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Reading List : ‘Imagining India’ by Nandan Nilekani

Its pretty unusual for many otherwise very successful Indians to write books, about anything. Be it sharing what they have mastered or what they have thought about, leave alone preaching something. I was thrilled to see Kishore Biyani unveiling ‘It Happened in India’ a couple of years ago.  And I recently came to know about Nandan Nilekani touring in USA promoting his own book, ‘Imagining India’. It is another of those aha moment to cherish. 

I was surprised the book cover appears different for the version that will be sold in India vs. the one that will be sold in US.

image image

The website of the book, ImaginingIndia displays the cover page (left) with seemingly thoughtful Nilekani on the cover. Where as the one I saw on Amazon has cover page (right) displaying a busy train station.

Did Nilekani think, it would be embarrassing for foreigners if he had put his own face on the cover? Just like Infosys thought it would be embarrassing to foreign nationals to sing our National Anthem (and decided to play an instrumental version instead a couple of years ago).

Watch this video on TED appears to be a good summary of the book delivered by Nandan Nilekani himself.

When I watched this video on TED, I was far from impressed, by the content or the presentation itself. I was rather infuriated by Infosys leadership as a whole. I lived in Bangalore for about 5 years, working right next to Infosys campus. And have many friends have been working for Infosys. We as a group together never understood, why Indian media is so crazy about Infosys and Infosys alone. While I respect Infosys as a business and what they could achieve and for being a role model in some aspects, I hate it for its hypocrisy and lack of social responsibility (not charity).  I feel the contribution of Infosys to Indian economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole has been highly overrated. 

A few comments I left on the TED video page.


Nandan Nilekani just demonstrated once again that Talk is cheaper than deeds. Infosys leverages all incentives Indian government provided to build a great business, but consistently refused to build and contribute to the very infrastructure he mentioned in the talk. The only infrastructure it ever built was its own campuses.

While taking advantage of the very demographics and social fabric to create today’s Infosys, it want to move away from its social obligation and dreaming about labor reforms that will allow it to hire and fire at will.

Unfortunately media around the world gets carried away with the dazzling stories of Infosys, it never got a chance to feel the real nerve of India and true entrepreneurs that created and empowered the democratic India. Hope, the world will see India beyond this fog someday.

Mean time, many Indians and rest of the world alike take pride in hypocrisy and ‘honor’ that never belong so much to Infosys.

By all standards, its a pretty heavy book, 528 pages and digressing. So definitely takes a while to read it and understand what he has to say.

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