Nandan Nilekani: A Trailblazing Beacon of Philanthropy

IIT Bombay’s Distinguished Alumnus Makes a Record-Breaking and Transformative Donation of Rs. 315 Crores to His Alma Mater

“IIT Bombay has been a cornerstone in my life, shaping my formative years and laying the foundation for my journey. As I celebrate 50 years of my association with this esteemed Institution, I am grateful to give forward and contribute to its future. This donation is more than just a financial contribution; it is a tribute to the place that has given me so much and a commitment to the students who will shape our world tomorrow.”

Nandan Nilekani, Co-Founder, Infosys

IIT Bombay is profoundly awed at Mr. Nandan Nilekani’s record-breaking gift of Rs. 315 crores to his alma mater. Mr. Nilekani signed the historic MoU in the presence of Prof. Subhasis Chaudhuri, Director, IIT Bombay, as well as three former directors of the Institute, in Bengaluru, on June 20, 2023. This mammoth donation – to be made over a period of five years – will help unleash potential, empower dreams, and change lives at the Institute.

A deeply gratified Prof. Chaudhuri called Mr. Nilekani’s donation a “giant step for Indian philanthropy.” He added, “It’s a historic donation, that will accelerate the growth of the institute and set it on a path of global leadership. Nandan’s contribution will catalyse philanthropic contributions towards advancing research and development at universities in India.”

While Mr. Nilekani’s donation is the single largest private donation made in India to an academic institution, Prof. Chaudhuri laid out plans for the Institute to raise $500 million (Rs. 4200 crores) by 2030. He said that Mr. Nilekani’s donation will be the foundation for this ambitious roadmap. “This ‘anchor contribution’ will be used to boost our educational and research infrastructure further,” added the director.

Mr. Nilekani hoped that his sizeable donation will inspire alumni in Silicon Valley to give back to their alma mater. “First-gen IITs must look at their alumni and their firms, going forward. They have thousands of graduates, and many have been successful. They must start giving back.” Mr. Nilekani said his contribution can be used by the Institute as it deems fit. “It’s as un-tied as possible for them to identify key areas of development,” he added.

The Rs. 315 crores endowment takes Mr. Nilekani’s total contribution to his alma mater to Rs 400 crores which include his previous grant of Rs 85 crores which was instrumental in constructing new hostels and co-financing the School of Information Technology. Mr. Nilekani also spearheaded the setting up of India’s first university incubator at IIT Bombay, the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), which energised the Indian startup ecosystem. He was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1999 and the Institute bestowed an honorary doctorate on Mr. Nilekani in 2019 as part of its 57th convocation ceremony. He also served on the Board of IIT Bombay Heritage Foundation (1999-2009) and was a member of IIT Bombay’s Board of Governors (2005-2009).


Mr. Nilekani’s Journey: Comprising Stellar Accomplishments and Outstanding Milestones

Mr. Nilekani’s generosity to IIT Bombay is a testament to his indomitable spirit and immense gratitude to his alma mater. In multiple conversations with several media outlets, an indebted Mr. Nilekani said, “I am what I am because of IIT Bombay. It’s more than money – it’s an emotional commitment to IIT Bombay. Joining IIT Bombay was an act of teenage rebellion. My father sent me a telegram asking me to join IIT Madras’ Chemical Engineering Department. I was 18 and ‘you do the opposite of what your father tells you at that age.’ I joined electrical engineering at IIT Bombay, and I don’t regret that decision.”

Mr. Nilekani’s journey began in the small town of Sirsi in Karnataka before he made his way to IIT Bombay. Mr. Nilekani credits the Institute with honing his social skills and confidence. He fondly remembers being a member of the core group that organized IIT Bombay’s flagship youth festival, Mood Indigo 1976. Recalling those heady days he says, “It was a time of high energy. I personally organized two Mood Indigos. Once you have done that, I think you know all about management. At least, all I know about management and leadership I learned in Mood Indigo.”

After graduating from IIT Bombay, Mr. Nilekani went on to leave an indelible mark on the landscape of India’s technology and business domains. He co-founded Infosys, a global IT industry behemoth, and propelled India into the forefront of the digital era. His tenure as the CEO of Infosys from 2002 to 2007 witnessed unprecedented growth, with the company’s revenues skyrocketing and its global footprint expanding exponentially.

But Mr. Nilekani’s incredible achievements in the business realm are just one part of his larger story.

He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to leveraging technology for the greater good. As the driving force behind India’s Aadhaar Card initiative, he envisioned a transformative digital identity system that would empower millions of Indians and bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. His audacious dream manifested into reality when India’s Aadhaar Card became the world’s largest biometric ID program, touching the lives of over a billion people and revolutionizing governance and service delivery across the nation.

His selfless public service as the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and invaluable contributions to various governmental committees have propelled the nation toward a digital and inclusive future. Mr. Nilekani is also an author whose book, “Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation,” ignited hope and inspired generations of Indians to dream of a brighter future for our beloved India.

Mr. Nilekani’s journey embodies the essence of a true trailblazer and a visionary whose unflinching determination has carved a path for countless others to follow. His benevolent act of philanthropy to IIT Bombay is an inspiration to all of us to dream bigger, reach higher, and embrace the transformative power of knowledge. IIT Bombay is truly humbled by his generosity and forever indebted to his contributions, as they will continue to shape the lives of generations to come.