An iconic figure in the realm of Indian IT and business, Narayana Murthy is the visionary founder of Infosys. Known for his unwavering commitment to integrity and ethical business practices, Mr. Murthy has played a pivotal role in shaping the Indian IT sector’s reputation globally. His influence extends far beyond Infosys, leaving an indelible mark on India’s economic landscape and inspiring generations of entrepreneurs and professionals worldwide. Although his recent comment on wanting the Indian youth to work 70 hours a week caused quite a stir amongst the netizens.
Narayana Murthy believes that youth has a critical role to play in the country’s development and growth. While talking to former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai on the first episode of 3one4 Capital’s podcast ‘The Record’, Narayana Murthy pitched for a change in India’s work culture as he believes India has low work productivity. He spoke about how the youngsters in the country are wrongly influenced by the West and should rather work harder. 70 hours is a significant amount of time, considering a standard workweek is typically around 40 hours. And given how the companies pay poorly despite making their employees work so hard, this remark by Mr. Murthy sparked mixed reviews amongst the people.
“Somehow our youth has the habit of taking not-so-desirable habits from the West, and then… not helping the country. India’s work productivity is one of the lowest in the world. Unless we improve our work productivity, unless we reduce corruption in the government at some level, because we have been reading I don’t know the truth of it, unless we reduce the delays in our bureaucracy in taking this decision, we will not be able to compete with those countries that have made tremendous progress. So therefore, my request is that our youngsters must say, this is my country, I’d like to work 70 hours a week,” Narayana Murthy said.
Agree Or Disagree?
While he may not necessarily be saying that everyone should work this much all the time, he’s emphasizing the importance of putting in extra effort when needed to make India better. But it could also be looked at as an extremist hustle culture mentality where work-life balance could cease to exist. It also starkly highlighted the difference in expectations between India’s young workforce and the head honchos of corporate India.
The former Infosys CEO pointed out how countries like China have grown a lot economically and India should learn from them. His aim is probably to get the youth to adopt inspiring habits like a strong work ethic and discipline from the West to contribute to the betterment of the country. But is a 70-hour work week the way to go about it? Let’s see how the people feel about this:
Ola Cabs co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal seconded Narayana Murthy’s viewpoint regarding young people working at least 70 hours a week and said “It’s our moment to go all in and build in 1 generation what other countries have built over many generations!” in a post on X (formerly Twitter). In another post, Aggarwal stated, “Our grandparents’ generation fought for independence. Our parents’ generation fought for roti kapda makaan. Like it or not, our generation is destined to build India into the largest economy. It will take every effort. There is no better satisfaction than to contribute to this journey!”
Totally agree with Mr Murthy’s views. It’s not our moment to work less and entertain ourselves. Rather it’s our moment to go all in and build in 1 generation what other countries have built over many generations! https://t.co/KsXQbjAhSM— Bhavish Aggarwal (@bhash) October 26, 2023
Chairman and managing director of JSW Group, Sajjan Jindal has also endorsed this idea, saying that a five-day workweek isn’t suitable for a rapidly developing country like India, citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s example who works long hours. Jindal emphasized that finding passion in work and nation-building is crucial. He explained that India’s circumstances and challenges are different from developed nations, which work shorter weeks because earlier generations worked longer and more productively. Jindal urged India not to adopt shorter workweeks as the standard.
I whole heartedly endorse Mr. Narayana Murthy's statement. It's not about burnout, it’s about dedication. We have to make India an economic superpower that we can all be proud of. #India2047— Sajjan Jindal (@sajjanjindal) October 27, 2023
Ashneer Grover, former MD and co-founder of Bharatpe, also chimed in on the debate. “I think Junta got offended here because work is still being measured in “hours” rather than “outcomes.” The other thing is people feeling as if youngster’s laziness is the only thing keeping India from becoming developed. Funny – getting offended unites us more than cricket, religion, caste or language“.
While Bhavish and Sajjan defended Mr. Murthy’s views, there were also other entrepreneurs who disagreed with him like upGrad founder, Ronnie Screwvala. He said it’s more about getting better at what one does as the quality of work is more valuable than putting in more hours.
Boosting productivity isn't just about working longer hours. It's about getting better at what you do – Upskilling, having a positive work environment and fair pay for the work done.— Ronnie Screwvala (@RonnieScrewvala) October 26, 2023
Quality of work done > clocking in more hours https://t.co/mbEQA0TriA
The users on social media have not taken Narayana Murthy’s suggestion well. They are questioning the salary discrepancies at different levels. Some even claimed that Infosys doesn’t have a very good record in offering ‘right’ salaries and that more efforts at work demand better payments. People flocked to the podcast’s YouTube comments disagreeing with Narayana Murthy’s 70-hour workweek suggestion.
A user commented “70 hours? Insane! No wonder it’s the young people who are dying of heart attack in our country.” Another said, “Yes already 30hrs in traffic for work commuting counts to 70 hours. As mentioned if all pillars work together to strengthen the quality of life & reduces bureaucracy and corruption, one can give optimally in 40 work hours that includes creative & innovative mantras. Respect human life.“
Some even made sarcastic remarks like, “he’s right, 40 hours as an employee to build someone else’s dreams and 30 hours to build our own dreams” and “Please also tell us where to leave our spouse and kids .. because no one is going to stay with such a person except his project manager.”
Founders Like #70hoursWork Culture but Employees don’t like that— Anuj Prajapati (@anujprajapati11) October 28, 2023
Why Employees don’t like:
– Less Salary
– You need some Family Time
– You don’t get Credit for your work
– Company can fire you whenever they want
Why Founders Like more working hours
– Less people work more… pic.twitter.com/hPmSgQsCWO
Popular memer Sagar, who runs a meme page called Sagarcasm, poked fun at Narayana Murthy’s statement by posting a picture of his daughter Akshata Murthy and son-in-law Rishi Sunak. In te meme, Akshata is telling Rishi that his team needs to now clock in 70 hours a week because her father said so.
Others defended Mr. Murthy’s view and explained that the Infosys co-founder is speaking from a wider vision where India’s growth is a priority. Some even called a 70-hour workweek ‘normal’ considering the rising startup culture in India, which demands more hours at work.
A user put it down aptly, “As Indians we need to up our game for sure, however for 70 hours work week will need better incentives than we youths currently have be it the opportunity to learn/earn/developing a personal brand otherwise the brain-drain and talent-drain will continue inevitably. Incentivies need to be updated to atleast achieve a modest living. The country needs to value and treasure it resources (the people) before it all migrates where they are appreciated and incentivised to churn out more productivity.“
Narayana Murthy’s vision signifies a proactive approach to national development when he said “For the first time in the last 300 years, India has received some respect in the eyes of the comity of nations, and it is the responsibility of every Indian, but more so the youth to consolidate that respect and to enhance that respect manifold.” But working 70 hours a day might be a big ask as it leaves little to no space for personal and family time.
Given the long hours of commute, inadequate pay, and stressful conditions people work in on a daily, it has been affecting their mental health gravely making work-life balance a need of the hour. You can feel motivated to work when the other aspects of your life are well-satisfied. Having time for yourself and to relax after working hard all day helps immensely to ensure a sharp mind that can be productive the next day. Quality of work should matter over quantity of work. That’s what will add up to efficient productivity helpful in building the nation.