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Shiv Nadar: The Story of an Exemplary Entrepreneur

Created on 10 Jun 2021

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Updated on 02 Sep 2023

Shiv Nadar: The Story of an Exemplary Entrepreneur

India has birthed many legends who prove that there is absolutely nothing that acts as a barrier if your only goal is to achieve excellence. And the list would be incomplete without this gentleman.

Today's article is the story of the legend whose farsightedness and decisiveness helped him establish a billion-dollar empire (HCL), a visionary who is one of the major reasons that India is currently the hotspot for Information Technology and a renowned philanthropist of Asia - Mr. Shiv Nadar.

So if inspiration is what you are looking for right now, continue reading. We promise you won't regret it!

Shiv Nadar - Chapter One

Nadar was born on 14th July 1945 in a village in Tamil Nadu to Sivasubramaniya Nadar and Vamasundari Devi. He was so brilliant even as a child that he was nicknamed as "Magus", meaning 'wizard' in ancient Persian.

Completing his schooling from various schools in Tamilnadu, he went on to become an engineer from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, specializing in Electrical and Electronics. Nadar began his career at Walchand group's College of Engineering, Pune (COEP), in 1967. He later moved to secure a job at the Delhi Cloth Mills' digital products division.

Working as an employee made him realise that this was not what he was meant to do. He, along with a few of his colleagues who shared similar opinions on the passionless job, decided to quit and start their own company.

The first venture Nadar and his partners established was MicroComp Limited. This company was involved in manufacturing and selling teledigital calculators. But the group harboured a greater goal. Nonetheless, MicroComp was considered as a first step toward achieving the bigger goal.

The Inception of HCL

As they say, the one thing common among most entrepreneurs is that they consider every opportunity that knocks on their door. This is exactly what Nadar did. He realised that India did not have many computers, and IBM leaving the country due to political issues only made this worse.

It was in 1976 when he went on to incorporate HCL with an initial investment of Rs 1,87,000. The UP government, impressed by Nadar's vision for the business, granted him an additional Rs 20 lakh in exchange of 26% stake in the company. The government stake allowed him to name the company "Hindustan Computers Limited".

They manufactured the first indigenous computer in 1978, which was called the HCL 8C. In 1985, the first multiprocessor version of Unix, 'HCL BusyBee', was released.

HCL helped to build the Indian Stock Exchange, which revolutionised India's capital market. 

A couple of years later, a company called HCL Overseas Limited was incorporated as a provider of technology development services. It eventually was renamed as HCL Technologies Limited.

Taking HCL global

In 1979, the company found an opportunity in Singapore and set up Far East Computers. It managed to churn out revenue of Rs 10 lakhs. Nadar tried to enter the American Computer Hardware market in 1989, but it turned out to be a disaster. The company then entered into a partnership with HP (Hewlett-Packard) to form HCL HP Limited. Following this, HCL also joined hands with other global entities like Ericsson and Nokia.

Nadar continued to be the company's largest shareholder, though he wasn't actively involved in the management.

Current status of HCL

Considered as the pioneer of modern computing, HCL generates annual revenues of over $10.1 Billion, with over 169,000 professionals operating from 50 countries.

HCL is one of India's top information technology companies with a worldwide network of R&D, "delivery centres" and" innovation labs". It operates across various sectors of aerospace, defence, banking, capital markets, automotive, consumer goods, insurance, manufacturing, mining, transportation, logistics, hospitality; and this list just goes on.

Fortune magazine names HCL as the organisation that has the "World's Most Modern Management Idea."

The company in 2011 also established HCL Foundation as the social responsibility arm of HCL Technologies Limited. This foundation focuses on alleviating poverty and achieving inclusive growth and development, majorly focusing on the sectors of health, education, environment & disaster risk reduction and response.

In July 2020, Nadar stepped down as the Chairman of HCL. His daughter, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, who was the executive director and CEO, took over the position. He continues as the managing director.

Nadar is an Educationalist (as well)

Unlike many entrepreneurs, Nadar is a firm believer in the importance of education in one's life. His contributions in the field of education speak of this. With his financial assistance, NIIT was founded in 1981. In 1996, in his father's name, he founded SSN College of Engineering in Tamil Nadu.

Not only did he offer the college shares of HCL worth 1 million, but he also helped tie up with various foreign universities to encourage and promote research, a field that he believed India required the most. In 2008, the SSN trust set up 2 schools in UP for rural students. He also served as the chairman of the board of governors, IIT, Kharagpur, until 2014.

Nadar was crowned the "Most Generous Indian" as he topped the Hurun India Philanthropy list, in 2006 with Rs 630 crores donation towards the education sector. He also founded Shiv Nadar University in Noida in the year 2011.

Achievements to Nadar's name

  • In 1995, he became the Dataquest IT Man of the year.
  • In 2005, he received the CNBC Business Excellence Award.
  • In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Madras University.
  • In 2008, Nadar was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government for his contribution in the IT sector.
  • In 2010, he received the Dataquest Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • In 2011, he was counted amongst Forbes' 48 Heroes of Philanthropy in the Asia Pacific.
  • In 2017, India Today magazine ranked Nadar 16th in India's 50 most powerful people of 2017 list.

The Bottom Line

In the era of "customer is the king", his employee-first customer-second approach helped him build a strong and ethical employee group. Even during the Lehman crisis of 2008-2009, he promised his employees that he wouldn't fire anyone. This 75-year-old entrepreneur has proved that you do not need a lucrative degree to achieve excellence. Your capabilities and hard work alone will take you places.

Anyway, what's one takeaway lesson for you from the story of Mr. Nadar? Share it with other readers in the comments below.

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