"I'm a Koramangala loyalist"
If one were to award Brownie Points to the phenomenal rise of Infosys Technologies Limited; it would be quite a score. Considering their current stock worth, the cash registers haven't stopped ringing. But this is not a story about turnovers or share values of the company. On the contrary, it's about the people behind this success story and in particular, Nandan Nilekani, who very recently became its Managing Director.
Attired in Sunday casuals, seated in his elegant and expansive living room with a fair dose of natural light peeping through, over-looking a spacious lawn, Nandan spoke about those halcyon days in Bombay, where it all began. It was at Patni Computers where they first met and it wasn't long before the "Magnificent Seven" thought of starting on their own. They moved to Poona and Infosys was born, in a small flat owned by Mr. Narayan Murthy, widely acknowledged as the brains behind this venture. This was in July 1981. Later in 1983, they decided to shift headquarters to Bangalore. Notwithstanding the similarities in climate, cosmopolitan atmosphere of the two cities, Bangalore was preferred, because "it had better infrastructure, better housing facilities and the choice was unanimous," says Nandan. In Bangalore, Jayanagar was where they initially pitched tent, moving from one office to another and finally, in 1987-88 or thereabouts, they coasted into Koramangala, lock, stock and barrel. And since then, there was no looking back.
How did they feel about this transition from Bombay to Poona and finally, Bangalore? Nandan's reply was clear-cut; "There was nothing to it, really. South wasn't unfamiliar territory, because most of us are from the South. I studied in Bangalore at St. Antony's and later, Bishop Cottons before going over to IIT, Bombay to do my engineering." And the shift turned out to be worth the while. The rest, as they say, is history. Initially, there were three offices in Koramangala and as the business and company grew - and what a growth it turned out to be - they had to move to nearby Electronics City, where they have a sprawling 35 acre set-up. Presently, they have only one office in Koramangala, in 5th Block, although many Infosysians (right word we presume) live here.
They are not new to Koramangala, although the Nilekanis have moved into 3rd Block, just 4 months ago, where they have constructed their tasteful home - a classy and impressive stone structure, the handiwork of famous architects, Chandavarkar and Thacker. So, what is it about Koramangala that attracts people to live or set up shop here? Has it been lucky for Infosys? "Infosys has a strong association with Koramangala. It's a fine place to live as well as work in. It's just about 20 minutes from here to Electronics City. The software industry is a fast-paced life and it blends well with the calm and quiet surroundings of Koramangala," says Nandan. "Unless there is a pressing engagement or party to attend, we seldom go out of Koramangala," he adds.
And how fast-paced is life for him? " I travel quite often. Overseas at least 3 to 4 times a year and perhaps, thrice a month within the country. Any free time I get, I'd prefer to spend it at home with the family," replies Nandan candidly. Fortunately for the Nilenkanis, it would seem that the usual social whirl is restricted within Koramangala's boundaries, what with some big names of the Software industry "just around the corner."
We expected to finish our small tete-a-tete within half-hour. But it went beyond that. Let's face it. Meeting a Personality of Nandan Nilekani's stature, is no small matter. The settling down process itself is time consuming. After a brief photo session, we took leave of Nandan, aware that it was a Sunday and his preference to spend time with his family. But as we left, we carried the impression of a person who was sharp and yet, modest. Who wouldn't stand for ceremony, considering his position and status? Indeed, " A Koramangala loyalist", to use his own words.