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“We are building the electronic equivalent of roads for the country; soft infrastructure”

The most public-spirited, highly ambitious information technology entrepreneur of 21st century, a genius ideologist, integrator of technology and socialism, a good communicator connecting technology with people through his books like “Imagining India”;  took over as the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India with the rank of a cabinet minister, in July2009. He is entrusted with the humungous project, of issuing identity numbers to all 1.2 billion Indians by our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Each citizen would be allotted unique number and creating a database containing their photographs, biometric information (such as fingerprints, scanning iris), and a few details such as name, sex, age, address, unique signature etc. India will be the first country to implement a biometric-based unique ID system for its residents on such a large scale. The effort has been called “the biggest social project on the planet”, which intends to create a national biometric database ten times larger than the world’s next-largest biometric database.  

His father’s social ideology influenced Nandan a lot right from his childhood. As he came out graduated at IIT Mumbai, there was a boom in the IT field. He was highly benefited by the Indian success story. Therefore, he had a strong zeal to give back to India, which made him leave Infosys, the company that he co-founded after living a success story for nearly three decades, to take up the government project (UIDAI). He moved to Delhi to kick-start the project from scratch. He was the first employee and later built a team and designed the entire thing. His proficient technological background was a key to design the project, as it was highly technical. He felt that this project was very exciting, because the project included processes, technology, building capabilities, spending government funds in more efficient manner, it helps in re-engineering public services, prevents diversions, provides security and helps to reduce high economic distances between the people of all the fields.

It gives identity to millions of people who do not have identity and helps the migrants to get a national number with which they could go around. The value for the system is immense. The social value is incalculable because there are millions of people in India without an ID. This project is compatible to India, because people are connected well through smart phones, cloud applications, tablets etc making the world too small. This is called federated architecture and it makes it safe from the privacy point of view. Providing ID to all the people which is valid through out the world to identify, you would create a difference in the country.

This will be a very important feature because what we need is systemic reforms. Re-engineer the delivery of public services to be more efficient, equitable and effective, starts with identity. Nandan Nilekani believes that if public services are systemically re-engineered; money is delivered into bank accounts on time, food is distributed to all concerned on time etc, and the whole problem at the point of public interface can be sorted out. We have to make sure that the right beneficiaries are served. It is like a platform for everything. It is an online ID which means the ID can be used to verify your identity online either on the internet or on the mobile phone or if you want to avail some particular service. Public services like; bank accounts, money transfers, ration card, pension, mobile services, authentication for subsidy entitlement etc, you can authenticate it by using a device to confirm that you are the same person. You can use that for delivering services. The important conceptual thing is the number and the number is yours for life. It helps to automate the workflow of public delivery processes. Aadhar helps in streamlining delivery of government services and plug leakages and corruption, because there do not exist two identity numbers for the same person. A taskforce, headed by Unique Identification Authority chief Nandan Nilekani, has recommended the setting up of a dedicated mechanism for end-to-end computerization of public distribution system (PDS) across the country to check pilferage.

Nandan Nilekani, 55, gave up his highly successful career of nearly 30 years in the private sector and joined the government service with the aim of serving the country. He is a software billionaire of India’s giant and prestigious software firm Infosys, which he co-founded and was a CEO. He had a very positive experience in the new government project. He formed a team within weeks, he and a small team of civil servants and tech experts had established much of the project’s architecture. The team displayed abundant energy, motivation, high integrity, focus and enthusiasm. They had a very clear preposition, ability to talk to the partners and convince them of what they are doing, and it worked. Nandan went to every state, met with Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries, and got full cooperation. The Prime Minister and Union Finance minister were very solid supporters of this project. In short, span of time the project took off under the stewardship of Nandan Nilekani and Aadhar cards were issued to 1.2 crore people. All this was possible by his hard work, social responsiveness, depth in software architecture (programming, design and development) for a long time, his wholehearted effort to change India. He is a role model for all the upcoming young entrepreneurs for his implementation of fresh and new ideology, to inculcate transformation and change in the society.

Career Outlook
After Nandan finished his graduation at IIT Bombay in 1978, he joined in Patni Computers, a Bombay based company, where Narayana Murthy of Infosys interviewed him. Three years later Narayana Murthy walked out of Patni after disagreement with one of the Patni brothers and his entire division walked out along with him. These people decided to start their own company, Infosys, and Nilekani along with Murthy became one of the co-founders of Infosys along with few others. He served as the Director of the company’s board since the inception of the company in 1981.

