‘Indians should work for 60 hours a week for next 2-3 yrs to revive economy’: Narayana Murthy
‘Indians should work for 60 hours a week for next 2-3 yrs to revive economy’: Narayana Murthy

‘Indians should work for 60 hours a week for next 2-3 yrs to revive economy’: Narayana Murthy

In an interview to ET Now, Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy, shared his thoughts on what needs to be done to revive the economy.

The economic impact of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone worried. As the last day for the extended lockdown – May 3 – draws closer, there are many questions about what lies next in terms of reviving the Indian economy. Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy shared his thoughts on the same in an interview with Chandra Ranganathan of ET Now.

Among other things, he said that Indians would have to learn to live with coronavirus for the next 12-18 months, companies will need to take precautions, and overall, Indians would have to put in more work and more hours to put the economy on a track again.

Precautions companies can take

Murthy said that the factors he would consider to open up factories would be based on data on who is most vulnerable to the virus.

Based on the same, and the present evidence that the elderly are more vulnerable, he said that companies should find out how they can best protect their employees – by providing personal protection gear like gowns, gloves, masks and goggles – and what will be the cost of this.

“We could operate three shifts in a one or two shift company to improve social distancing. We could use gowns, masks, gloves, goggles for low risk employees to attend factories. I would have made an analysis and said, let the less vulnerable work with protective gear and let elderly people work from home or from their own offices,” Murthy said.  

“Let data lead us to the decisions, we should not rely on opinions,” he added.  

Commenting on the testing capacity in India, Murthy said that even if India tests one lakh people a day, it would take 37 years to test everyone. He added that there is no vaccine in sight, and pointed out that even if there was one in the near future, we do not know how or if it will work on Indian genes. In this situation, Indians should learn to live with the novel coronavirus for the next 12-18 months, he said.    

“In such a complex situation, we should assume that the new normal is to live with coronavirus. We should start doing whatever we were doing before the coronavirus came… in other words, protect the most vulnerable i.e. old people like me. People like you,” he told Chandra, “can use gowns, goggles etc. We can find out how much this will cost; every company can make efforts. Companies can show all this data to the government, say we are taking precautions, and work towards opening up factories again.”

Indians should vow to work longer, harder

Murthy also said that to pull the Indian economy out of the slump that has resulted from the COVID-19 lockdown, Indians should vow to work longer and harder.

“We should take a pledge that we will work ten hours a day, six days a week - as against 40 hours a week - for the next 2-3 years so that we can fast-track and grow the economy much faster. On the side of the government, they should appoint a committee of well-respected and accomplished people to advise them on how to remove hassles for these businesses, like during the economic reforms of 1991. If we did these two, by and large, we will come out of this much stronger,” Murthy said.

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Help for MSMEs and startups

Murthy said that in terms of startups and small companies, [a possible policy] could be to guarantee loans from banks for them. "This will help them to have certain working capital for the next 3-6 months. These things should have been done pretty early, but it’s still not too late,” he said.

Work from home

When asked for his views on the work from home culture, and how there is talk of it becoming the norm in the months to come, Murthy points out that overall, Indians are not the most disciplined bunch. He said that there was a need to establish productivity standards.

“The need of the hour is to improve productivity. While it is a great idea to say that we’ll all work from home, unless there is a clear productivity standard that we have defined, unless every one of us is asked to achieve that productivity standard, [work from home] won’t work. First let every industry – finance, information technology, etc. – define productivity standards for work from home. Once this is defined for each designation, then you can work from anywhere you want,” Murthy said.   

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