Nandan Nilekani is the former Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India. The agency's mandate is to provide the Aadhaar number, which is a unique identity number, to every resident in India. The Aadhaar number is already enabling residents across the country to access some state and central benefits directly and more easily.
Nandan was born in Bangalore. His family hails from Sirsi, Karnataka, and their story is a middle-class one. Nandan's father was a textile manager, and gave his son the best education he could afford. Thanks to this, Nandan was able to get admission into the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, where he received his Bachelor's in electrical engineering.
Nandan's father emphasized the importance of public service and embracing a larger cause. Throughout Nandan's career, these principles – of hard work, and the need to create opportunity for everyone – have informed his choices, and guided his decisions.
After his degree, Nandan became a co-founder of Infosys Technologies. Nandan worked for Infosys for twenty-eight years, and in this time, the company created jobs across Karnataka and India. He gave up his role as Infosys co-Chairman in 2009 to take up the government position at the UIDAI, at the invitation of the Prime Minister.
In 1999, Nandan also helped develop a broader initiative, the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. The BATF worked with public, private and NGO agencies to help resolve Bangalore's infrastructure and governance challenges.
As philanthropists, Nandan and his wife Rohini have given away a part of their wealth to various causes. The Nilekanis have invested in education and healthcare. Over the years they have also funded non-profit efforts in water infrastructure, micro-credit, and social research
Nandan is the president of the governing body of NCAER, the National Council of Applied Economic Research, India's oldest and premier independent economic research institute. He is also a member of the board of governors of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).
Nandan was named the Corporate Citizen of the Year at the Asia Business Leaders Award (2004) organized by CNBC. In 2005 he received the prestigious Joseph Schumpeter prize for innovative services in economy, economic sciences and politics.
In 2006, Nandan received the Padma Bhushan. Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006 and 2009. He is the author of 'Imagining India', which was one of the finalists for the FT-Goldman Sachs Book Award for the year 2009. Foreign Policy magazine listed him as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2010.