February 15, 2020
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Shiv Nadar, HCL

Eight young men quit DCM in 1976 to create HCL in a Delhi barsati, “akin to a garage startup”.... It went on to revolutionise Indian technology.

Shiv Nadar, HCL
Photograph by Vishal Koul
Shiv Nadar, HCL

  • Today HCL is a Rs 45,769 crore global conglomerate


Shiv Nadar is one of India’s earliest IT entrepreneurs. He founded HCL in the mid-1970s and turned the IT hardware company into an IT ent­erprise over the next three decades by constantly reinventing its focus.

Born in 1945 in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu, Nadar was educated in Kumbakonam and Madurai before studying electrical and electronics engineering at a Coimbatore college. Nadar confronted the harsh realities and opportunities of small-town life before he saw his first big city, Chennai, as a 21-year-old. His story is both a reflection of the times he lived in as well as the future that he always dreamt of shaping.

Nadar was part of the elite management trainee system at DCM, where he met several of those with whom he was soon to make an impact as a pioneer of modern computing. In 1976, eight young men quit DCM to create HCL in a Delhi barsati, “akin to a garage startup”, with a compelling vision that the microprocessor would change the world.

A visionary, Nadar made HCL an engine of inv­ention that turned dreams into reality. HCL revolutionised Indian technology and product innovation with many world-firsts, including the first 8-bit microprocessor-based computer (1978), the first relational database management system (1983), client-server architecture (1984) and the first fine-grained multi-processor UNIX installation (1989).

After helping put India on the world tech map, HCL forayed into healthcare in 2014. A decade earlier, in 1994, Nadar had set up what was closest to his heart, the philanthropic Shiv Nadar Foundation, and its first initiative in Chennai—SSN Institutions, including a top-ranked engineering college. Today, the Foundation is a significant driver of social change and transformational education through its landmark institutions spanning the entire education spectrum from schools to universities.

In recognition of his leadership, Nadar was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2008, the BNP Paribas Grand Prize for Individual Philanthropy in 2013, the AIMA Managing India Corporate Citizen Award, the ICSI Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in corporate governance and the Golden Peacock Award for Social Leadership in 2014.

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