Infosys co-founder doubles down on call for 70-hour work weeks

It's not like Gandhi ever saw his kids, says Narayana Murthy

Indian billionaire and Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy has doubled down on his comments that India’s youth should voluntarily work 70-hour weeks.

Murthy’s first call for very long working hours came in October 2023, when he called on the nation’s youth to work long hours out of a sense of duty to the nation. He suggested the young “work twelve-hour days for the next 20 years, 50 years whatever it is.“

In a new interview posted this week, India Today consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai asked Murthy if he sticks by his 70-hour plan.

“Absolutely,” he answered. “I don’t think 70 is important, all that it means is that you are productive, work very hard like the Germans did after World War II, like Japanese did. We owe it to the poor people to work hard and make the quality of their life a little bit better.”

While the septuagenarian’s call to eat, sleep and breathe work was allegedly to improve the lives of the less fortunate, his wife’s attitude fell more in line with the bootstrapping myth.

Sitting by his side, Sudha Murty extolled her husband’s rise to build a great company over the course of 30 to 40 years, despite possessing no wealth or connections, as the result of “sheer hard work, the grace of God and teamwork.”

Undoubtedly hard work played into the scenario, after all the former exec admitted he worked 85 to 90 hours a week until retirement. But what also helped build his empire was the domestic labor provided by his wife, who took over such duties alongside his in-laws who lived downstairs.

The interview explored the career sacrifices made by the wife who worked three hours a day part-time, even as Mr. Murthy cited her as “the more qualified” professionally of the pair.

This is a trend largely followed in India, where fewer than one in four women work formally, according to 2022 World Bank figures. It has been noted that formal work for women in India can be inaccessible.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) notes that economies do experience gains from both genders participating in the paid workforce and can suffer when women are not included.

Narayana Murthy said he doesn’t really have regrets over missing important events in his children’s lives as he “always believed quality was more important than quantity.” He detailed he would leave for the office at 06:00, return around 21:15, expect his kids to be ready at the gate on his arrival, whereupon all would jump in the car and grab dinner together.

“We used to have lots of fun during that time. That hour and a half, two hours were the most relaxing for the children,” said Murthy.

One of those children, Akshata Murty, has spent much of her life abroad and now resides in the UK and is married to prime minister Rishi Sunak.

The Infosys co-founder described his long hours at work as a “puny” effort compared to the accomplishments of India's historical leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, other heroes of India’s independence movement, and the nation’s early prime ministers.

“So we should not even make this a big deal," he commented. He added that Mahatma Gandhi hardly ever saw his children.

“All the extraordinary heroes, if I could do one millionth of what they did, I think our family would be happy, I would be happy,” the former exec said.

While that ethos is fine for an individual, other nations have decided it’s not right for society.

Japan has had to take measures to prevent death from overworking, South Korea is in the middle of population decline attributed to its population’s long hours and China has experienced backlash over its 72-hour work weeks.

And as we noted when we covered Murthy’s first remarks about 70-hour weeks, requiring employees to work such hours appears to be illegal under Indian law. ®

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