When a young Phaneesh Murthy began working for the small Indian tech firm Infosys in 1992 (a year before the internet was made public), he had no idea that he would soon become one of the most successful business people of the internet age. In fact, he had little to show for besides an engineering degree that had nothing to do with software or the web.
“I’d never written a line of code,” he said.
But Murthy had something that others didn’t: an entrepreneurial mindset and a knack for marketing. By leveraging these skills during the tech boom, Murthy played an integral role in engineering the business of outsourcing IT services worldwide. His disruptions turned small firms into global players and created processes that are considered industry best in class today.
In a recent interview, Murthy looked back at his career working for IT giants Infosys and iGATE as well as his own ventures Quintant and Primentor. He recalled some of the pivotal moments that defined his career and the IT services industry as we know it.
Infosys Booms—And So Does India
Phaneesh Murthy worked for Infosys from 1992-2002. During that 10-year span, the company’s revenues increased from about 1.3 million to 750 million. Murthy, who was in charge of bridging the gap between the company’s base in India and the rest of the world, was a major driver of this growth.
He pioneered the Global Delivery System (GDS), a standard in the IT industry today. It’s a process for IT companies to deliver services from anywhere in the world. Once Infosys implemented this system, its growth potential seemed unlimited.
Murthy began generating development costs park by the thousands and was soon promoted to Worldwide Head of Sales and Marketing, Communications, and the Product Solutions Group.
“I was the only board member outside India, so I actually led that whole thing,” he said of Infosys’ NASDAQ listing. “It was an amazing experience.”
But it was more than just an amazing experience for Phaneesh Murthy and Infosys. It was a turning point for the Indian economy as well.
“I believe I was not just part of a company in the making,” Murthy said. “I believe I was very much part of an industry in the making, and also a country in the making. ”
A New Business Model at Quintant
Murthy realized during his time at Infosys that there was a problem with the business model used by most IT companies. Customers were paying for labor regardless of results, which Murthy found promoted waste and did not incentivize innovation.
“Customers were getting tired of paying for effort, and I wanted to create a completely new paradigm where clients would start paying for results and for outcomes rather than for effort,” he said.
So, he left Infosys and founded Quintant, a global business services provider with a results-based business model. Under this system, customers paid for deliverable results.
“The idea was that we would not charge anything for actual work, we would charge everything for the results that we produced.”
This business model wasn’t just successful with customers. It also sparked innovation at Quintant. It inspired employees to develop novel processes and technologies that delivered results faster and more effectively.
Murthy’s customers were dramatically increasing their efficiency and cutting massive costs. This attracted the attention of iGATE, an Indian tech firm that approached Murthy with a proposition.
Leading iGATE to Tech Dominance
iGATE was a large yet floundering tech firm interested in acquiring Murthy’s successful business, Quintant. But they didn’t just want Quintant. They offered Murthy a leadership position, which allowed him to restructure the company according to his own ideas.
“I was able to clean that company over the next 10 years,” Murthy said. “It was quite interesting because I took that from about a negative 20% margin to a 25% operating margin, and from about $65 million enterprise value to about $4.8 billion of enterprise value.”
One of Murthy’s best-known disruptions during his time at iGATE was the development of the Integrated Technology and Operations Model (ITOPS). For Murthy, IT and operations had to go hand in hand in a digital economy. This model helped iGATE operate more efficiently and facilitated relationships between clients and outsourcers at the company.
By the time Murthy left iGATE as its CEO in 2013 he had turned it into one of the largest IT firms in India.
Phaneesh Murthy Teaches Disruption at Primentor
Phaneesh Murthy left iGATE in 2013 and founded his next venture, Primentor, Inc., without skipping a beat. Pimentor is a consulting firm that advises executives on how to engineer disruptions, break stagnation, and spark hyper-growth.
Though Murthy serves as CEO of Primentor, he takes an active role in each client’s operations. To ensure their success, Murthy joins a company’s board and becomes “a very active board member.”
“I do direction setting and regular reviews to keep the cadence and the pace going,” he said.
Within its first few years, Primentor helped a number of midsized to large achieve dramatic successes in very little time.
“I’ve actually helped multiple companies scale in value very dramatically and created exits for some companies,” he said.
Today, Phaneesh Murthy remains active as CEO of Primentor and serves on multiple boards. He also engages in charitable giving and is active in the conservation of India’s native tiger populations.