By Mayank Jain:
A child was born in 1955 in a middle class family as the son of a manager in Bangalore. He went on to study in Bishop Cottons High School and IIT Mumbai where he did his degree in electrical engineering and met N.R. Narayana Murthy. He started Infosys with Narayana Murthy and five others and became the CEO in March 2002. We know him as Nandan Manohar Nilekani.
From humble beginnings, he scaled great heights and reinvented himself at every step. From starting India’s one of the biggest software company to heading Government of India’s technology committee, he has done it all in a way of his own. There is no doubt about the ability of this man who rose from the dark, plush lanes of corporate to the dirty groundwork of UIDAI which is probably one of the biggest and unique identification programs in the world. Also known as Aadhar, the project that aims to cover 1.2 billion Indians with a unique identification number based on Biometrics is the responsibility of Nandan Nilekani himself and he has played a pivotal role in the execution of the project on such a wide scale.
His latest stint is entering politics. Congress gave him a ticket to contest Lok Sabha elections from Bangalore South and he joined the party formally, a few days back. The announcement has yet again raised his popularity to another level. Public limelight on him will be now more than ever and he is clearly used to it especially after his projects like UIDAI and Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects which handles some of the biggest government technology projects.
The announcement of him contesting with the Congress ticket came a day before he officially joined the Congress party in Bangalore on Sunday where he received a fitting welcome for a minister who happens to be a corporate bigwig too. The dhols, sweets and cracker bursting would be new for him since he is used to a non-flashy suits lifestyle and being a leader is just the opposite. He is confident about winning though and expressed hope of a positive outcome in the following words:
“People want change and I am for the change. The Congress has existed for 130 years and let me assure you the Congress will be there for the next 100 years. For the next 40 days, my focus will be on Bangalore South and I am here to win.”
The Nilekani formula for congress might just work since he fits the bill in almost all spheres. He is well educated which is an instant attraction in a country sparsely populated with well-educated people. His money is clean and earned from his own great venture that makes Indian take pride in their IT industry which is another good sign in the current ‘fight against corruption’ environment. Having worked with the government for a long time, he also has the right experience and ties with people at the top to leverage key events and make the most of them.
He holds doctorate from the University of Toronto, has been featured in the Time’s list of 100 most influential people in the world, was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2006 and both his children hold degrees from Yale. He met his wife during a quiz in IIT Bombay and this right mix of being common yet achieving the greatest of honors and awards tell a story of a man that can’t be chained from his circumstances.
From being just another engineering student to becoming the key technology advisor to the Government of India and now going on to becoming a crucial candidate from Congress, this man has come a long way and we can only speculate what he ends up doing next.