Satyam's Raju holds forth

Steve Hamm

Ramalinga Raju runs Satyam, one of the top five Indian software services outfits, but his profile is much lower than that of leaders such as Premji, Murthy, and Nilekani. He has a soft-spoken style that is disarming—and probably makes people underestimate him. I had dinner with him earlier this week before I headed out into the far reaches of Andhra Pradesh to visit a group of villages that Raju’s Byrraju Foundation is helping with education, health, job training, and setting up BPO operations. Raju gave me a new way of thinking about the India experience relative to many migrations that have gone on in the past. He told me: “In a virtualized world, you see many Indian workers developing the mindset of the immigrant. They’re focusing on change, learning, and advancement. In a virtualized world, you’re a virtual immigrant.”

Raju also told me a funny story about Azim Premji, the boss of Wipro. The leaders of the Indian tech industry aren’t a clubby bunch, but neither do they play the enemy game that is so popular with IT leaders and the press in Silicon Valley. They’re collegial. They enjoy each other’s company. And they arrange to talk with each other from time to time. Premji traveled six months ago to Hyderabad, where Satyam is based, and arranged beforehand to drop in on Raju for a visit. He arrived early, and Raju’s people put him in a conference room to wait for a few minutes. It so happened that somebody else was already waiting in the room for a different meeting: the CIO of a corporation that had recently selected Satyam over Wipro for a piece of business. As Raju tells the story, Premji struck up a conversation, and, before long, “He was trying to win the customer back for Wipro,” says Raju. “Fortunately we separated them in time.”

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