12 things no one’s telling us about namma Nandu

Nandan Nilekani‘s appointment as the head of the national ID card project has been greeted with the same seriousness that an appointment to the Vatican would have received. Sure, it’s an important assignment and all that, and it’s a relief to see a technocrat with $1.3 billion in his hip pocket handling it.

But all we have got from the morning’s papers are details anybody with a slow broadband connection could ferret out from Wikipedia. That, and senti-pap like “I feel it’s like a younger brother leaving home.” But Nandan is a more interesting chap than that, with a life, a sense of humour, and a Twitter account.

So, did you know…


bestbusbigONE: Nandan used to take a BEST bus from Santa Cruz, where he then lived, and come to Nariman Point where the offices of Bombay magazine were located to meet a young journalist called Rohini Soman, who worked in the magazine brought out by the India Today group. Ms Soman, who became Rohini Nilekani, later became the Bangalore correspondent of Sunday magazine under Vir Sanghvi. Rohini turns 50 on June 30.

TWO: Nandan’s elder brother by eight years, Vijay, is with the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, DC.

popeTHREE: Nandan is a top-quality quizzer. He was part of the IIT Bombay quiz team that came third in the 1979 Mood Indigo final. A competitor recalls him as being laidback and generous, unlike the IIT Kanpur team. However, neither IIT team could answer a question that was flung at them: “What is common to the first 35 Popes?” The correct answer came from a young boy from South Indian Education Society: “They were all saints.” The boy turns 51 on June 28.

FOUR: At Patni Computer Services, where Nandan and N.R. Narayana Murthy became colleagues and friends, Nandan’s salary was Rs 1,200, the same as his father Mohan Rao Nilekani earned then.

FIVE: Nandan is not an MBA. He believes that being general secretary of the IIT Bombay students’ union was more education than any B-school could give him. A key test of his man-management skills came in 1977 when a massive cyclone hit Andhra Pradesh when the leftwingers on the campus felt it was inhuman to splurge cash on the college festival Mood Indigo. Eventually, Nandan found a middle path. The festival was held, but money was also sent to the flood-affected.

jairamSIX: When Infosys went public in 1993, no one picked up the stock. Among the first people Nandan tried to sell the Infy stock before the Initial Public Offering was his IIT Bombay senior by one year, co-Kannadiga, and now Union minister, Jairam Ramesh.

India TodaySEVEN: In 2002, Nandan is famously rumoured to have provided the editorial inspiration for an India Today cover story that had nothing to do with Infosys or IT. Suffice it to say, neither the magazine’s current editor nor its then managing editor are likely to have sent him their best wishes on his latest appointment but Phaneesh Murthy is likely to have quietly chuckled.

EIGHT: Despite being born in Sirsi (Wikipedia) or Bangalore (his own blog), Nandan is a not natural with Kannada, and is routinely confused on when to use neevu and neenu. He once referred to Narayana Murthy’s wife Sudha Murthy as “avalannu“, till his secretary Malliga corrected him. Malliga, like Narayana Murthy’s Man Friday A.G. Panduranga alias Pandu, has been with Nandan for 20 years now.

deepika-padukone-kingfisher-calendarNINE: Deepika Padukone is apparently his niece, which should make Prakash Padukone a cousin, which should make Guru Dutt and Shyam Benegal part of the family. (If she is not his niece, bad luck; that should teach these stinking rich IT types that even $1.3 billion in the family kitty can’t buy you the right relatives.)

TEN: Nandan predicted the results of the 2008 assembly elections in Karnataka absolutely spot-on. In an SMS to a top TV honcho, he gave BJP 110 seats; the BJP got 110 seats. However, despite his prescience, Nandan could not predict ‘Operation Kamala’.

4_Gold_ring_22K_50712ELEVEN: Like so many others in the IT sector, Nandan is a devotee of the Sai Baba of Shirdi, and even wears a silver ring to boot.

TWELVE: Doesn’t mind talking about Vatal Nagaraj and his innovative ways of protests.

THIRTEEN: That he signs his bank cheques like these and they still honour it!


Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nandan trounced NRN?

‘Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, start a political party’

Nandan Nilekani: the 6 things that changed India

Nandan Nilekani: The five steps to success

Should Nandan quit the knowledge panel?

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33 Responses to “12 things no one’s telling us about namma Nandu”

  1. Coffee addict Says:

    A top English TV journalist from Delhi went to meet him during Karnataka polls. She wanted to go to Hubli – Dharwad to do stories. Nandan pulled out his mobile phone and dialed Kannada feminist writer Veena Shantheshwara’s number (was she his English teacher at Karnatak College Dharwad?). She was not at home.

    He gave some 10-12 names of Dharwad based writers/thinkers/activists. Not a single person was English medium type! He also told her that she should meet Patil Puttappa type and explained the history of regional imbalance in 5 minutes.

    His cousin Uday Nilekani still lives at his ancestral village Nilekani (30 KM from Sirsi) in Uttara Kannada district. Nandan’s family grows Areca like most of the people from Shimoga and Uttara Kannada districts. Nandan Nilekani still maintains a close relationship with his relatives back home.

  2. Andy Says:

    Roaring post ! Made great read..thanks

  3. Abhi Says:

    How the hell does churumuri get so much inside info abt Murthy Angadi? Even blank cheques!

  4. Sushrutha Says:

    Good post! thanks..

  5. shanoi Says:

    Good, A kannadiga professional has been chosen for an important assignment

    Best wishes for him

  6. mayura Says:

    Good wishes Nandan.

    Please do a better job than you did as the chairman of BATF ;)

  7. Suraj Says:

    Nandan, Prakash Padukone, Guru Dutt, Shyam Benegal, Deepika Padukone – damn.

    I can’t imagine the pressure – the entire extended family would go through. COMPETITION – to prove !!

  8. Goldstar Says:

    Thirteen useless facts… 1 sexy photo (of DP).

    I wonder if DP will put this photo in her UID… or I wish this photo is the background of all UID cards ;-) !!

  9. mysore peshva Says:

    fantabulous: this post has made my morning! congrats congrats congrats to “namma nandu,” and thanks thanks thanks to churumuri.

  10. sanjayC Says:

    His quiz partner while at IIT-Powai was Jairam Ramesh now in the Union Ministry ( coutrsey Nandan’s book Imagining Idea – a great read)

  11. vinay Says:

    wonder what was item # 7 was all about …hmmmm

  12. girishhampali Says:

    But why should he quit infosys to do this job. Does this job requires his full time? or will the IT component of this work needs to be outsourced to Infy again.
    A great achiever has been asked to achieve a great job. good luck nandan!

  13. Shawshank Red Says:

    Good post… Keep them coming… Does anybody know how an Indian Citizen living abroad can get UIDs.

  14. larissa Says:

    It’s about time that they had ID’s for people. But it is 15 years too late–wonder if it will help with anything…

  15. boring journalist Says:

    Very interesting insight. Wish Nandan all luck in his new avataar

  16. babuds Says:

    Hope he will score 100 points, much better than these 12, and wish him all success in taming our teeming millions in to enumerable indiviuals.

  17. DR RAMESH Says:

    there are chances of conflict of interests , a person heading a central govt project holding 3450 crore stake in a IT company.
    i would have been better if a reputed IIT proffesor was appointed.
    but i wish nilekani smashing success.

  18. Madhu Rao Says:

    A refreshing post !

    Conflict of interest ? Like the kinds our netas do not have ? Unlike our netas, with Nandan, we can at least hope that he will bring this to fruition, as opposed to the hordes of self serving(pocket stuffing) initiatives our politicians take up…

    Larissa, Better late than never ..

  19. advocate Says:

    ID cards will not come about in the next ten years. We all have to keep in mind that the ID card project will have to very careful about the way in which it is implemented. It is very vulnerable to abuse on a lot of accounts. And abuse by a wide variety of people.

  20. Faldo Says:

    One hopes this project is executed successfully. However, once this is implemented I wonder if one would be required to carry a walletful of ID cards? Driving license, ration card, voter id card, national ID card …
    I guess the real conflict (of interest) would not be for NN or the people behind this project but for the users of the cards! Which card to carry?

