Narayana Murthy wants the youth to work 70 hours a week, but…

PM Narendra Modi claims to work 18 hours a day, 126 hours a week, so 70 hours a week is easy, surely? The Infosys co-founder's prescription for the nation triggers debate

In an interview with TV Mohandas Pai on 3one4 Capital’s podcast 'The Record', Murthy called for youth to embrace a 70-hour workweek voluntarily (screen grab from: @shobhitic/X)
In an interview with TV Mohandas Pai on 3one4 Capital’s podcast 'The Record', Murthy called for youth to embrace a 70-hour workweek voluntarily (screen grab from: @shobhitic/X)

A.J. Prabal

The Infosys co-founder also spoke of corruption in government offices (no, it has not been eliminated) and an inefficient and indecisive bureaucracy pulling the country down, besides the nation's low productivity.

But corruption and the need for a better bureaucracy evoked no comment and little interest. His prescription of 70 hours a week, however, has drawn sharp comments.

The controversy refuses to die down. While several billionaires have supported his call for more working hours, and in particular maintained that a 5-day work week is too short for India, others were upset with his ‘sane advice’.

In an interview with T.V. Mohandas Pai on 3one4 Capital’s podcast The Record, Murthy said earlier this week, “Unless we improve our work productivity, unless we reduce corruption in the government at some level — because we have been reading... I don’t know the truth of it — unless we reduce the delays in our bureaucracy in taking decisions, we will not be able to compete with countries that have made tremendous progress.”

So, my request is that our youngsters must say, "This is my country. I would like to work 70 hours a week."
Infosys founder Narayana Murthy

Murthy cited work conditions in Germany and Japan after World War II. “This is exactly what Germans and Japanese did after the World War II... They made sure that every German worked extra hours for a certain number of years,” he said.

While Narayana Murthy had the organised sector in mind, which comprises just 10 per cent of the Indian economy, his prescription did not go down well with everyone.

“Where is work,” mocked some, while Hari Mohan Bangur, chairman, Shree Cement, quipped, “Roughly 10,000 hours of work is required to learn the trade and 20,000 hours to become a master of the trade. But how soon one wants to get there should be left to the individual...”.

Ronnie Screwvala, co-founder and chairman of edtech platform upGrad, said the quality of work mattered more than longer hours.

“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. Quality of work done > clocking in more hours,” he posted on X.

Dr Deepak Krishnamurthy, a cardiac surgeon in Bengaluru, also joined issue with Murthy, saying that 12 hours of work and eight hours of sleep plus two hours spent on commuting in a big city would leave people with just two hours a day for everything else—"brush, poop, bathe, eat"—and no time for recreation, family time and socialisation.

“Companies expect people to answer emails and calls after work” and then people wonder why young people are having heart attacks, he mocked.

Dr Krishnamurthy's views were supported by several people on social media, with one of them posting, “Overwork gave me a heart attack at 38 and a lifetime dependency on medicines! Please don’t listen to these bloodsucking leeches who sit on their high chairs giving lectures.”

Another post read, “Let’s not normalise slavery. Work 20 or 25 hours a day if it is your own enterprise. Don’t expect your employees to emulate you.

"Is it so tough to grasp that work-life balance creates a happier/healthier society? Also, these draconian views will cut out women from employment."

Several people seemed to endorse this, pointing out that Indian men do not share much housework and women bear the brunt of it. If men are now required to work for 70 hours a week, the women would simply have to sit at home and slave.

Other comments were equally scathing.

“Don't marry. Don't have kids. Don't even think of work-life balance. Work 12 hours a day for companies so that they can mint millions and feed you peanuts. Wonderful advice,” read one bitter post.

An approving comment endorsed this last one, saying, “To say the least, this will lead to cardiac issues, stress-related complications, mental and psychological problems, divorce, parental issues, anxiety, and so on."

Industrialist Sajjan Jindal, chairman of Jindal Steel (JSW), was among those 'industry leaders' who claim to live the life and came out in support of Narayana Murthy. He posted: "It's not about burnout, it’s about dedication. We have to make India an economic superpower that we can all be proud of. #India2047"

"A 5-day week culture is not what a rapidly developing nation of our size needs… Our PM @narendramodi-ji works over 14–16 hours every day. My father used to work 12–14 hours, 7 days a week. I work 10–12 hours every day… We have to find passion in our work and in nation building," Jindal added on X.

“Look where the Prime Minister has brought this country” was the acerbic response that summed up the sentiment among the majority of netizens, though.

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