On the bottom bookshelf in the office of Nandan Nilekani, president and CEO of Infosys Technologies, India's colossus of IT outsourcing, sit copies of "The World Is Flat," author Thomas L. Friedman's bestselling take on global business. The covers face out. Nilekani was one of Friedman's key sources for the book, and he's not shy about promoting it. In the corporate library on Infosys' pristine campus are tacked newspaper clippings of Bill Gates' 2002 trip to India, when he visited the company founded by Nilekani, chairman Narayana Murthy, and four other friends 25 years ago. As part of a week-long reporting trip to India, I kicked Monday morning off in Bangalore with a trip to India's top tech company to see for myself.Slog your way down Hosur Road, the main artery into the Bangalore tech district dubbed "Electronics City," and you'll pass tin-roofed shacks, crumbling buildings, a quarter-mile-long vegetable wholesale market erected on the black dirt to the side of the road, and hundreds of Indians trying to ply a living from the makeshift or decaying businesses along it. Hosur Road is also choked with traffic, as the buses bearing young workers down to the Electronics City companies fight for space with Bangalore's chaotic mix of cars, delivery trucks, motorized rickshaws, motor bikes, and the occasional cow. A while back, a group of Electronics City tech workers threatened to sit in the road unless Bangalore's state of Karnataka widened or otherwise unclogged it. That never came to pass, and apparently neither did the relief.
But inside the gates of Infosys, it's another story. It's like a fairytale trip to the first world. Armies of landscapers and maintenance workers keep the grounds' lawns, ponds, swimming pools, and golf courses immaculate. On-campus stores out of main street America sell the latest software, cell phones, and sundries. Employees--the average age is 26, according to my public relations guide--are encouraged to stay after work to avail themselves of Infosys' pools, gym, game rooms, library, and paddle boats. Buildings and plazas are modeled after architectural favorites of chairman Murthy--there's a fake Sydney Opera House, Louvre pyramid, and St. Petersburg fountains. It's as if Infosys has created an oasis from India.
That could be as important to retaining its best workers as raw pay in Bangalore's rapidly heating market for IT talent. Competition for staffers with three to five years experience "is especially accute," Nilekani says.
Infosys sends all its newly graduated employees to a four-month "finishing school" in nearby Mysore to teach them technical tips, business etiquette, and brush up their English. But it appears that once they make it inside Infosys' gates, they've arrived.