N R Narayana Murthy developed the $20-billion company by market capitalisation from an investment of just $250 - a loan from his wife.

"Infosys is a shining example of all the good that came out of  [market] liberalisation," Murthy said last month at the  anniversary of the company's founding.

"There are a few good entrepreneurs and for them to succeed they require an incentive. That is the Infosys lesson."

Daunted by red tape and archaic laws in the 1980s, Murthy had considered selling the company which was a pioneer in off-shore software outsourcing.

Economic reforms

But economic reforms in 1991 allowed Infosys to finally take off and become one of the great success stories of India's technology sector.

The government provided tax holidays, export subsidies and  duty-free hardware imports in the initial stages of reforms for  software export firms and many state governments today attract these companies with tax concessions.

Bangalore-based Infosys Technologies, India's second-largest  software exporter, now has annual revenues of $2.1 billion and employs 58,000 people in more than two dozen countries.

Tata Consultancy Services is India's top software exporter.

Murthy, who announced this year that he would resign from the board the day he turned 60, will keep an eye on the firm as non-executive chairman and "chief mentor", but will hand the baton to CEO Nandan Nilekani.

On Sunday, his 60th birthday, he passed on the mantle to Nilekani.

"I have enjoyed doing what I did in creating this company,  nurturing it so far," Murthy told the Press Trust of India news  agency on Saturday.

Former socialist

The staunch capitalist was once a socialist who travelled to Europe in the 1970s to learn more about communism, but came away disillusioned.

"The value systems I incorporated in Infosys were taught to me by my parents. My father had clear ideas of honesty, decency and work ethics. My mother taught me how to sacrifice for others"

NR Narayana Murthy,
retiring chairman of Infosys

"I was a strong socialist. By the end of 1970s I got to the  conclusion that leftism is just bogus. Socialism in India is meaningless. Creation of jobs requires entrepreneurship," the  soft-spoken Murthy said.

Despite becoming a billionaire, Murthy set a model for India's  wealthy business class by continuing to live simply and by sharing the Nasdaq-listed company's wealth with employees through stock options.

"The value systems I incorporated in Infosys were taught to me by my parents," said Murthy, one of eight children of a rural schoolteacher father who earned 175 rupees ($3.80) a month.

"My father had clear ideas of honesty, decency and work ethics. My mother taught me how to sacrifice for others."

Until 2002 he travelled by bus "at least once in a week" to his company's headquarters, and queued up alongside employees at the food stall.