I have borrowed the title from Harish Mehta’s article. 10th August (1962) is Dewang’s Birth Anniversary. He was and is my role model, who inspired me a great deal. I’m not sure if this generation of IT professionals and entrepreneurs would even know who Dewang Mehta was! What is his contribution to the IT industry and to Brand India? It is actually very sad….but that’s what life is all about. Our memories are too short to even make us feel otherwise.
I met Dewang for the first time on 9th December 1999 at the launch event of TiE in India which was hosted by Mr. K.V.Kamath at ICICI Towers, BKC, Mumbai. Harishbhai introduced us. Harishbhai became the President of the first TiE Chapter in India – TiE Mumbai and he asked me to join TiE. Since then Dewang and I were in regular touch thanks to our common mentor Harish Mehta.
To my young friends, let me tell you that Dewang’s contribution to India or I should say NEW INDIA is immeasurable. In Harishbhai’s words – “Dewang, to my mind, symbolizes the new Indian: knowledgeable, professional, committed and confident of matching swords with the best in the world. His image is what the world is slowly recognizing to be the face of the new Indian, having strong educational and entrepreneurial traits combined with business and marketing savviness second to none.”
On 9th April 2001, I was at NASSCOM’s Delhi office and Dewang told me that he wanted to regularise my role with NASSCOM; as ever since I had joined TiE, I was a NRN – Non-Resident NASSCOM. Dewang said once he would be back from Australia, he would do the needful….He never returned. Dewang died 3 days later on 12th April 2001 in Australia.
Dr. F.C.Kohli, Former Vice Chairman, TCS once told me that he was suggesting Dewang to start a MBA course on “Art of Lobbying”. Dewang was a master lobbyist. For an industry, association and even business, lobbying with Government/s was so prevalent and necessary in those days. With a changed nomenclature, it still is. His understanding of Government functioning and people issues was unparalleled.
I was attending a SOFTEX related meeting at RBI way back in 2006, when one senior Govt of India officer from Ministry of Finance told me that Dewang had a unique approach to deal with submission of proposals with Ministries. He would take the draft proposal and first meet the Undersecretary of the department. He will spend enough time in explaining the proposal, its benefits to the industry and to government etc. Then he would meet Dy. Secretary, Joint secretary and finally the Secretary. He would get buy-in from all concerns before formally submitting the proposal to the Minister. When the proposal would be discussed with the Minister, he would ask Secretary to review. Secretary would pass it on to Jt. Secretary and so on…Dewang would have already created a positive conscience to get an approval nod in the shortest time. This was one major success factor for NASSCOM to build trust with the Government in those formative years of the industry.
There are so many experiences and memories of Dewang that cross my mind. His articulation of vision was simply amazing. In late 90’s when India’s share of global IT market was a meagre 3-4 %, Dewang gave the theme of NASSCOM’s Annual conference as “India – The IT Super Power”. This lead to a strong belief, a dream, an aspiration and a benchmark amongst all stakeholders. When he combined Bijli (electricity) and Bandwidth in the basic human needs and gave a slogan “Roti, Kapada, Makan, Bijli aur Bandwidth”, he gave a simple, clear message to all that the dream for India as a globally dominant player cannot be achieved without these basic necessities. It took us 20 years to realise and provide significant thrust to focus on electricity and bandwidth.
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi also acknowledged his interaction with Dewang during late 90’s when concerns relating to Y2K were dominating the world and the contribution made by Dewang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKfN8IycYiY
Harishbhai and P. Sriganesh worked hard to establish Dewang Mehta Foundation Trust (DMFT). www.dewangmehtafoundation.org . There is a book that NASSCOM released in Dewang’s memory can be found online on http://www.dewangmehtafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/e-book-eng/index.html
With some amazing creative inputs from Tehzeeb and Kireet Khurana of Climb Media, we created an award winning short animated film that captures 3000 years of India’s glorious past and Dewang’s role and contribution to build New India. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QyV7KA3IsA
The objective of DMFT is to inspire young Indians to develop scientific mindset. We firmly believe that if one Dewang could contribute so much to a sector, to India and to millions of people in such a short span, we need 100 such Dewangs that can change the fate of India.
हज़ारों साल नरगिस अपनी बे-नूरी पे रोती है,
बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदावर पैदा l
Hazaaron saal Nargis apani be-noori pe roti hai,
Badi mushqil se hota hai chaman me deedawar paida.
It takes thousands of years of waiting for a genius to be born.