Home > Culture, Infosys > Really, Mr. Murthy?

Really, Mr. Murthy?

A quick pop-quiz:  what is inappropriate in this picture?

For the folks who make the rules at one of our country’s most recognized global corporate entities, this attire is considered inappropriate, and is deemed a No-No inside their premises. Today morning, the wife was stopped at the Infosys main gate on her way to work, because she was wearing the outfit in the picture above – and it violates the dress code laid down by the organization. Infosys believes that a sleeveless kameez/kurta is inappropriate corporate attire, and fines its employees for non-compliance.

Ostensibly, the genesis for formulating this medieval dress code is that  women were seen walking around the campus wearing spaghetti-strap tops, which didn’t go down well with the image that  the company wants to project. Even if one were to set aside, for a moment, that this is a bizarre interpretation of, and response to, what crosses the line on office dress codes, isn’t it obvious to the powers that be that this also completely negates every effort on gender diversity that the company makes to attract and retain talent? The wife has been seething with anger ever since this rule came into force a while ago, surely thousands of women working at Infosys campuses all over must be feeling the same.

Btw, if it’s any consolation, men aren’t allowed wear shorts or sleeveless t-shirts too – score one for gender equality, Infy!

My first thought when I got to know this rule was that some idiot in HR must have got the brief and took the throw-the-baby-out-of the bathwater approach in coming up with moronic rules like these. But then I was reminded of what blogger Amit Varma wrote in his brilliant post about the TED conference held at the Infosys Mysore campus a couple of years ago. I strongly suggest you read the entire post, and as much of his blog as you can (sadly, he doesn’t blog anymore), but here’s the relevant bit:

“Being at TEDIndia gave some of us valuable insights into society and the human condition (as well as the road to world peace, but I won’t reveal it here, I’d rather find ways to monetize it first). Here’s an interesting observation for you, which my good buddy Gautam John brought to my notice: the pharmacy at the Infosys campus in Mysore does not sell condoms.

I want you to think about that for a moment. This is a campus where thousands of young men and women stay and work together. The official Infosys position on this matter, thus, seems to be that either a) Infosys employees do not have sex or b) Infosys employees have sex, but it should not be safe sex. Isn’t this interesting? “

For those who haven’t been to the Infosys Mysore campus, a mental picture of that place needs a bit of reiteration. This is where tens of thousands of fresh college graduates (of which a healthy percentage are women), land up every year straight after college, and live for as long as 6 months being trained in ( I guess) the Infosys way. Imagine the scenario.. men and women  in their early twenties.. hormones raging.. closeted in a place which has nice weather most of the year.. with fantastic accommodation and recreational amenities… starting an independent life, earning money for the first time.. making friendships..  and doing whatever else that usually occupies the minds of twenty year olds.

But condoms.. no sir, we don’t/won’t have any of that stuff going around here. Score two for Victorian morals, Infy!

There’s been reams of pages written over the years about the solid, roots-to-the ground orientation of the company’s founders. I suspect that there’s also some amount of misplaced moralism (or numbskulling 21st century naiveté , take your pick) angle to this carefully cultivated image, which is not so widely documented.

As you enter the imposing campus at Mysore, the first thing you see is the face of the most famous Infosys employee etched in a stone slab near the entrance. When I visit next time, am tempted to put a banner on top of his visage, which reads, “Really, Mr. Murthy?”

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Categories: Culture, Infosys
  1. Gopal
    October 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

    The dress code stuff is simply stupid… I am ok about not selling condoms, I am sure there are other shops in Mysore that sell…

    • October 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      I am sure too that there are other shops there selling condoms, Gopal.. but thats not the point, is it? What Infy is effectively saying is on the lines of ‘we believe in supporting the increased incidence of unwanted pregnancies among our employees’ Isn’t that ridiculous?

  2. Palu
    October 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Love your blogs!!!

    • October 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Palu!

  3. October 4, 2012 at 11:10 am

    hahaha – from Amit Varma’s post about Infy’s campus: “Also, the design isn’t functional at all. In the building where I stayed, all the bathroom windows overlooked the inner courtyard, where people gather. This is just bad design, exacerbated by the absence of condoms.”

    • October 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      Yeah, I was guffawing there too. Brilliant blog. Read.

  4. Vidya
    October 4, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Unbelievable – ThoughtWorks is just the opposite of Infy, they have bigger things to look into than what people wear inside and outside;) Anyways – it is ironical – yesterday there was an article written by Jerry Seinfield on using the term “Really”. How critics are saying it is the most overused word. If you get a chance do look at SNL with Jerry Seinfield and Seth about Really!!

    • October 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks, Vidya. Will look this up.

  5. Siddharth Kapoor
    October 4, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Crazy! They attempted something like this about 6 yrs back. My wife was with Infy then. The dress code literally said something on the lines of ‘Dupatta to be worn for appropriate coverage!’. There was an uproar at that time, and they rolled it back…

    • October 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      There seems to something similar this time too.. a stole worn around the shoulder to cover bare arms apparently passes muster. Ridiculous, cannot wait for the roll-back this time too.

  6. October 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Good on you for blogging about it, Satish. Am going to RT and FB it until the cows come home. btw, how does Infy handle dissent?

    • October 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks, Vishy. Really appreciate your support in spreading the message. Right now, the way it works is that the “offenders” are stopped at the gate and a note is made of their name/ employee number, etc. I am told that a Rs. 200/- fine is deducted automatically from the payroll for this “offence”. Am assuming that repeat offences will involve multiple instances of the fine, will have to see what else is involved.

  7. Debu
    October 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Shame on Infy. Put up a good fight.

    • October 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks, yaar.

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