Nandan Nilekani's impetus to a dozen startups

12 Sep 2016 | By Supriya Kaur

Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, has invested $50 million in 11 start-ups in a little more than a year and has committed to investing $25 million more.

Nilekani's investments in start-ups were driven by his keenness in assisting start-ups resolve problems that are largely specific to India.

However, he's indicated he's not interested in investing in any venture linked to Aadhaar or financial technology.

In context: Nandan Nilekani's contribution to resolving India's problems

ProfileNandan Nilekani

In 1981, Nandan Nilekani, along with six others, co-founded Infosys, the information technology services giant considered India's first global company.

He worked with Infosys for 28 years; he gave up his role as Co-Chairman of Infosys in 2009 to head the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

Last year, Nilekani contested Lok Sabha elections from the Bengaluru South constituency as a Congress candidate.

Chairmanship of UIDAI

Nilekani's term as UIDAI Chairman ended in 2014. During his tenure, the Aadhaar card was issued to 400 million Indians. The UIDAI project was conceived to provide Indians an ID to participate in the economy and to ensure benefits of government welfare-schemes reached genuine beneficiaries.
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Nandan Nilekani: A Philanthropist

HighlightsNandan Nilekani: A Philanthropist

Since the late nineties, Nandan Nilekani has contributed prominently to philanthropic causes.

He has contributed Rs.50 crore to the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Bangalore and is a key source of their funding. The institute will research urban-centric issues.

Nilekani is also funding a new building for NCAER, an economic policy research institute, and is currently the president of its governing body.

Nilekani: A celebrated author

Nandan Nilekani is the author of 'Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation'. His book was one of the finalists for the FT-Goldman Sachs Book Award for 2009. Last year, he co-authored a book with Viral Shah titled, 'Rebooting India: Realizing a Billion Aspirations'.

12 Sep 2016Nandan Nilekani's impetus to a dozen startups

Nandan Nilekani: What drives him to invest in start-ups

Nandan Nilekani: "Investing in start-ups helps me keep my business brain active and these businesses overcome challenges of scalability. The success of Silicon Valley is because of entrepreneurs who reinvested in start-ups and helped them with skills, capital, knowledge and expertise."
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Key investmentsNilekani's portfolio

Nilekani invested in 10i (ShopX) that allows small retailers to access technology, logistics etc. on par with organized players.

Sedemac Mechatronics, that developed a smart-ignition for two-wheelers, also counts Nilekani as an investor.

Nilekani also invested in Rail Yatri which relies on GPS, analytics and crowd-sourcing to accurately predict train arrivals.

EkStep, an NGO which promotes primary education, has Nilekani as co-founder and investor.

ControversyNilekani's volte face to appeal to voters

Nilekani is a technocrat par excellence, but his political career is not free from controversies.

In 2009, Nilekani had penned a blog wherein he argued that 'reservations in the private sector' in election manifestos was an 'easy short-cut' to provide employment.

However, soon after entering politics, Nilekani did a volte-face and suggested caste-based reservations be considered in the private sector.

Awards and Honours

In 2006, Nandan Nilekani was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian honour. In the same year, Forbes Asia named him "Business Leader of the Year". In 2009, TIME Magazine listed him as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World".