Mr. Ajai Chowdhry

Founder - HCL and Chairman
HCL Infosystems
Mr. Ajai Chowdhry, one of the six founder members of HCL began an exciting journey three decades ago with a dream to give India its very own microcomputer. The sheer clarity of vision and hard work led to a revolution and laid the foundation for the Indian IT industry, taking India to the league of major economies of the world.

Mr. Chowdhry led the foundation of HCL's overseas operations, starting with Singapore in 1980s to extensively covering the other South Asian Markets including Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and the People's Republic of China, expanding business operations. HCL, India’s original IT garage start-up founded in 1976, today is a $6 bn global enterprise and Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has been a key force in driving the growth of HCL.

Mr. Ajai Chowdhry, son of an IAS officer, has been a key force in driving the growth of HCL Infosystems. He took over the reins of HCL Infosystems, the flagship company of the group in early 90s. His leadership infused tremendous energy which took the company from a turnover of Rs. 400.6 crores (US $ 89 mn) in 1994 to Rs. 11,362 crores (US $ 2.6 bn) today. Employing over 7600 people, the company has today emerged not only as the country’s information-enabling powerhouse but a great place to work with industry accolades and awards received year after year. In 2010 alone the company has been awarded ‘Business Superbrands’ by The Brand Council and rated the Most Trusted Indian IT Brand by Economic Times for 2010-11, among many more.

Driving the thrust on IT, Telecom and Imaging, Mr. Ajai Chowdhry perceives the role of his company as that of enabling information. Credited with providing momentum to key IT phenomena - within the company as well as in the industry - he has constantly added newer and cutting-edge technology skills to the company's portfolio. Under his leadership, several new projects have been undertaken by the company that have had a lasting impact including – pioneering HCL Infosystems into digital lifestyle by getting into IT retail, building technology capability for convergence at the time when convergence of IT was merely a slogan, creating an extensive Systems Integration business, spearheading the company wide Quality movement and driving a vision of “IT for the masses” are some examples. A great believer of the manufacturing potential of India, Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has relentlessly advocated the cause of manufacturing in India to many non-Indian MNCs, Industry bodies and Government. An absolute stickler for customer focus, he himself spends significant time personally listening to customers. Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has been consistently contributing in building the brand ‘India’ on the ICT world landscape and also pioneering the cause of developing the domestic IT market. His vision to further expand Indian IT to developing economies has now made him one of the key voices for IT development in Africa. Mr. Chowdhry firmly believes that in Africa lays a phenomenal potential for transformation through IT for sectors like E-governance, Banking, Education, Infrastructure etc. and India has to play a defining role. In 2010, Co-chairing the ‘World Economic Forum on Africa’ in Tanzania, he shared his vision to empower people across the developing continent of Africa through Information Technology.

Having an exceptional knack of picking up emerging technology trends, Mr. Ajai Chowdhry sensed opportunity early in the telecom & imaging domain and today HCL Infosystems is poised to exploit this opportunity to offer a rich bouquet of technology solutions to its customers. Gifted with a pedant sense of entrepreneurship, Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has been enlisted among ‘India's Most Powerful Brand Builders’ and has been adjudged among ‘India Inc’s Most Powerful CEOs’ by The Economic Times.

He has worked closely with the Government to take the cause of ‘IT for the masses’ forward and has been on several Government committees on IT, Electronics and Hardware. Under his leadership in 2009 ‘The IT Task Force’ set up by the Ministry of IT & Communications, Government of India, submitted a comprehensive report to the Government. The Task Force Chaired by Mr. Chowdhry had participation from heads of various associations including Mr. Som Mittal of NASSCOM and Mr. Kiran Karnik. The report constituting the vision and recommendations for a need of an ecosystem of 'Made in India' hardware, semi-conductor manufacturing, and greater collaboration for development of software and strategic electronics, has been taken up by a Committee of Secretaries and is under serious consideration for implementation by the government in the budget year 2011.

Mr. Chowdhry also chaired the committee to draft the Eleventh Five Year plan for electronics hardware in India. He has also served as Chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) National Committee on Technology and innovation till 2010. Mr. Chowdhry has also chaired the CII’s National Committee for IT, ITES & E-Commerce, where he actively encouraged the deployment of IT in Indian SME sector (Small & Medium Industry), to increase their productivity and to make them globally competitive. Actively involved with various industry forums, he has recently been nominated as a Member for the esteemed ‘India Design Council’, a task force set up by the Government of India to constitute the National Design Policy. Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has also been recently nominated as the Chairman of Board of Governors, IIT- Hyderabad.

