on a train in 1974 in Nis, a border town between what is now Serbia and Bulgaria, turned N R Narayana Murthy into a “compassionate capitalist”, leading him to create Infosys, the country’s IT bellwether.
Recalling the incident, Murthy said he was engaged in a conversation with a girl, who could only understand French, but it landed him in trouble.
“We were talking about life in Bulgaria. I think the boy, who was accompanying the girl, got upset with us for some reason. So, he went and brought the police,” Murthy said on Sunday while addressing the audience at a tech fest organized by IIT, Bombay, through a video link.
The Bulgarian guards took Murthy’s passport, luggage and dragged him on the platform. He was kept in an 8X8 room, with primitive toilet facilities, for a few days.
“I thought they would open the door in the morning and get me some breakfast since I was the state guest, but nothing happened. I lost all hope of eating anything,” he said.
The next morning, police took Murthy to the platform and pushed him into the guard’s compartment of a departing freight train. At this point, Murthy had not had anything to eat or drink for five days in a row.
The guards said, “Look, you are from a friendly country called India, so we are letting you go but we will give you your passport when you reach Istanbul.”
If a country treats friends like this, Murthy thought to himself, he would not want to be part of a communist country ever.
“That cued me from being a confused leftist to a determined compassionate capitalist,” he said.
That incident pushed Murthy towards taking the plunge into entrepreneurship.
He said his first attempt at entrepreneurship was a company called Softronics focused on providing IT services to the domestic market, in Pune, which he closed as he could not see any future prospects.