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University of Toronto honours Nandan Nilekani

Last updated on: June 2, 2011 12:42 IST

University of Toronto honours Nandan Nilekani

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Ajit Jain in Toronto

Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto.

The degree was conferred on him at the Rotman School of Business at the graduation ceremony of MBA students on May 31 by Chancellor David Peterson and the citation was presented by Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School.

Martin called Nilekani, who now heads the Unique Identification Authority of India, "more than a business leader".

He mentioned Nilekani's 2009 book, Imagining India, which was internationally recognized and short-listed for The Financial Times' Business Book Award in 2010, and called him an accomplished writer.

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Image: Degree was conferred on him at the Rotman School of Business.
Photographs: University of Toronto
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"The rise of India is intimately tied to the software services sector and no company has blazed that trail more than Nandan's Infosys," said the citation.

"And, like Japan, Nandan's sector has moved from low cost to low cost and high quality - only a lot quicker than Japanese companies did."

In the citation, Nilekani is  called "not just a citizen of India, but of the world (as) his career provides an exemplar for all of us to emulate - in business, in education, in public service, in philanthropy and as an extraordinary citizen".

Martin asked Chancellor Peterson "on behalf of the (University) Governing Council to confer the degree of Doctor of Law, honoris causa, upon Nandan Nilekani."

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Image: Nilekani being received by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty at his Queen's Park office.
Photographs: Ontario Premier's office
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University of Toronto honours Nandan Nilekani

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Nilekani said in his acceptance speech that he was really privileged to be receiving the honorary degree.

Addressing 405 students and members of the University Governing Council and other invitees, Nilekani gave his example of how to make a change from "your comfort zone".

He spoke about how he had joined hands with some others to start Infosys in 1981 when he was 26-year-old and it was not such a risky venture as he had no liabilities, so even if Infosys was not successful it was not a big risk for him.

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Image: Nilekani said he was privileged to receive the degree.

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But getting out of his comfort zone two years back was a big and risky decision.

"I was invited by the prime minister to lead this project - Unique Identification Authority of India. It was far more radical step for me because I was giving up a very comfortable job in the private sector (where) I was on top.

"In accepting to start all over again, and this time it was (taking the) government job, was quite a big decision of my life. "It was a very big change for me and the risks were also higher," Nilekani said.

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Image: Nilekani says people should not fear getting out of comfort zone.

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University of Toronto honours Nandan Nilekani

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"It was a high risk decision but I was able to do it. When I think back, one thing that strikes me after talking to so many people who have made life-changing decisions is that why don't people move out of their comfort zone more often?

"Every decision that requires a change in life involves certain amount of risk," Nilekani said.

"The ability to get out of one's comfort zone and embrace change becomes important."

University of Toronto President David Naylor called Nilekani "a towering figure in the modern history of Indian technological and social innovation".

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Image: He says every big decision involves risk.

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He also called him "a visionary who has inspired millions of his countrymen, and helped the world to understand the rapid changes afoot in India today".

"I am delighted that the University of Toronto has recognized Nandan Nilekani with an honorary degree," said Sriram H Iyer, President of ICICI Bank Canada.

He was among four Indians invited to a luncheon given by the University of Toronto in Nilekani's  honour before the convocation. Indian High Commissioner SM Gavai and Consul-General Preeti Saran were among the guests present at the luncheon and the convocation.

Iyer called Nilekani a source of inspiration for people around the world.

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Image: Nilekani was called a source of inspiration.

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Nilekani said the University of Toronto was "a truly outstanding university and I am very privileged to be honoured by it. It is a truly global university and is a worthy symbol of the stature and diversity of today's Canada."

While in Toronto for three days, Nilekani called on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and he was also a speaker at the joint conversation organised by MaRS (a research center) and Rotman School of Business.


Image: Nilekani started Infosys in 1981.

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