Karthik Agarwal, had commented in my last post on How ISB was established at Hyderabad that there were factual errors in my story and I could call him if I wish to know the right version. I spoke to him this week. He was previously working for ISB, taking care of Marketing and Branding for the SAARC region. I want to first thank him for taking the time to talk to me. Here is his version of the story. He has also added a disclaimer that this is the version he heard and the only people who can confirm the facts are the four people who actually visited these states and met the CMs; Rajat Gupta, Rahul Bajaj, Adi Godrej and Anil Ambani.
The founders had initially short listed three cities for the college, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Hyderabad did not figure in the list at all. Mumbai was their first choice. They met Bal Thackeray who was willing to give them a 25acre plot in Navi Mumbai. But he insisted on a 25% reservation for people from Maharashtra. It was not for people living in Maharashtra but for people of Maratha origin. He wanted the reservation both for the students and the staff.
This was a big no-no for the founders. So they went to Bangalore where the then CM. S.M.Krishna made them wait for three hours and then spoke to them for 15 minutes before handing them over to his secretary. They were shown a land on a map which had no access from any major road.
They visited Chennai to meet the CM, J.Jayalalitha. She showed them a land near an industrial area which did not appeal to them. If you know Jayalalitha, it won’t be hard to guess the other things that would have been discussed.
Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu came to know that things were not working out with Bal Thackeray and requested the founders to consider Hyderabad. He invited them to visit the city. Anil Ambani then convinced the others to take a detour to Hyderabad, not with the intention of setting up the college there but only to appease Naidu. When the landed, they were met at the tarmac by the Chief Secretary and the Minister for Education. They asked them if they wished to first see the land or meet the CM. Now, this was very different from the experience with other CMs. They first went to the site (in a Mercedes Van). In was a 250 acre plot and there some 20 odd officials were waiting for them with maps and details about the development plan for the area (the roads that were going to be laid and the power lines that were to be built).
Then they went to Naidu’s house and they were taken straight to his private quarters without any wait. He welcomed them with a smile and asked them if they were happy with the land. If they were satisfied, he had a draft agreement which they could sign right away. He took out a blank paper and gave it to them. All they had to do was lay down the terms and conditions and he would sign. He then gave them a small presentation about the state, its culture and heritage, industry and people.
The rest is history. It’s truly amazing, the things that can be achieved if the right political will is in place. It may also interest you to note, that the biggest campus of Infosys is not at Bangalore or Mysore but at Hyderabad.