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Prof. Rekha Jain, Executive Chair - IIM-A’s Center for Telecom Excellence (IITCOE), recognized amongst India’s top technology policy influencers.

The Ken, an independent publishing platform has listed the top technology policy influencers in India. Prof Rekha Jain features in the list with the likes of Nandan Nilekani,  Sunil Bharti Mittal, RS Sharma,  Ajay Shah, Arvind Gupta, A.B Pandey. We have reproduce the list below and the original article is available at - https://the-ken.com/

 

“The people who influence India's evolving technology policy.”

By Rohin Dharmakumar, December 8, 2016
(https://the-ken.com/indias-tech-policy-influencers/)

 

Technology policy is today at the forefront of most government policies”, says a person deeply involved with the technology ecosystem in India. For such an innocuous and true statement, he doesn’t want his name disclosed, though. As do all of the other sources The Ken spoke to for this story.

“Everyone now recognizes that technology is political, and thus you must engage with political parties,” says another person, a senior member of a policy research outfit.

The story we set out to report and write was about the top “influencers” of technology policy formulation in India. Businessmen, civil society, bureaucrats, academics, industry experts, lobbyists – we didn’t want to filter out names. But literally, every person we spoke to said they did not want to be quoted in the story. Many repeated this request multiple times during their conversations with us.

Based on multiple conversations – and cross-checking – with many sources, we’ve divided the list into three segments based on the perceived importance and influence of the subjects.

 

 

TIER I

Nandan Nilekani

Chairman, EkStep; Former Chairman, UIDAI; Investor

Nilekani is easily the most powerful tech policy influencer in India, by miles. From incepting and rolling out Aadhaar by bringing together a world-class team of pro-bono technology professionals (who would later become the “Aadhaar Mafia”) to creating IndiaStack to “seed” Aadhaar firmly and irrevocably into commerce and government, Nilekani has demonstrated (with aplomb) how to partner or sidestep India’s notorious bureaucracy depending on the need of the hour. His imprimatur is visible in almost all major tech policies being formulated – digital payments, identity, welfare, financial inclusion, openness & interoperability, digital records etc. He’s on a first name basis with anyone, Indian or foreign, who matters when it comes to large scale tech solutions for India. And through his extended network of former colleagues, friends, personal connections, government officials and the “Aadhaar Mafia”, Nilekani is able to influence things way beyond common sight.

 

Sunil Mittal

Founder and Chairman, Bharti Enterprises

One of the most well-connected and policy-savvy Indian business leaders, Mittal is a complete “behind-the-scenes” person. Which is why one rarely hears anything attributed to him. His influence and access aren’t limited to the telecom sector alone, but cut across large swathes of the Indian corporate sector.

 

RS Sharma

Chairman, TRAI; former IT Secretary; former CEO, UIDAI

Having spearheaded UIDAI and Aadhaar, Sharma went on to become the IT Secretary. During his tenure, the government passed the Open API policy to ensure various government services were able to talk to each other, and to third party services, in an open and predictable manner. Known to have a fairly strong and well-informed opinion of his own on all major issues under his remit.

 

Amitabh Kant

CEO, Niti Aayog

Arguably one of the most powerful and influential bureaucrats in the present government. Steers large-scale and long-term programs like “Make in India” and “Startup India” that cut across central and state lines.

 

Samir Saran

Vice-President, Observer Research Foundation

Between its Reliance connections, generous funding (one source estimates a budget of Rs 5-6 crore for its flagship “CyFy” event on cyber security and Internet governance) and ability to steer inter-country dialogues around technology (it is said to be managing the track 2 dialog process between the US and India), ORF is very powerful influencer of tech policy. And Samir Saran is the person responsible for making that happen.

 

Gulshan Rai

National Cybersecurity Coordinator; Chief Information Security Officer, Government of India

An old hand when it comes to cybersecurity, Rai today sits as the person coordinating all of India’s efforts in that area. He has both the designation and power to summarily call senior bureaucrats across departments to his own office (not a small thing in government circles). A source mentioned of such a meeting where Joint Secretaries from the Ministry of Home Affairs, DoT, DEITY, CERT-IN and NSA were all present at a meeting called by Rai in his secretariat).

 

Ajay Shah

Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy

Though an economist and one of the smartest ones out there (known to speak his mind bluntly), Shah is increasingly becoming a go-to person for digital payments and financial inclusion policies. At NIPFP, he and his team are also understood to be doing a lot of work for the UIDAI and TRAI too. Has the ear and respect of those in the government.

 

 

 

Rajan Mathews

Director General, COAI

A veteran insider, Mathews still continues to get invited to practically all DoT meetings and in the words of a source, “has everyone’s ear”.

 


 

TIER II

Rajesh Jain

Founder, netCORE Solutions; part-time member, UIDAI

One of the architects of the BJP’s “digital” electoral campaign that catapulted it to power at the center. That an entrepreneur running a firm specializing in digital marketing would be appointed to the body that runs Aadhaar, should be a testament to his influence.

