Nasscom chief Dewang Mehta found dead in Sydney
Dewang Mehta, the high-profile chief of National Association of Software and Service Companies, Nasscom, was found dead in his hotel room in Sydney on Thursday.
Mehta, who was part of a delegation on technology experts led by IT Minister Pramod Mahajan, was slated to catch the morning flight for home but was found dead by the hotel staff.
The staff entered Mehta's room after being told that he had missed the flight, Indian High Commissioner R S Rathore told PTI.
Though he was not aware of the cause of Mehta's death, he said police did not suspect any foul play.
Mehta, a qualified chartered accountant and cost management accountant from UK, was heading the National Association of Software and Service Companies, the apex body of software and service companies in India.
In May 1998, he was appointed as a member and spokesman of the high-power IT Task Force set up by the Prime Minister to draft a national informatics policy.
Mahajan expressed shock over the death of 40-year-old Mehta who he said had worked very hard for the IT sector.
Mahajan, who is leading an IT delegation to Australia, said he along with the Indian High Commissioner and his personal secretary had left the hotel they were staying in around 0900 hrs.
"We returned at 1730 hrs. The hotel management informed the High Commissioner that as he was supposed to check out at 1130 hrs and as he did not, the hotel staff forcefully opened the door at 1700 hrs and found him dead," he said.
Body to be brought on Friday
Mahajan said he would ideally like to ensure that the body is taken to India along with him in the flight on Friday.
Reuters adds: Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan, who was on an a networking trip with Mehta in Australia, said his body was found after he failed to wake up in the morning.
"It is a big loss to information technology. If there is any one person who deserves credit for promoting information technology as an industry in India it is definitely Dewang Mehta," he said from Sydney.
Mehta was named by Computerworld Magazine as "Software Evangelist of the Year" for three years in a row and "IT Man of the Year" in 2000. Last October the Geneva-based World Economic Forum selected Mehta as one the 100 "Global Leaders of Tomorrow".
As president of Nasscom, Mehta lobbied with governments to build a global brand equity for India's software industry and campaigned against software piracy.
He was also a champion of Indian software exports, which have ridden the crest of the global information technology revolution.
Nasscom employees shocked
At Nasscom's office in New Delhi, which closed down for the day after the news, employees looked stunned and had tears in their eyes.
"I can't believe it's true. He can't leave things halfway," said a tearful woman employee.
Mehta's death comes at a time when the Indian software industry is facing its worst time in years: its scorching pace of growth is slowing, a direct result of the slowdown in the United States, the main market for India's software exports.
Technology stocks have been battered in Indian stockmarkets.
"It's shocking," Nandan Nilekani, president and chief operating officer of Indian software exporting giant Infosys Technologies, told Reuters. "It is a great loss to the Indian software industry."
Vinnie Mehta, director of the Manufacturers Association of Information Technology, said that the software industry would be shaken by the news.
"This was the time he was needed most. Industry will really feel his absence," he said. "He was a guy who was so closely identified with the software industry."
Mehta was a jovial bespectacled man with a shock of black hair and thick sideburns which often drew comparisons with rock star Elvis Presley.
Born in Gujarat, Mehta, who was a bachelor, was a BS with major in computer graphics from Imperial College London.
Besides being a member of the National Task Force on IT and Software Development, he was also a member of various bodies including IT ministry's advisory group, state planning board and Indian Institute of Information Technology in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
As a person at the helm of Nasscom, Mehta's job included lobbying with Indian government and governments around the world.
His mission was to build a global brand equity of the software industry in India and campaigning against software piracy and to increase software exports.