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Top IT bosses now working with UIDAI

Last updated on: September 23, 2010 10:38 IST

Top IT bosses now working with UIDAI

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Bibhu Ranjan Mishra in Bengaluru


Salarpuria Touchstone on the Marathalli-Sarajapur Outer Ring Road is no different from the thousands of commercial premises in Bengaluru, with many of them occupied by technology firms, both Indian and global.

But the first floor of the same building houses something special.

This is where Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), stashes away his top secret resources: the brains architecting the UID project.

And the importance of the technology centre is evident from the security.

Silently, resolutely, 'Aadhaar' -- as the UID project has now been christened -- and Nilekani have succeeded in attracting some of the best and brightest that the IT world can offer, both from within India and from overseas.

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Image: Nandan Nilekani, chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India .
Photographs: Reuters
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They include many who were once instrumental in incubating successful technology ventures or were part of large entities like IBM, HP or Intel. They have now joined UIDAI as volunteers.

Some of those said to be working in the building include Bala Parthasarathy, co-founder of online photo service company Snapfish (later acquired by HP); Sanjay Swamy, who until very recently was CEO of mobile-based payment service firm mChek; and Pramod Varma, formerly VP-Research & Chief Technology Architect of B2B service provider Sterling Commerce (now a part of IBM).

At the helm of UIDAI's technology initiative is Srikanth Nadhamuni, a key member of the team that built Intel's Pentium processor and later spent over 14 years in California's Silicon Valley with the likes of Sun Microsystems, Intel, Silicon Graphics, Healtheon WebMD and start-up GlobeTrades Inc that he founded.

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Image: (Inset) Bala Parthasarathy, co-founder of online photo service company Snapfish.
Photographs: Reuters
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"The IT folks, who have joined us, are very committed and consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It has given them a chance to give back to their homeland by participating in a nation-building activity," said Nadhamuni.

Nadhamuni, who heads UIDAI's technical development and technology centre in Bengaluru, is known for his bent towards social initiatives.

A graduate from National Institute of Engineering in Mysore (the alumnus includes Infosys co-founder and chairman N R Narayana Murthy) and a master's in electrical engineering and computer sciences from Louisiana University, Nadhamuni quit a couple of years ago to join eGovernments Foundation, a non-profit trust that offered free software to manage municipalities.

Nilekani was also the brainchild behind that initiative and had provided it with initial funding.

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Image: (Inset) Sanjay Swamy, who until very recently was CEO of mobile-based payment service firm mChek.
Photographs: Reuters
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Top IT bosses now working with UIDAI

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Balaji 'Bala' Parthasarathy, who has a successful track record of incubating four start-up companies, is no less excited.

"I am really enjoying myself," said the person whose last technology venture, Snapfish (which he co-founded) was acquired by HP in 2005. Before joining UIDAI as a volunteer to help in its strategic advisory, Parthasarathy -- a product of IIT-Madras and University of California -- was MD - APAC of Snapfish, Hewlett-Packard and VP of HP's Online Imaging business.

For Sanjay Swamy, who successfully bailed out Nexus Venture Partners and funded mChek (which provides mobile banking and payments services), the stint at UIDAI is a learning experience.

"What we are doing here is very interesting and very challenging. It has really provided me with the opportunity to learn and enhance domain knowledge," says Swamy, who stepped down from mChek in February.

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Image: (Inset) Pramod Varma, formerly VP-Research and Chief Technology Architect of B2B service provider Sterling Commerce.
Photographs: Reuters
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According to sources familiar with the UIDAI's operation, at least 40 technology honchos, most of whom were settled in the US with high-paying salaries, have joined Nilekani.

While a few of them joined the technology wing as sabbatical resources, most of the senior people are volunteers.

UIDAI's technology centre in Bengaluru now houses around 70 people, while a team of software professionals at MindTree, which is building the software application for the project, are also stationed here.


Image: (Inset) Srikanth Nadhamuni, founder, GlobeTrades Inc.
Photographs: Reuters
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