 

 

Rajan Anandan

Vice-President, South East Asia and India, Google

Anandan continues to be relied upon by many because of his leadership role at a powerful company like Google combined with a positive, undiminishing outlook for the growth of “digital India”.

 

Subho Ray

President, IAMAI

As the head of India’s apex industry body for the Internet and mobile sectors, Subho draws a lot of his power from the fact that many critical submissions from global players like Facebook and Google go to the government through him. With his background in “conventional lobbying” at places like CII, Ray is known to prefer getting IAMAI’s point across through conferences, written submissions, etc.

 

Suhaan Mukerji

Partner, PLR Chambers

Mukerji heads a law firm that is often in the midst of various tech policy shifts, like, for instance, advising Uber on the best regulatory approach for India (it apparently didn’t work for Uber, which had already committed the cardinal mistake of underestimating the complexity of Indian regulations).

 

Manish Sabharwal

Chairman and Co-founder, Teamlease

Sought after for his views around education, skills, job growth etc. Said to be close to Nandan Nilekani.

 

Arvind Gupta

Deputy National Security Advisor

Fairly influential on matters relating to cyber security. “Sometimes it does appear as though the (IT) minister’s speeches are written by Gupta,” says a source.

 

Sharad Sharma

“Orbit Change Catalyst”, iSPIRT

As head of iSPIRT, Sharma is the public face and hands-on intermediary at the center of various tech policy and startup innovation initiatives.

 

Nandkumar Saravade

Head, RBI’s Cyber Security Arm

A quiet but capable professional whose views have been listened to closely for a while now.

 

 

Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala

IIT Madras

One of the pre-eminent academics of his era whose views have managed to be heard above the din on various topics, including contentious ones like telecom and spectrum management

 

 

Prof Deepak B Phatak

IIT Bombay

Another academic whose views carry a lot of weight in policy circles, albeit not so much on education and digital devices today as on banking technology.

 

 

Mohandas Pai

Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services and Aarin Capital; former CFO, Infosys

Vocal and opinionated in his world-view towards many things related to startups, innovation and the role of technology in government.

 

Pramod Varma

CTO, EkStep; Architect, India Stack; Advisor to NPCI, GSTN; former Chief Architect, Aadhaar

The person who’s the most influential from Nandan’s originally hand-picked crack Aadhaar team.

 

Virat Bhatia

President, IEA, South Asia, AT&T; Chairman, FICCI Communications & Digital Economy Committee

One of the most influential behind-the-scenes lobbyists, Bhatia’s stock has been somewhat on the wane the last few years triggered in large parts due to some critical news coverage. Known to be well-connected and deeply in-the-know of practically anything that happens around tech policy.

 

A.P Hota

MD and CEO, NPCI

With the government deciding to foster a “cashless” society, Hota’s role as the head of India’s apex payments authority has propelled him into a position of influence.

 

Sunil Abraham

Executive Director, Center for Internet and Society

Though CIS has lost much of its cachet with the government for a while now (due to what sources term its “antagonistic” submissions to the government on various issues and because of it leaking CERT notifications around blocked websites), Abraham is still seen as a resourceful, agile and passionate leader of a civil society body that manages to track and keep on top of various tech policy moves.

 

R.Chandrasekhar

President, NASSCOM

As head of the industry body representing India’s IT services and software exporting companies, Chandrasekhar has a sizeable amount of influence in tech policy making.

 

 

 


TIER III

Arvind Gupta

National President, BJP IT Cell; Founder, Digital India Foundation

Gupta, though a BJP functionary, is still viewed as “semi-independent” by many people because of his considered and balanced views on various topics. His influence also draws from the fact that he’s seen as a moderator of public opinion on various issues.

 

Rajeev Chandrasekhar

MP, Rajya Sabha; Chairman, Jupiter Capital

Chandrasekhar has been aggressively courting various civil society, regulatory and media stakeholders with his views on various topics for years now. He has the sheer will, financial wherewithal, in-house policy team and most importantly – a burgeoning constellation of business interests – to keep at things till he’s satisfied with the results. At this point though, sources say, he is still to get there.

 

Rajesh Chharia

President, ISP Association of India

Given the importance of ISPs in an Internet-enabled economy, Chharia derives some influence from his role as the head of the apex ISP body.

 

A.B Pandey

CEO, UIDAI

Naturally, the head of a project as transformative as Aadhaar would have some influence in tech policy. Goes without saying.

 

Prof. Rekha Jain

IIM Ahmedabad

The head of IIM-A’s Center for Telecom Excellence (IITCOE) used to be quite influential a while back, albeit not so much in more recent times.

 

 

 Ankhi Das

Public Policy Director, Facebook India

A public policy veteran, Das came to Facebook in 2011 after heading the function at Microsoft India – another tech policy lobbying heavyweight – for years. Even though she made some major missteps around Facebook’s Free Basics offering in India, she still continues to hold her role and also the “PMO’s ear”, according to a source.

 

Rahul Matthan

Partner, Trilegal

One of the well-respected and well-connected lawyers in the technology space. Matthan is understood to have been the author of significant portions of the early drafts of key policy documents like the UIDAI Act and Privacy Bill.

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