Roshni Nadar Malhotra (File photo)
BENGALURU: Roshni Nadar-Malhotra replaced her father Shiv Nadar on Friday as the chairperson of the $9.9-billion HCL, the company that her father founded in 1976.
Nadar-Malhotra, 38, has become the first woman chairperson of an Indian IT services company. HCL is today the third largest in the industry, after TCS and Infosys, and has been among the fastest growing for many years now.
Shiv Nadar turned 75 on July 14. At rival Wipro, a similar transition happened last year when Azim Premji handed over the reins to his son Rishad. Premji turns 75 on the coming July 24. Coincidentally, Nadar and Premji were born just 10 days apart.
Nadar-Malhotra was the vice-chairperson of HCL Technologies before her elevation. She was ranked 54 on the 2019 Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list. In the same year, IIFL Wealth Hurun rankings estimated her wealth at Rs 36,800 crore. The promoter group owns 60% in HCL, which is valued at about Rs 1.7 lakh crore.
An alumnus of Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Nadar-Malhotra briefly worked with Sky News UK and CNN America as a news producer. At 27, she became a whole-time director and CEO of HCL Corporation, the holding company for HCL’s operating companies. She was responsible for treasury operations, brand building and social initiatives.
Nadar-Malhotra is married to Shikhar Malhotra, executive director and board member of HCL Corporation. They have two sons. “The role of chairman is like a compass to set directions and identify where the true north is,” says Vineet Nayar, a long-time CEO of HCL Technologies and founder chairman of Sampark Foundation. “Roshni lives and breathes HCL. She knows every nook and corner of HCL. After all, she has gone through the Shiv Nadar school of education every evening,” he says. She is also a trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation and passionate about wildlife and conservation. In 2018, she set up The Habitats Trust, which works to protect natural habitats and indigenous species.
Shiv Nadar will continue to be the chief strategy officer of the IT company HCL Technologies. Nadar is also a major philanthropist, and has invested over $800 million through the Shiv Nadar Foundation, impacting over 30,000 students from poor backgrounds.
Nadar founded HCL 44 years ago to make calculators and microprocessors. Nayar, who’s been close to Nadar for three decades, describes him as “a gold-plated 70s entrepreneur…Kishore Kumar of India.”
The entrepreneurs of the 70s, he says, built businesses in an environment that was not conducive from a regulatory point of view. Nor were there investors willing to invest in them. “They built their businesses under tremendous adversity and they were built with a different backbone. Shiv’s attitude is to build companies to last rather than sell. Just like Infosys and Wipro,” he says.
HCL initially had a hardware DNA, with many firsts in India, including the first Unix operating system, multiprocessor architecture, parallel Fortran and the PC. “It was quite audacious in the late 80s to manufacture multiprocessor architecture Magnum machines and set up a facility in Sunnyvale in California with the ambition to put India on the global map in the products category. While there was a lot of focus on FC Kohli creating IT services, Shiv was walking the product path,” Nayar recounts.
But Nadar too then changed gears to focus on engineering services. Over time, the services companies looked more and more similar. But HCL continued to have a relatively bigger play in product engineering services. In recent years, that again has become the growth engine for the company. And the company is today betting a lot more on products and IP than its peers.
“I see Shiv’s passion for product is coming back. He realised the future of the company is having IP. He’s trying to accelerate its growth by leveraging engineering capabilities and expanding the products’ footprint. What a spectacular journey!” Nayar says.