Friday, July 10, 2009

Congratulations, Nandan Nilekani!

It must be a matter of immense pride for a person like Nandan Nilekani to be called directly by the Prime Minister of India to head the Unique ID Authority in New Delhi. What a rare achievement that really is in Indian conditions! I do not know of too many top businessmen who have been hand-picked like this for a nationwide initiative in our great nation. Yes, we have folks from industry who are members of the Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, particularly. But, I don't think any of those industrialists really have received the kinds of accolades that Nandan recently has.

The media has harped on the fact that it is very common for corporate hotshots to move to roles in Government and public service, in western markets. That may be true, but this really is a different one, in our case. Simply because, it is almost a first that such a thing is happening in India. Secondly, the fitment of the man for the kind of role that the PM has in mind is pretty much unchallenged. Thirdly, it is also a tribute to the class of an Infosys that one of their top executives was handpicked for a national cause.

I am quite sure that the co-founders, employees and many other folks who understand the contribution of an Infosys to India, truly believe that the selection of Nandan is a tribute to the fantastic brand and cause that the firm stands for. Moreover, it is also a credit to this organization that it is indeed perceived to have added tremendous value to the nation in terms of positioning India's technology brand on the world map.

I have never met Nandan or a Narayana Murthy. But, given the publicity that their careers have received, it is only but natural that the National ID programme is given the sort of mileage that it is receiving. It is one thing to select a corporate hotshot with such immense credibility for a national cause. It is altogether another thing to lead a nationwide initiative that will involve problems of illiteracy, poverty, lack of access, unawareness and all the associated issues related to public policy. But, that is exactly where a person like Nandan possibly scores – looking at challenges, as opportunities, a lesson that I definitely plan to reaffirm to myself.

And to Nandan himself, he must be caught between the extremes of emotions and the extremes of 2 worlds. For a man, who walked out of IIT Bombay, learnt the strings of the outsourcing world in his first job, to engaging in the long, arduous and exciting journey of creating India's greatest IT brand, it must be nothing short of a choking throat that he is currently undergoing. The man, to his credit, has brilliantly maintained his poise despite admitting that he will miss his Infosys email id.

But, he has been hailed as a master in handling clients, and people. That will be an extremely critical skill when he negotiates the ways of the Government of India. It will also be a big change for him in terms of lifestyle - imaging an IT czar shifting to a good, old-fashioned Ambassador car with VIP status and a Ministerial berth, after 30 years of corporate life!

Congratulations, Nandan! Hats off to you! You have certainly rejuvenated an old spark from school days, to do something for the country, in whatever shape of form that one can. Quarterly earnings are passe, now!