Nilekani, an Interpreter of Indian Society
Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live, June 22, 2009
By Pradeep S Mehta
Nandan Nilekani was at the Jaipur Literature Festival speaking about his widely read book Imagining India – Ideas for a new Century. In this book, one of the country’s finest minds examines the central ideas that have shaped modern India, and offers an original perspective on our past, present and future. Nilekani is recognised as one of India’s most successful software entrepreneurs and as the co-founder of Infosys.
No wonder, Nilekani was voted as the 31st most influential person in the world by the Time magazine recently.
In a blog post about Slumdog Millionaire, Nilekani alluded to the film’s valuable plot –that it does not matter where you come from, but only where you are headed. This could easily serve as the story of Nandan’s own life.
A middle class kid from a small town in Karnataka, he rose to become a co-founder of Infosys Technologies, a truly global company. Infosys’s success was achieved through innovative, ethical and transparent management practices.
In the process, Nilekani, 53 became both a corporate icon and India’s brand ambassador. Not only that, Nilekani is a civic minded and philanthrophic intellectual keen to shape public policy. He has supported many NGOs.
“My objective in life is to be an object of change”, says Nilekani. He claims to belong to the ‘bridging generation’, that exists between the India of the old and the new. As the new India, fuelled by its robust democracy and demographics, seeks to make the transition from a poor country to a rich one, it will need the vision and talent of people like Nilekani.
At the Jaipur literature festival, he spoke about the democratisation of technology, such as wide access to mobile phones, and the increasing digitisation of land records.
He urged for more jobs and education opportunities to be created, and for the subsidies system to be made more efficient so that they reached the people who needed it most. When asked about the recent global financial collapse, he said “An alternative system of greater regulation is needed”. He regards his book as an attempt to “identify the challenges and possible ways forward so that democracy can become an instrument of competitive advantage rather than people seeing it as a drag. We should not be downcast but instead focus on solving what we have to do”.