  21. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Another fact:

    Infosys is bidding for part of the multi-crore UID contracts.

    This seems to be analogous to the Social Security Number project in the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_security_number

    While a simple and good idea at its core, we have to see if the government will indeed implement it with an eye on helping the poor teeming hordes or just use it as another opportunity to empty taxpayer’s money and make a few rich richer.

  22. Reddy Janardhan Says:

    Ree Churumureeee..
    Sakkat kanree neevu! Great post ! Keep it mele!

  23. larissa Says:

    I’ll be impressed when I see the results in three years. I saw the results of the ID cards for voters and that was a total failure. I have learned to be pragmatic about India at this point not optimistic…
    Some questions:
    What will happen to those not eligible for ID”S?
    How will they be monitored…in a corrupt place like India, it is hard to imagine such a scheme will work. No doubt people will pay bribes to get one if they can’t.
    What will be the criteria for issuing ID’s?
    Why is this going to be something that will work and not fail?

  24. Janasamanya Says:

    Where and how do you do so much of research I say!

  25. Anna Says:

    A welcome break from BJP bashing!

  26. harkol Says:

    Having met Nandan twice, once in his office, one thing that came through about him is his simplicity.

    He is tremendously networked & influential, but still very genuinely affable. He was so clued on to almost all topics that were under discussion!

    I still remember his interview on Infosys achieving $1billion mark. He was asked what was the main reason for what Infosys had achieved, and his reply was something to the effect of “it was luck”. No boasting about their capability or attributing it to the phenomenal hardwork & guts that the founding members should’ve shown. Just a humble remark about the luck factor that is true for every achiever!

    And it is so refreshing to see him often in Koshy’s! He hasn’t stopped coming to that place and sit in the non-Airconditioned section, filled with Cigarette smoke even today!!

    Wonder how someone manages to do so much in such a short span of time, and yet stay so humble.

  27. Uday Prabhakar Shet Says:

    Its certainly a matter of Pride & Honour to all of us from Sirsi. Mr. Nandan has Highlighted Sirsi on the World map.

    We wish him many more years of Glory & Success in all his endeavours.

    Uday P. Shet
    Sanghi Organization , Worli

  28. Doddi Buddi Says:

    In the spirit of Dirty Devegowda’s supporters claiming everything was either made, conceived or fathered by Dirty will say:

    1. NK is Dirty’s God son!
    3. HDK and NK were together in the same highschool
    4. Dirty invented ‘thondhre’ Net
    5. All dams in the past were built by Dirty
    6. Dirty designed the Mohenjo Daro charandi system
    7. Dirty was invited by Yale but preferred to send his All-Bull Prize winner son HDK

  29. Yella OK Says:

    Very interesting. I hope his tenure in the UID project is not as flat as his book – I thought it was a waste of 700 odd Rs. But one cannot imagine a person better suited to head this project – he is a far better CEO than a “thinker”. It will also put to test the hypothesis that corporate stars will be able to replicate their success in governance – again, I hope the hypothesis is not proven wrong. It is a huge challenge no doubt – a similar exercise in voter id card has failed – you can vote without the id card and I wonder why it is needed at all. So, one would hope that this UID card doesnt go the voter id card way.

    Nothing wrong in Infy bidding for the project. I would expect both Nandan and Infy to be doubly careful of not using Nandan’s post to Infy’s advantage – I doubt its possibility.

  30. Coffee addict Says:

    Nandan Nilekani is an ardent devotee of his family temple at Nilekani.
    He visits it whenever he goes to Nilekani or regularly gets Prasada from it.

  31. nrupathunga Says:

    Doddi Buddi

    you have a mad obsession about HD or dirty(in your terms).Come out of that.

    Not all threads need your mindless post. Please stick to the topics.

  32. sarvagna Says:

    Hope NK will unleash his real face which he failed in sustaining Corporate social responsibilty with INFY.

  33. pranjal Says:

    Once a cottonian always a cottonian!!

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