Nandan Nilekani, the former Infosys CEO, is the Chairperson of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) formed to issue IDs to every citizen in the country. As Chairman of the body, Nilekani holds the rank and status of Cabinet Minister with the Indian Government.
Nandan Nilekani was born in Bangalore, Karnataka, on June 2, 1955 as the younger son of Durga and Mohan Rao Nilekani. His father worked as a General Manager of Minerva Mills. His father, who subscribed to Fabian Socialist ideals, had an influence on Nandan during his early years. He has an elder brother, Vijay, works with the Nuclear Energy Institute.
He did his schooling from Bishop Cotton Boys School Bangalore, and then at St. Joseph’s High School Dharwad. Later on, he graduated with a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT, Bombay in 1978. The stint at IIT Mumbai transformed Nandan from a small town boy to a confident mature man. The lessons he learnt here meritocracy, the ability to work as part of a team, hard work, and the importance of giving back to the society have stood him in good stead.
After graduation, he joined Mumbai-based Patni Computer Systems where he was interviewed by N.R. Narayana Murthy. Three years later, in 1981, Murthy walked out of Patni following a disagreement with one of the Patni brothers. His entire division walked out with him. The defectors decided to start their own company, Infosys. Thus Nilekani, along with Narayana Murthy, became one of the co-founders of Infosys and served as a Director on the company’s Board since its inception in 1981.
While Narayan Murthy stayed in India, Nandan Nilekani shifted to the US to take care of Infosys’ interests there. He was the company’s marketing face. In 1980s and 90s Nilekani and his team worked hard to build Infosys. Today, with employee strength of over one lakh, Infosys’ success story has become a legend in India’s corporate history.
Nilekani took over from Murthy as the Chief Executive Officer of Infosys in March 2002. Before assuming the post of CEO, Nilekani held the post of Managing Director, President and Chief Operating Officer. He served as CEO and MD of the company till April 2007, when he relinquished his position to his colleague Kris Gopalakrishnan, becoming Co-Chairman. In his capacity as 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 under invitation from the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Nilekani is also the co-founder of India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) as well as the Bangalore Chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). He appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in March 2009 to promote his book Imagining India. He has been a speaker at the prestigious TED conference where he talked about his ideas for India’s future. In 2009, he was placed by Time magazine in the Time 100 list of ‘World’s Most Influential People’.
Nilekani was one of the youngest entrepreneurs to join 20 global leaders on the prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) Foundation Board in January 2006. He is Member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. He is also Member of the review committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. In 2007, he was the Forbes “Businessman of the Year” for Asia. He 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. In 2009, he was presented the ‘Legend in Leadership Award’ by the Yale University, becoming the first Indian to receive the top honour.
Nilekani’s book Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation, was released in March 2009. 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, labour reform, infrastructure, higher education, and the English language in India.
Nandan Nilekani is married to Rohini Ragini, whom he met at a quizzing event at IIT. They have two children Nihar and Janhavi both studying abroad.