Narayana Murthy's 70-Hour Work Week: Here Is What Startup Founders Have To Say While Infosys founder's thoughts on productivity earned brickbats from many on social media, the startup world is divided in its views
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Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy stirred a debate last week when he urged young Indians to work 70 hours per week. He quoted Japan and Germany as examples of countries that grew because their citizens worked harder to rebuild their nations post the Second World War. He also said that India's productivity is one of the lowest in the world and needs a solution.
"Somehow our youth have the habit of taking not-so-desirable habits from the west and then not helping the country," he said in the debut episode of "The Record", a video series by 3one4 Capital.
How startup world view the suggestion
While overall the consensus was against very long hours, Murthy's suggestions did find some takers in the ecosystem. Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder, Ola, for instance, agreed with Murthy. He wrote, "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!"
"So therefore, my request is that our youngsters must say, 'This is my country. I'd like to work 70 hours a week," he added on X. Sajjan Jindal, chairman, JSW Group also wrote in support of Murthy's views. "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," he wrote on X.
Ashneer Grover, co-founder of BharatPe said that Murthy's comment offended people as work was still measured in 'hours' rather than 'outcome'. "I think junta got offended here because work is still being measured in 'hours' than 'outcome'. The other thing is people feeling as if youngster's laziness is only thing keeping India from becoming developed. Funny – getting offended unites us more than cricket, religion, caste or language," said Grover.
We spoke to many more founders and business leaders to understand what they think.
Some felt that the entire conversation has been blown out of proportion. Shekhar Sanyal, country head and director, IET India told us that everyone should first listen to the podcast and understand what Murthy said. "He very clearly said that India is at cusp of immense growth and everyone should be ready to put in more work to make India successful. The youth should take pride in this growth and their country and should be ready to put in 70 hour work weeks if that is what it takes. He hopes that business leaders would be able to inspire and encourage youngsters to see the need. He has spoken from a country and per capita productivity perspective and his comment should be viewed in that perspective," he said.
Many others said that it's not a healthy idea to implement. "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," wrote Ronnie Screwvala, founder, upGrad said in a post.
Radhika Gupta, CEO and managing director, Edelweiss Mutual Fund shared that between offices and homes, many Indian women have been working many more than seventy-hour weeks to build India (through our work) and the next generation of Indians (our children). "For years and decades. With a smile, and without a demand for overtime. Funnily, no one has debated about us on Twitter," she wrote.
Most people agree that what's important is the quality of the work, regardless of the hours you put in. "Success in any domain requires total commitment. When you're trying to create something new, you pay undivided attention. I typically work 14-15 hours a day because building something meaningful demands your full effort, and hard work is the key to achieving anything significant. At upGrad, we have a diverse team with people who prefer regular jobs and those who push themselves to the limit," Mayank Kumar, co-founder and MD, upGrad, an edtech unicorn told us.
The key here, some feel, is finding that balanced approach and being quick to pivot when a model is showing signs of stress. "Hustle culture in startups can have both positive and negative effects. In our early years, the intense work ethic of a hustle culture has reaped bountiful rewards and helped drive productivity and innovation.But as we grow our global workforce, we have to be sensitive to cultural nuances as well as embracing a myriad of work styles in order to attract the best talents," said Kumar Ritesh, founder and CEO, Cyfirma, an external threat landscape management company backed by Goldman Sachs, Z3Partners, L&T Innovation Fund and Israel-based OurCrowd.
Overall, the consensus largely is that in the current age and time, work-life balance is key. "We believe in the quality of work delivered and the impact the work brings, rather than the hours clocked. Personally, I would want myself and the team to have the right balance between work and family/ personal life. This is not just important for everyone's health & preventing burnout; but also to help drive better productivity, reduce burnout, and inculcate a healthy collaborative culture," said Ganesh S, Global CHRO, Emeritus, an edtech unicorn startup.