Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT Madras is a quintessential dreamer. Venkatachari Jagannathan takes us through his dreams
His daydreams are not about wealth and power,the kind which most of us have but about innovating disruptive technologies that would strike against multinational corporations. Greatly influenced by the philosophy of Jayprakash Narayan and by the Naxalite movement in his younger days his ultimate wish even now is "to see to see a rupee equal $50"
Dr. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, the head of department of electrical engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, is the man behind the cost effective indigenous telecom technology, corDECT wireless in the local loop (WLL), which brought into being a clutch of companies collectively called the Telecommunications and Computer Networks (TeNet) group. Some of these companies have attracted high profile venture capital funding. (See A global winner).
Dr Jhunjhunwala's other dreams are about development of telecom technologies to impact the rural masses; about 200 million telephone lines in India, cheaper personal computers, automatic teller machine (ATM) among others.
In a revelation that should start ATM manufacturers worrying, he says, "At IIT we are in the process of developing an ATM that will cost Rs 40, 000."
Awarded the prestigious Padma Shri title by the Government of India, Dr Jhunjhunwala is perhaps the only serving academician in the country to have a place on the boards of large corporations like Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), Polaris Software, HTL, Shyam Telecom, Tejas Networks and Sasken Communications, apart from the directorships in the TeNet group companies.
Dr Jhunjhunwala's technology has now begun to reach the villages and the villagers of Ulagapitchampatti near Madurai will vouch for the fact that a birth/death certificates in their village can be had on the payment of the government stipulated rates of Rs 25, without greasing greedy palms of clerks and other officials. Earlier, getting a birth/death certificate meant a payment of Rs 100 in the least. (See n-Logue's digital edge to the rural India)