When they were moving ahead with Infosys, the founders firmly decided not to involve their wives in running the company. Therefore, after Murthy it was Nilekani and Rohini that moved to Bangalore. They did not have a house, car or a telephone there, so happen to stay at Murthy’s house at Jayanagar, Bangalore. There was a lot of struggle day in, day out. Rohini took care of Murthy’s son, and Murthy’s wife was helping in software programs for Infosys. Nevertheless, the passion to create and innovate new things, kept them moving forward.
 

In 1980s and 90s Nandan Nilekani and his team worked hard to build and transform Infosys. Nilekani was the marketing face of the company. Infosys's success story has become a legend in India's corporate history and the company stood second among the top IT companies of India. Today, Infosys is a NASDAQ listed global consulting and IT Services Company, with workforce that accounts more than one lakh, with annual revenue of $6.604 billion (LTM Q2- FY12 revenues) and $30 billion capitalization.

Nandan was instrumental in success of Infosys. He took various responsibilities of the company like Managing Director, President and Chief Operating Officer before taking his position as CEO, replacing Murthy in 2002. He served as Managing Director and CEO of the company until April 2007, escalating Kris Gopalakrishnan to the position of CEO, serving as Co-Chairman. As a Co-Chairman, he focused on key client relationships, was a brand ambassador for the company, and worked on transformational initiatives. He left Infosys on 9 July 2009 to serve as the Chairperson of the UIDAI in the rank of a cabinet minister at the invitation from the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. He also co-founded India's NASSCOM in 2009.
 

More about Nandan Nilekani
Born: 2 June 1955 (age 56) Sirsi (Uttara Kannada District), Karnataka, India
Residence: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Nationality: Indian
Religion: Hinduism
Alma mater: Indian Institute of Technology
Occupation: Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)
Marital Status: Married
Children: Two children Nihar and Janhavi


Durga Nilekani and Mohan Rao Nilekani were blessed with their younger son Nandan Nilekani, the great business tycoon of India in Bangalore, Karnataka, on June2, 1955. Nandan had an elder brother, Vijay, currently working with Nuclear Energy Institute. Nandan’s father worked as a manager at Minerva Mills. He was moving too many places in the context of his job. Therefore, Nandan moved to his uncle’s place at Dharwad at a very tender age of 12yrs, not to affect his studies, as a result developed more independently with self-motivation. His father subscribed to Fabian Socialist ideals, this influenced Nandan largely, during his early years.

Nandan’s early schooling is done at Bishop Cotton Boys School at Bangalore. Later he studied in Darwad at St. Joseph’s High School. At the age of 18yrs, Nandan started perusing bachelors in Electrical Engineering, at IIT, Mumbai. His education at the IIT, transformed him from a small town boy to a more matured and confident leader. By his education, he stretched himself and learnt a big deal of hard work, team dynamics and most important one being giving back to the society.
 

Nandan Nilekani with his wife Rohini
In 1978, after completing his Bachelors Nandan Nilekani got married to Rohini Ragini, who incidentally met him at a quizzing event at the IIT College and fell in love with him. Later they had two children Nihar and Janhavy, both of them studying abroad at the Yale University. Rohini Nilekani wife of Nandan Nilekani is a woman with a mind of her own. For 26 years, she has given Nandan Nilekani the support he needed to make Infosys the billion-dollar company it is today. She got involved in wide range of social activities and Bangalore-based Akshara Foundation is the brainchild of Rohini Nilekani. the brainchild of Rohini Nilekani. Today Akshara foundation touched nearly 3,50,000 children, offering quality education to unprivileged children. 

Currently she is contributing to Arghyam, an organization that helps to provide solutions to the water crisis in the water-starved regions across India.

