Nandan Nilekani, a renowned Indian entrepreneur and co-founder of Infosys, has shaped India’s IT landscape. His visionary leadership drove transformative projects like Aadhaar, revolutionizing access to services and identity verification. As chair of UIDAI, he secured millions with Aadhaar IDs. A global IT leader, he was Infosys CEO (2002-2007), listed among Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2009, and an Indian National Congress member. Nilekani’s legacy includes India’s IT prominence, catalyzed in 1978. His journey from humble beginnings to success is an inspiration to many.
Early life and education
Nandan Nilekani, born on June 2, 1955, in Bangalore, India, is the youngest son of Durga and Mohan Rao Nilekani. His father held the position of a general manager at Mysore and Minerva Mills, while his mother was a homemaker. His early years were marked by his father’s frequent job transfers and subsequent relocations. At the age of 12, he had to move to Dharwad district in Karnataka to live with his uncle and joined St. Joseph’s High School there.
He completed his education at Bishop Cotton Boy’s School in Bangalore. He pursued higher education at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in electrical engineering in 1978. His older brother, Vijay Nilekani, works at the Nuclear Energy Institute in the United States. Nandan Nilekani married Rohini Nilekani, whom he met during an IIT quiz contest. The couple has a daughter named Janhavi and a son named Nihar.
He started his career in 1978 at Patni Computer Systems in Mumbai. In 1981, Nilekani, along with Narayana Murthy and five others, departed from Patni to establish their venture, Infosys. Nilekani was Infosys CEO from March 2002 to April 2007. He then became co-chairman, letting Kris Gopalakrishnan be CEO. Nilekani returned to Infosys as non-executive chairman in August 2017, following a corporate restructuring and the sudden departure of the CEO.
Under Nilekani’s guidance, Infosys evolved from a startup to a global IT giant, generating revenues exceeding $3 billion and attaining a market capitalization of over $30 billion. Infosys achieved the distinction of being one of the earliest Indian companies to be listed on NASDAQ, while also pioneering the offshore delivery model that revolutionized the IT services industry. Additionally, Infosys earned recognition for its corporate governance, commitment to social responsibility, and employee welfare.
The Aadhaar Endeavor
UIDAI is a government agency responsible for issuing Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric identification system. In 2009, Nilekani left Infosys to head UIDAI, a new agency creating Aadhaar – a unique 12-digit ID for all Indians with biometric data, aiming for inclusive identity verification. The Aadhaar number would serve as a proof of identity and address for accessing various government and private services, such as banking, telecom, education, health care, and social welfare. Nilekani served as UIDAI’s Chairman for five years.
The Philanthropic Endeavors
Nilekani, along with his wife Rohini, truly dedicates themselves to aiding others. They’ve given a lot of money to different important things like schools, cities, nature, and helping people get loans. They’ve supported a special school, urban education, children’s learning, financial assistance, tech startups, nature conservation, kids’ books, and education-focused organizations.
They’re part of a worldwide effort started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett where rich people promise to give most of their money to good causes. In a letter, they said that having lots of money means you should use it to help as many people as you can. They feel like they’re taking care of the money and want to use it to do good things for everyone.