[YS Exclusive] Sudha Murty on entrepreneurship and the need for inclusive and sustainable innovations
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Celebrated author and Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, Sudha Murty quoted Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw’s immortal words from Man And Superman, moments before she led the second edition of the Aarohan Social Innovation Awards on Wednesday.
In a conversation with YourStory, Sudha spelt out one uncompromisable attribute of an entrepreneur: “passion, one that gives courage to cross unknown territories”.
And nothing seems to impress her more than that of a life of an entrepreneur -- one that entails umpteen number of sacrifices for the greater good.
“Ships are safest in their harbour, but they are not meant to be there,” she says.
An initiative of the Infosys Foundation, the philanthropic and CSR arm of tech giant Infosys, Aarohan Social Innovation Awards recognises individuals, teams, and NGOs disruptors with innovative solutions, to support the underprivileged in India and seeks to scale their effort.
Five social innovators each, in categories of Gold (Rs 20 lakh) and Silver (Rs 10 lakh) were presented with a total prize money of Rs 1.50 crore at the Infosys campus in Electronic City in Bengaluru.
Making the cut from a pool of over 1,700 participants, each submission addressed challenges in areas of healthcare, rural development, destitute care, and sustainability.
The winning solutions include Bengaluru-based doctors Binita S Tunga and Rashbehari Tunga’s device that can effectively detect mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, chikungunya, and dengue in early stages.
The list also includes Chennai-based engineer Ramalingam PL’s affordable standing wheelchair for physically challenged children, among many others.
These and three others who won in the gold category will be offered an eight-week long residential mentorship at IIT Hyderabad.
Amplifying voices of social entrepreneurs
An inspirational figure loved by millions, Sudha Murty has braved many challenges to become the multi-faceted achiever she is today.
This includes investing 20 years of her life in helping her husband, Narayana Murthy, build ‘an adventure called Infosys’.
Helping build the homegrown tech giant more than three decades ago - when entrepreneurship had not attained the ‘cool’ status’ it enjoys today, she is all too familiar with the struggles associated with being one.
And so, it was no less than a surreal moment when she felicitated the winners and went on to encourage more path-breaking and innovative solutions.
“I believe innovation can and should create inclusive, cost-effective and sustainable solutions,” she said.
Sudha also explained why it is important to support social entrepreneurship. “There is a difference between social innovation and any other kind of innovation. While people respect, family members support, and there is a venture or angel funds to back most entrepreneurs, the family members of a social entrepreneur often struggle along with them with little interest from investors. The social entrepreneurs cannot try out different methods.”
The magic in her perspective
For Sudha, who has led far-reaching changes through Infosys’s CRS initiative since 1996, the ‘next' is never ending. She shared that the Foundation works in accordance with need of the hour and society, and how in 2018-2019, it had to direct funds dedicated to other projects towards four to five floods that occurred in the year.
The Foundation helped rebuild houses, toilets, and schools, among other necessities.
“This is the one job where you get maximum satisfaction. This is one area of work where every day I feel on a holiday because I really like my work,” she said.
Her passion for social work has not diminished over time. Sudha had earlier expressed how she wished the government had mandated two percent of a company’s net profits be dedicated towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts much earlier, as it would have helped her do so much more.
At the end of the day, Sudha is guided by optimism and chooses to see the positive side in people and circumstances. She applies the same philosophy to her writing as well, while narrating extraordinary stories of everyday people.
“If you look at the positive side of every event and people, there is always a story inside. And there is hope,” she said.