Mysore, July 31 :

State controls and red tape came under attack at the Infosys Technologies’ silver jubilee festival here from two of the biggest protagonists of liberalisation and globalisation, union fina-nce minister P Chidamba-ram and Infosys chief mentor N R Narayana Murthy.

Giving an account of his first brush with the state, Chidambaram recalled ho-w he was denied foreign exchange for studying at the Harvard Business School during the era of the permit raj in the 1960s and 1970s.

“When I applied for foreign exchange to join Harvard, everyone denied me a few hundred dollars although the Business School had granted me admission. Those were the days when the chief controller of foreign exchange had to clear even personal expenses of students. To my luck, a kind gentleman who was then chief controller of forex gave me a grand allowance of $7-a-day for my board, food and personal expenses 10 months a year during my two-year long stint at Harvard, unmindful of how I would live for the remaining two months of the year without such a facility.”

“That opened my eyes to how there was something fundamentally wrong about the way the affairs of the country were run,” Chidambaram told a stunned audience of about 5,000 people, including hundreds of young Infoscions, their families and other dignitaries like planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy.

On another occasion, when Chidamabram was awakened to the way the country’s affairs were organised was his encounter with the chief controller of imports and exports — ironically just a month before he was to become the latter’s boss as minister.

“Travelling with this official then, I asked him while I understand the need for a chief controller of imports, why he was also the chief controller of exports. He had no answer. Within a month I became his minister, I told him I was abolishing his post as he had no business to be either the chief controller of exports or imports.”

Going down memory lane, Chidambaram said it was difficult to believe “we had gone through such torrid times, we had put an end to such a stifling system to ensure the present generation joined us in the dream of building a new India, a strong India, a prosperous India that will be free of poverty and disease”.

Narrating his own brush with state controls and red tape, Infosys chief mentor Murthy gave an insight into he had to go through during the company’s formative years for obtaining a part of their own hard-earned dollars from the Reserve Bank of India. “As I stand here, several images pass thro-ugh my mind. Waiting at the entrance of the RBI with my friend, at other times with my wife and a few times with my young daughter for four-to-six hours just to get our own hard-earned dollars to support my six other founders.”

“It is an experience that I cannot forget and would not wish it for anybody else,” Murthy said, recalling the time his company had to wait for months even to get its first phone connection, “When the first telephone was installed in the house of our computer centre in-charge and not in the house of the CEO, I knew we had created a customer-focused organisation.”

“In 1992, when the young librarian was asked by the then head of education and research about a book that I borrowed, as that gentleman who sits in the corner, I knew our job was done in demolishing hierarchy in the organisation.”

And when the company politely refused General Electric’s unreasonable co-nditions in 1995 and walk-ed away from its business, which accounted for 25 per cent of revenue and eight per cent of profit, Murthy said he knew “we had built a courageous and principled organisation”. Recoun-ting the trials and tribulations he and Infosys had gone through over the last 25 years, Murthy said Infosys pioneered wealth crea-tion by sharing its fortunes.