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  • Writer's pictureTikona Capital

Shiv Nadar: Architect of Innovation and Philanthropy

Updated: 3 days ago

"The younger you are, the more courage and audacity you will have to set long-term goals and be there to personally work towards your vision. You will have the confidence to take risks because you have time by your side. You can bring innovation into everything you do and constantly reinvent yourself."

In the tapestry of Indian industry, few threads are as vibrant and enduring as the one woven by Shiv Nadar. From a young man with a dream in a dorm room to the illustrious chairman of HCL Technologies, Nadar's story is a testament to the power of vision, perseverance, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

Shiv Nadar is an Indian billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He was born on July 14, 1945, in Moolaipozhi village, Madras Presidency (present-day Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu) into a Tamil Hindu family. Nadar's parents were Sivasubramaniya Nadar and Vamasundari Devi. He studied at Town Higher Secondary School, Kumbakonam, Elango Corporation Higher Secondary School, Madurai, St. Joseph Boys Higher Secondary School, Trichy, and American College, Madurai. He received a pre-university degree and a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, Nadar's journey began not in the gleaming corridors of corporate headquarters, but in the unassuming confines of a college hostel. It was there, amidst textbooks and burgeoning dreams, that he sowed the seeds of what would become a technological powerhouse. His initial ventures were marked by a spirit of exploration, a constant search for the uncharted territories of the tech frontier. As Nadar himself once proclaimed,

"Success is not achieved by playing it safe but by taking risks and constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible."

This mantra became the guiding light for his remarkable ascent.

Nadar's genius resided not just in his technical prowess, but in his ability to identify opportunities where others saw only challenges. He recognized the burgeoning potential of the IT sector in India, a nascent field ripe for exploration. In 1976, with a mere Rs. 18,000, he co-founded HCL, a company that would redefine the landscape of Indian IT. Nadar began his career at Walchand Group's Cooper Engineering Ltd. in Pune in 1967. He later co-founded HCL in a garage in 1976 with five friends, including Ajai Chowdhry, Arjun Malhotra, Subhash Arora, Yogesh Vaidya, S. Raman, Mahendra Pratap, and DS Puri, to make calculators and microprocessors. HCL has since grown into a $12.6 billion (revenue) IT firm, with Nadar serving as its Chairman Emeritus and Strategic Advisor to the boar. From its humble beginnings selling imported calculators, HCL, under Nadar's astute leadership, embarked on a path of continuous innovation. They diversified into computer manufacturing, software services, and IT solutions, establishing themselves as a key player in the global tech arena.

His remarkable achievements haven't gone unnoticed.

But what exactly did Shiv Nadar do right? Here are some key takeaways from his success story:

  • Building on a Strong Foundation:  Nadar meticulously built HCL, brick by brick, focusing on quality and customer satisfaction. This strong foundation allowed the company to weather storms and scale new heights.

  • Investing in People:  Nadar recognized that the human element is paramount to success. He fostered a culture of innovation and empowered his employees, creating a team that thrived on challenges.

  • Embracing Change and Innovation:  The tech industry is a dynamic one, and Nadar understood the importance of adaptation. He constantly steered HCL towards new frontiers, ensuring the company remained at the forefront of technological advancements.

  • Giving Back to Society:  A self-made man, Nadar has a deep commitment to social responsibility. He established the Shiv Nadar Foundation, which focuses on education and philanthropy, creating a lasting impact beyond the realm of technology.

Shiv Nadar's story offers invaluable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • Dream Big, Start Small:  Grand ambitions are essential, but successful execution starts with a solid foundation. Nadar meticulously built HCL before scaling it into a global giant.

  • Focus on Long-Term Growth:  Don't be swayed by short-term gains. Nadar prioritized long-term vision and strategic planning, ensuring HCL's sustainable success.

  • Empower Your Team:  People are the heart of any organization. By fostering a culture of trust and empowerment, Nadar unleashed the collective potential of his employees.

  • Leave a Positive Legacy:  Success is not just about financial gain. Nadar's philanthropic endeavours demonstrate the importance of giving back and creating a positive impact on the world.

"Adaptability and constant innovation is key to the survival of any company operating in a competitive market."

Awards and Achievements

Nadar is also the founder and chairman of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on education and art. He has committed more than $1 billion to philanthropy, primarily in the areas of education, art, and culture. In 2008, the Government of India awarded him with a Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, for his contribution to the IT industry. In 2023, Nadar donated ₹ 2,042 crore, approximately ₹ 5.6 crore every day, making him India's leading philanthropist according to the annual EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2023


Shiv Nadar's journey is an inspiration for anyone with a dream and the determination to chase it. His unwavering focus on excellence, his commitment to innovation, and his dedication to social responsibility have not only established him as a tech titan but also as a leader who leaves a lasting legacy. As HCL continues to shape the future of technology, Shiv Nadar's story serves as a beacon, illuminating the path for generations of entrepreneurs to come.

Sumit Poddar

Chief Investment Officer & Smallcase Portfolio Manager

Tikona Capital

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