Awards and Honors

The long-standing efforts he had put forth in the field of technology not only made him wealthiest man of India, but also fetched him numerous awards. Few of them are mentioned below:

Nandan Nilekani was named among the 'World's most respected business.
 leaders' in 2002 and 2003, according to a global survey by Financial Times and
 PricewaterhouseCoopers
In 2004, he was awarded the Corporate Citizen of the Year award at the Asia
 Business Leader Awards (2004) organized by CNBC.
In 2005, he received the Joseph Schumpeter Prize for innovative services
 in economy, economic sciences and politics.
In 2006, he became the recipient of Padma Bhushan, one of the highest
 civilian honors awarded by the Government of India.
Nilekani was one of the youngest entrepreneurs to join 20 global leaders on the
 prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) Foundation Board in January 2006.
In 2007, he was the Forbes "Businessman of the Year" for Asia.
In 2009, he was presented the 'Legend in Leadership Award' by the Yale University,
 becoming the first Indian to receive the top honour.
In 2009, he was placed by Time magazine in the Time 100 list of 'World's Most
 Influential People'.


Board Memberships:
Nilekani’s interest in sharing his knowledge and gaining new knowledge made him a member and an associate in a number of associations and councils. Here are few Nilekani co-founded India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) as well as the Bangalore Chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE).

Nilekani is in the Conference Board, Inc., an international research and business membership organization. He is on the Board of Directors of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and serves as the co-chairman of the IIT Bombay Heritage Fund.

In India, Mr. Nilekani is a member of the National Knowledge Commission and part of the National Advisory Group on e-Governance. He is also a member of the review committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. He took over as the elected President of NCAER (the premier, independent, applied economics research institute in India) in April 2008.

Mr. Nilekani has been involved in various initiatives of the central and state governments. He was the Chairman of the Government of India’s IT Task Force for power. He has also served as a member of the subcommittee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India that dealt with issues related to Insider Trading, and as a member of the Reserve Bank of India’s Advisory Group on corporate governance.

Nilekani's book Imagining India
The book is the mind of Nilekani and reveals the idea of a renewed nation. The book was released in March 2009. Nilekani appeared on the daily Show with Jon Stewart in March 2009 to promote his book Imagining India. In this book, Nandan discusses topics such as the future of India, its recent history, the ideas and attitudes that evolved with the times and contributed to the country's progress, India's early socialist policies, its young population, information technology, caste, politics, labor reform, infrastructure, higher education, and the English language in India.

“Imagining India” talks as much about the rise of modern Indian capitalism as it talks of communism and Nehruvian Socialism. It talks as much about the License Raj as it does about the 1991 economic liberalization and the effects, thereof. It talks as much about our competitiveness in the international arena as it talks about the problems surrounding us, particularly education and illiteracy. What is noticeable is the fact that Mr. Nilekani, unlike others, always strives to give us a solution rather than just define the problem statements. Imagine India is a refreshing change.

Nilekani transforming his ideas into reality
Nandan Nilekani accepted this appointment as Chairman of UIDAI, because he has been a champion of a reform approach that is inclusive of the poor, and in his book, he described unique identity as one of the key steps for achieving this goal. Giving every individual in India a unique identification number can go a long way in enabling direct benefits, and fixing weak public delivery systems, giving the poor access to better healthcare, education, and welfare safety nets. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered Nandan the opportunity to head the UIDAI, he saw it as a chance to help enable ideas that he had supported for a long time.

Since the UIDAI aims to enable a people-centric approach to governance, he will approach the rollout of the initiative in the same way. He has been overwhelmed in the last few weeks by offers of assistance and help from Indians around the world.

Inspiring Quotes by Nandan Nilekani
This deal is a tipping points for Indian IT ... It shows Indian IT companies are on a level footing with larger global competitors

The deal also signifies a trend towards strategic global sourcing, where customers are selecting multiple, and best-of-breed vendors to help improve efficiencies in their IT service delivery

The volumes growth story is on track, with demand strong from the financial services, retail, aerospace and insurance sectors

We're bringing the most sophisticated technology to the most deprived ... The hyper connected world is giving us a chance to change India faster, at a larger scale, than ever before

It took us 23 years to reach the first billion dollars in revenues while we reached the next billion dollars in 23 months

In the last couple of years, companies have taken security issues very seriously. We will redouble our efforts now

Talent acquisition, transformation, and management are critical anchors for the growth of the industry

All our ducks are lined up in a row now. India will achieve 8% growth this year as a democracy. Democracy allows free speech, which breeds creativity. Creativity creates a culture that's popular and inclusive

This year India has been very active in promoting its brand and image internationally and Hanover is one of the highlights. People need to see the new India "

Hope viewers caught up spark…

 

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