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Nilekani: Infosys’ loss or government’s gain?
India’s Silicon Valley is saying goodbye to Nandan Nilekani, the engineer-entrepreneur who co-founded Infosys Technologies and helped put India on the global IT map.
A statement from the country’s No. 2 software exporter on Thursday said Nilekani has been invited by the prime minister to head the government agency Unique Identification Authority of India in the rank of a cabinet minister.
Nilekani’s exit throws up several questions — what prompted this co-chairman with a spotless past to take up a government responsibility? In a nation of billion-plus people where corruption is seen putting the brakes on most government initiatives, can Nilekani replay a corporate story of success? Can he bring the same professionalism in the corridors of power at Raisina Hill?
Nilekani, who was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2006, joins a list of corporate stalwarts who are making way for a younger crop being groomed for higher responsibility.
Holding posts of CEO and later MD, he helped propel Infosys, which he co-founded with mentor Narayana Murthy, from scratch to a world-class company “despite the system”.
Reports say the UPA government is keen on using Nilekani’s professionalism to get its Unique Identity Card project off the ground. Keeping in mind that the UK with a population of less than 60 million struggled through its own effort for a universal card, one can’t even start to imagine the effort needed to deliver a similar project to over a billion Indians.
Both Nilekani and Murthy have huge faith in the India story and both have been members of many government committees.
Infosys and its employees may have delivered on many large-scale projects for Fortune 500 companies, but can the success be replicated in a purely government initiative? And does Nilekani’s move augur well for Infosys and the government?