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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Next revolution in Pune should be in social innovation: Anand Khandekar

Anand Khandekar has had a rich career of 25 years each in the Indian Navy and in the IT industry, where he has worked at very senior levels. He played a pioneering role in Pune’s growth as an IT city and loves Pune because social consciousness along with leadership are a part of Pune’s DNA.

pune Updated: Jul 30, 2017 13:40 IST
Anand Khandekar
Anand Khandekar
Hindustan Times, Pune
The Rajiv Gandhi IT Park at Hinjewadi ushered in the IT revolution in the city.
The Rajiv Gandhi IT Park at Hinjewadi ushered in the IT revolution in the city.(HT PHOTO)

The next revolution that we can create in Pune should be in social innovation. Social consciousness is a part of Pune’s DNA as portrayed by Mahatma Phule and Maharishi Karve, and so is leadership as demonstrated by Shivaji Maharaj. We have social consciousness, leadership, knowledge and IT. You combine all of this and it leads to social innovation.

I was born in a teacher’s family. Both my parents were teachers. My mother was principal of Modern High School- she in fact started the girl’s school, and my father was a professor of English literature at Fergusson College. The atmosphere in our house was academic and full of values.

Pune was a very clean city then, and peaceful. There was a strong nationalistic fervour. And only two broad avenues were available to the youth- education and military service. We are two brothers- my elder brother joined the Army and inspite of best of efforts I joined the Navy after doing engineering from COEP (College of Engineering, Pune). I stood first in electrical engineering in the university.

I passed out of Modern High School and one of the things that influenced me greatly was the Scouts movement. The most important thing in Scouts was that you have to do one good deed every day, and as children, we would even forcibly demand that we be allowed to do a good deed like helping mother in her cooking. Looking back, I see that that’s where the seeds were sown in the urge to do something for the city.

Entrepreneurial innovation and leadership has been a part of Pune’s DNA. This is an entrepreneurial town. It has perhaps, the largest number of small scale industries. There was no industry in Pune till the late ‘50s- Kirloskars were perhaps the only ones; but after the 1960s one could see major change taking place, especially with the MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation) coming up in Pimpri-Chinchwad.

I had the big fortune of completing 25 years each in the Indian Navy and the IT industry. I can’t forget the 25 years that I spent in the Navy which had a substantial influence on my thinking, my persona. One of the highlights was the opportunity to work with Admiral Russi Ghandhi when I was the deputy naval attaché at the Indian High Commission in London, and the other was the visit to Russia in 1980 as Leader of the Acceptance Trials Team of Indian Navy’s first guided cruise missile INS Rajput.

In 1985, I changed over to Meltron and in 1989 started Yojana- the first 100% EOU (Export oriented unit) in Pune along with Shirikant Bedekar who was my team mate in Scouts. We were the pioneers to start IT exports out of Pune as one had to go to SEEPZ (Santacruz Electronic Export Processing Zone) to export software- there was no provision to do 100% software exports from outside Seepz. No STPI (Software Technology Parks of India) existed then, they came in 1991.

When I was with Motorola in Bengaluru during 1994-96, I saw that American companies were attracted to Bengaluru because they had a government policy to attract IT. Maharashtra did not have such a policy, and when I returned to Pune, senior bureaurcrat Jayant Kawale and I started writing the Maharashtra IT Policy. Chief minister Sharad Pawar saw the potential and acted quickly. He directed Pune collector Vijay Gautam to acquire land and Gautam acquired 700 acres in just 23 days. We got land at Rs 60 per sq.ft with double FSI and big companies like Infosys and Wipro came in quickly. An MCCIA delegation led by Pune Mayor Vandana Chavan and Ramanath Jha was sent to Silicon Valley and a number of IT firms there were attracted to Pune. For manpower development, we interacted closely with engineering colleges in Pune and encouraged all software companies to take up student projects.

Pune has done a lot for its citizens- even the popular one-act play competition, Purushottam Karandak, is a startup activity because students have to do everything without money. Most of the competitions are won by engineering students. I used to recruit students with a Purushottam background for my company because I felt that these students had the right attitude for a startup environment.

Pune needs to cross its boundaries. There is a need for an all-party forum which will include people from the government, industry, education, city planners, and social activists. This forum should make a vision document for economic, industrial and social development. Political will and leadership is what we need- this is the breakthrough that we need.

Pune needs startup-to-startup linkages with Israel; linkages in agriculture, defence and cyber-security. We need to do something for the Northeast.

I cannot fail to mention that my wife Dr Veena, daughter, Dr Sonali and son Aditya have been a great inspiration to me throughout. Dr Veena founded the Kalyan Charitable Trust which gives free vaccination to poor children below the age of five. These are expensive vaccines not available under the government programme and so far more than 35,000 children have been given about 1,00,000 vaccines.

I feel that Pune, with its strengths in social consciousness, IT, leadership and knowledge is ready to usher in the next revolution which should be in social innovation. This should be the way forward.

-As told to Hindustan Times

First Published: Jul 30, 2017 13:40 IST

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