Mr. Chowdhry has also been invited to Co-Chair the Advisory Group for Research and Development, in the Electronics Hardware Sector (CAREL) by the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India. The core group will work coherently to synergise the efforts of the academia and the industry for promoting Research and Development in the Electronics Hardware Sector.

Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has a vision to take PC and broadband into every village and to every person in India. It was this vision that made HCL Infosystems the first company in India to create special products for the rural market place. The whole objective was to eradicate the digital divide between urban and rural. Under his direction, various products have been created by HCL Infosystems to address the rural market including a rural PC that works on a car battery, special products for milk co-operatives in rural India, packages for education and literacy in rural India, the development of special software and hardware products for addressing financial inclusion for the unbanked in rural India. Also programmes for panchayat computerisation, support for community service centres through government schemes and the famous ITC e-chaupal program have been done with HCL Infosystems’ products & services.

Understanding the potential of the integrated use of technology, he is aggressively advocating an Integrated Systems approach to Homeland security. He has worked extensively towards creating awareness on this front through Media, Industry platforms & Government interactions. Mr. Ajai Chowdhry is a key member of the task force set up by the CII to advice the Government of India on Internal Security & Chair’s the Sub-Group on “Technology for Internal Security”. Mr. Chowdhry has also been nominated as member National Manufacturing Competitive Council (NMCC), apex advisory body to provide inputs for framing government policies.

A firm believer in constant innovation, HCL Infosystems under his guidance has focused on creating the largest network of service and online support in the industry. HCL became the only company in India to provide service through over 500 touch points covering more than 4000 towns. Apart from service, innovations for design included special products for various segments of the market. The key element that has kept HCL as a front-runner in the PC industry has been its ability to innovate & design products for Indian conditions to take care of factors like heat, humidity and dust.

Literally all large IT companies in India have been focused on the export market. HCL Infosystems, led by Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has continued its prime focus on the domestic Indian ICT market and is today the largest domestic player in India.

In 2011, the honourable President of India conferred Mr Ajai Chowdhry with the prestigious Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian honours, as recognition of his consistent contribution in building the IT industry of the nation. In cognizance of his key role in championing the cause of the domestic Indian IT market and relentless efforts towards the cause of electronics in India, Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has been awarded the ‘Electronics Man of the year by ELCINA-EFY for the year 2010’. He has also been conferred the Honoris Causa Doctorate of Science (D. Sc.) in the year 2010 by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee for his thought leadership for the development of an unmatched ecosystem for IT products, computer hardware and software domain in the country. Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has also been honoured with the CNBC Asia Business Award 2010 for the Viewers Choice category reinforcing once again the acknowledgement of his vision and leadership by the common man. More recently, he is bestowed with the "India Innovator of the Year Award" by Honorable Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee at the 6th edition of the CNBC TV18 India Business Leader Awards 2010. This award is given in recognition of his vision for HCL as an “entrepreneurial incubator,” where in-house entrepreneurship is always encouraged and his passion for new innovations in both services and products that has infused energy and life into the enterprise.

Earlier Mr Ajai Chowdhry was conferred the DATAQUEST ‘IT Person of the Year 2007’ Award. Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has earlier been awarded the 'IT Man of the Year' title by The Skoch Consultancy and 'Best IT Man of the Year' by The Foundation of Indian Industry and Economists. He has also received ‘Corporate Ratna - IT Industry of the Millennium’ Award by Wisitek Foundation and ‘Electronics Man of the Year - 2006’ Award by EFY for his pivotal role in HCL’s breakthrough innovations.

Blessed with an astute marketing mind, Mr. Chowdhry has been consistently contributing in building the brand ‘India’ on the ICT world landscape. Realising early the role Indian minds could play in branding India world over - he has spent over a decade to present the power of an Indian Mind with HCL MindiaTM, a forum that brings together great Indian minds from all walks of life. This period has also witnessed a huge number of Indian artists get an opportunity to perform at the HCL Concert Series, an initiative he took to preserve the Indian art forms (dance & music). HCL concert series a brainchild of Mr. Ajai Chowdhry, which even after 13 years enjoys an ever-growing following and has today become a dream stage for every budding artist.

Mr. Ajai Chowdhry has a bachelor's degree in electronics and communication engineering, and attended the Executive Programme at the School of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, US.

Mr. Ajai Chowdhry is an avid reader and fond of Jazz and fine arts. He and his wife Kunkun live in New Delhi and have also created a Charitable Trust called ‘Swayam’ which is committed to provide education support to deserving children of various HCL employees who cannot afford good education.
Copyright©2012, India Semiconductor Association.