Outsourcing pioneer and IT icon Narendra Patni passes away

Outsourcing pioneer and IT icon Narendra Patni passes away

Summary: Many of the luminaries in today's Indian IT industry can find some linkage with Narendra Patni and his company

TOPICS: Outsourcing, India
patni one

Before there was Infosys and Narayana Murthy, there was the legendary Patni Computer Systems (PCS) and Narendra Kumar Patni, —the pioneer of Indian software outsourcing, industry icon and father figure and role model to all the other Indian IT luminaries that followed. Patni passed away on Tuesday in Boston, Massachusetts of a heart attack. He was 71 years of age. 

After finishing his undergraduate degree at the Rorkee Engineering College (now IIT-Roorkee) Patni continued studying engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he also did a business degree at Sloan School of Management. Long before anyone thought of India as a destination for outsourced software services, Patni and his wife Poonam set up shop in a small apartment in the US before opening up offices in Pune. 

Soon after, in 1978, Patni Computer Systems (PCS) was born. It was started by Patni and his brothers Ashok and Gajendra. The company first started selling Data General’s mini-computers but soon Patni hired a young man called Narayana Murthy to head up its software division. Murthy inturn hired a few good men—namely S Gopalkrishnan, Nandan Nilekani and a few others. Eventually the entire Patni software team left to form Infosys and the rest as they say is sweet history.

Patni was admired by a wide variety of people. "I worked under Naren when I was head of software at PCS. He was a brilliant leader who brought out the best in all of us. His death is a big loss to all of us, his admirers," said Narayana Murthy. "He was a doyen of the industry in the true sense… when we started Mastek in 1982, the Patni story was a beacon light for us," said Ashank Desai, Founder and Chairman of Mastek.

The reason Patni was liked and respected is because he always honoured whatever he committed himself to. "I have seen Naren interact with customers and the trust factor was extremely high. That was because of the value he attached to his word," said Abhay Havaldar, General Atlantic’s Advisory Director, to the Hindu newspaper.

The last few years were tough for Patni as he saw his beloved firm gobbled up by a much smaller competitor iGate for US$1.2 billion amidst a heated dispute amongst the brothers about whether to sell the firm or not. "He (Narendra Patni) felt immense regret that a smaller company was buying out Patni, because of the circumstances; he wished it was the other way round. Because of the fight between the Patni brothers, he felt he had no choice," said Phaneesh Murthy, former chief executive of Nasdaq-listed iGate, who was instrumental in acquiring PCS—but who was asked to leave following allegations of sexual harassment which he denies. Murthy was a rising star at Infosys and iGate promptly replaced him with another one—former Infosys director Ashok Vemuri—this re-inforcing Patni and Infosys’ intertwining fortunes.

There’s no telling for sure, but a good guess is that selling Patni literally broke the heart of a man who put everything into his baby.

Topics: Outsourcing, India

Rajiv Rao

About Rajiv Rao

Rajiv is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi who is interested in how new technologies, innovation, and disruptive business forces are shaking things up in India.

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  • Bloodsucking hypocrite

    Funny that he was all about exporting jobs to India, yet he himself studied and ultimately died in the USA - no doubt enjoying the privileges of a first-world country that he was systematically denying to those whose jobs were shipped overseas.
    • Re: Bloodsucking hypocrite

      Wait, I don't get it. It's okay to get your cars made in Mexico, your Ipods and the chips that go into them in China and of course it's totally awesome that Boeing's jobs in the US are there largely because of high growth economies like India's -- but when IT jobs in this 'global' economy go to India because of Ricardo's principles of comparative advantage (in other words, because someone can do it better for a similar or cheaper price), suddenly Indian outsourcers become villains. Get over it and get competitive -- something that the US is great it -- instead of whining about being at the receiving end of a capitalist system.
      Rajiv Rao
      • re:

        It's definitely NOT okay with me or a lot of other people that nearly everything that is sold in the U.S. is made in a low wage country. I actively seek out (usually futilely) American made products and I'm willing to pay more for them. American workers have been sold out by Wall Street and psychopathic CEOs and the politicians they own. Without manufacturing and engineering our country cannot sustain its middle class.

        As for getting competitive, American workers are the most productive in the world. Personally, I spend large amounts of my own time keeping my software architecture and engineering skills up to date.

        As for the "comparative advantage" of Indian software developers, what I and others have seen is that there are a few good ones and a whole lot of terrible ones. There was a time about ten or twelve years ago when outsourcing to India was all the rage with idiot employers who knew nothing about how software development actually works. It had been sold to them as a way to get the same or better productivity as they were getting domestically for almost free. Software development jobs in the U.S. were disappearing faster than could be counted. Then reality set in. The costs were as high or higher and the productivity and quality was crap. Companies started grudgingly hiring here again and were all angry that they couldn't find enough developers since so many had left the field and no one new was entering it.

        Hate to puncture you balloon, Rajiv, but that's the view from here.
        Sir Name
  • Good riddance

    No love lost here.
    Sir Name