Jun 26, 2009|
Change is coming to India...
...or so we can hope, with one of India's most revered corporate citizens getting down to a new role in India's governance. We are talking about Nandan Nilekani, the co-Chairman of India's second largest and among the most respected companies, Infosys. He has quit from the company's board after being appointed the chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India, an estimated Rs 20 bn national project to build India's database of her billion-plus population.
This database will comprise a unique permanent identity number assigned to every resident Indian, and will be created over the next 12 to 18 months. The biggest benefit for us citizens will be that we then won't have to produce multiple proofs of identity, while the country is expected to become more secure.
Nilekani, who will now have to shift base to Delhi, has been roped in by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh himself to lead this project. And while his inclusion is expected to provide a big boost to India's mismanaged governance, it might leave some gaps in the management of Infosys, with which he has been associated for the past three decades. And this is especially at a time when the company is going through a tough phase owing to a global slowdown in technology spending.
When asked by a news channel on the pains of leaving the company he helped create, Nilekani said, "Definitely it was a very big decision, because it was a company which I was the co founder, which I had nurtured for 30 years. Certainly it was a very emotional decision. But at the end of the day when the PM requests you take up a project of national importance and says please take this and do something in five years, that's an offer you can't refuse."
Coming back to the project, we see this presenting Indian IT companies with a big chance to showcase their skills for the Indian market. While the project size in itself is not too big for the kind of work that the large Indian IT companies do for their US and European clients, it certainly will be a game changer in times when these companies are looking to the domestic market for some respite from a global tech slowdown.
As far as Infosys is concerned, Nilekani has indicated that he will ensure that there is no conflict between his new role and the interests of the company. True to what was expected of him, he has said, "I will make sure that we have the highest standards of integrity, openness, transparency and process in all procurement. A slightest issue (and) I will recuse myself from the decision."
Overall, in a country where corporate chieftains have never played any key in the governance (despite many being part of the government), Nilekani's appointment is like a breath of fresh air. It also is a hope that the country's governance will see a change for the better. As for Infosys, we need to hear what they have to say when they come in front of investors with their quarterly results in the second week of July.
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