after having inspired and built hi-tech companies worth
hundreds of crores of rupees, Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala
remains a simple scientist and teacher, says Venkatachari
any Indian industrialist is felicitated, it is very common
to hear admirers say that (s)he is a ''karmayogi''. A true
karmayogi is a doer, one for whom the attainment of the
goal and the success of their mission is paramount, and
the material fruits of the action are of no consequence.
as they might for piety, most of our industrialists are
unbelievably wealthy and yet want even more for themselves.
Wrong category. A true karmayogi is creator of wealth,
assets or knowledge for society, without actually craving
for it personally.
Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala, head of the department of electrical
engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras.
After having inspired and built hi-tech companies worth
hundreds of crores of rupees, he remains a simple scientist
and teacher. Now he is spearheading the rural information
technology enabled services and business process outsourcing
(ITES/BPO) project of IIT Madras.
wonder that, two years ago, when Saloni Malhotra heard
Dr Jhunjhunwala speak at a conference about his vision,
she decided there and then to chuck her lucrative software
job in Pune and work for the rural ITeS / BPO project
of IIT Madras.
people is nothing new for Dr Jhunjhunwala. "There
is no transition of role from teacher to visionary entrepreneur,"
he says. "In the classroom, all teachers try to inspire
their students to excel." He believes that students
like to follow a leader, but the real way forward is to
allow the students to see the action for themselves. "My
role is to communicate the work effectively," he
Juhunjhunwala is no pompous pedagogue. He''s done it all
before. He has guided the successful development of the
indigenous telecom technology corDECT wireless in the
local loop (WLL) (See: A
global winner), and overseen the promotion of
around 16 business outfits collectively called the Telecommunications
and Computer Networks (TeNet) group. Today, TeNet group
constituents do business worth more than Rs250 crore annually.
IIT Madras gets around Rs10 crore in royalties annually
from the technologies developed and commercialised by
the TeNet group of companies.
one disadvantage he faced in being a teacher was to get
his students to put across a differing point of view.
"In this country people respect their teachers a
little too much. That prevents them from voicing their
views openly," he says. But today, the situation
has improved, and TeNet group insiders say that they can
fight tooth and nail with Dr Jhunjhunwala on any point
of view. "You can argue and get away saying anything,
provided your intervention is for the project''s progress,"
says a TeNet manager.
Jhunjhunwala feels a leader should have a large vision
and boundless determination to attain that vision. In
1994, when he and his team spoke about 100 million telephone
connections in India, the task seemed quite impossible.
But India already has that number of connections now.
A leader''s vision should be on this scale, he feels. "We
are happy to have played a small role in the country''s
telecom revolution," he says modestly.
is no leadership without people to realise the leader''s
vision. That can become possible only when a leader is
able to identify, nurture, empower and also propel talent
towards his vision. (S)he should be able to communicate
the vision clearly, and inspire people. Dr Jhunjhunwala
is an acknowledged master at this. In 1994, he convinced
six youngsters Shirish Purohit, Rene Abraham, Sanjay
Gupta, Prakash B Khawas, Jawahar P Murugesh and Deepak
Khanchandani to develop and commercialise the corDECT
technology by floating Midas Communication Technologies
that was the first set of people he inspired, the latest
is young Ms Malhotra. When Dr Jhunjhunwala received Malhotra''s
first mail, he invited her to Chennai. After talking to
her, he was convinced that the young girl had the fire
in her belly to lead the rural ITeS / BPO project. Though
many in the TeNet group were sceptical because of Malhotra''s
age, the professor didn''t hesitate. In one year, the rural
IteS / BPO project has generated an income of around Rs80,000
for the villagers. Malhotra says the project is rapidly
gaining momentum, and they have recruited more people
to execute the orders on hand.
IIT professor''s third leadership tenet is accepting mistakes.
A leader should be ready to own the blame for a failure,
and not blame the environment. Dr Jhunjhunwala admits
that group company n-Logue Communications failed to live
up to expectations. Now, he is in the process of rewriting
the company''s business model.
leader, feels Dr Jhunjhunwala, is one who sleeps peacefully
even after hitting a dead end and can start afresh the
journey towards the goal the next day. He and his team
members did exactly this when they were trying to convince
the Indian telecom authorities about the efficacy of the
corDECT technology. (See: Tackling
same side goals)
does an entrepreneur compare with a professionally trained
manager? He says, "A professional manager has often
learned more and understands the processes better. Professionally,
they are structured better. But their sense of ownership
is much less than that of an entrepreneur." Leaders,
he feels, should allow people to grow. Any leader who
feels threatened becomes obsolete. "One should do
one''s karma. One should work out the dharma of
one''s trade and carry it out," he emphasises.
recipient of the Padma Shri award, Dr Jhunjhunwala is
perhaps the only serving academician in the country to
have a place on the boards of large corporations like
Bharat Electronics Limited, State Bank of India, Polaris
Software Lab, Shyam Telecom, Tejas Networks and Sasken
Communications, apart from the directorships in the TeNet
the professor and his two colleagues Dr Bhaskar
Ramamurthi and Dr Timothy A Gonsalves their karmic
duty is to develop technologies and promote entrepreneurial
talent, without themselves profiting from those activities.
Ray Stata, chairman, Analog Devices Inc, "Dr Jhunjhunwala
has had many opportunities to personally financially benefit
from the vision and the innovative products and technologies
that he has generated, but he has scrupulously and wisely
avoided taking any personal benefits from these situations,
so that he can advocate and promote what he believes is
in the best interest of Indian society without any suspicion
of personal gain or conflict of interest." Analog
Devices is one of the earliest supporters of TeNet group.
fact, none of the TeNet faculty members hold stakes in
the companies they have incubated. The stakes are held
by the Swabhiman Trust and a Section 25 (non profit) company
called Vishal Bharat Com Net.
There is not much of cross holdings among the TeNet companies.
It appears there are yet more karmayogis in the making.