Kiran Karnik describes himself as a “public non-intellectual”, with interest and involvement in a range of public issues. In the course of a career of over four decades, he has had the unique experience of straddling the diverse spheres of government, business and civil society with equal comfort and accomplishment.
Currently, he is Chair of Oxfam India, Chairman of the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (a university set up by the Delhi government), and President of India Habitat Centre. He is also on the Board of other educational institutions, and NGOs in the fields of public service broadcasting, population, reconciliation and development. He is a Director on the Board of Reserve Bank of India and an independent Director on a few company Boards. He was Chairman of the government-appointed Board that took charge of Satyam Computer Services in 2009 (after the biggest corporate fraud in India), and oversaw its successful re-habilitation and sale.
He has been on many key government committees. Currently, his many engagements with government include membership of the Scientific Advisory Council to Prime Minister and of the National Innovation Council.
Mr. Karnik’s last full-time job (2001-2008) was as President of NASSCOM, the premier trade body and the “chamber of commerce” for the IT software and services industry in India. During his six year tenure at NASSCOM, industry exports grew almost 8 times, nearing the USD 50 billion mark, and NASSCOM itself became a globally-known and respected brand. This won him wide recognition as the guiding force for the Indian IT industry. By providing perspective and background information, he has been instrumental in promoting India’s technology strength to the world.
Prior to joining NASSCOM in 2001, Mr. Karnik was the Managing Director at Discovery Networks in India where he spearheaded the launch of Discovery Channel in South Asia in August 1995, and Animal Planet (a Discovery – BBC joint venture) in 1999. From 1991 to 1995, Mr. Karnik was Founder-Director of the Consortium for Educational Communication, which was responsible for the Countrywide Classroom broadcasts and other ICT initiatives of India’s University Grants Commission.
Earlier, Mr. Karnik worked for over 20 years at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), where he held various positions including that of Founder-Director of ISRO’s Development and Educational Communication Unit. His work in ISRO involved conceptualizing and managing applications of space technology. He was a key player in the pioneering India-USA Satellite Instructional TV Experiment (SITE) and was deeply involved in the conceptualization and planning of the multi-purpose INSAT system.
Mr. Karnik has worked in the United Nations in New York and Vienna as Special Assistant to the Secretary-General of UNISPACE 82. He has done consulting assignments for WHO, The World Bank, UN Institute for Disarmament Research, Ford Foundation, and an extended one for UNESCO in Afghanistan.
Mr. Karnik has been conferred many awards and accolades. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007 (a civilian honour conferred by the Government), the ‘Dataquest Lifetime Achievement Award’ (2011) and ‘Dataquest IT Person of the Year, 2005’. BusinessWeek named Mr. Karnik as one of the ‘Stars of Asia’ in 2004 and he was selected as Forbes magazine’s ‘Face of the Year 2003’, for being a driving force behind India’s off-shoring wave. In 1999, he was conferred the Vikram Sarabhai Award for Educational Communication, and in 1998, International Astronautical Federation awarded Mr. Karnik the Frank Malina medal for Space Education. The Kheda Communications Project, in which he was deeply involved, won wide national and international acclaim, including the first UNESCO-IPDC Prize for Rural Communication. The government-appointed Board for Satyam Computer Services (which he chaired) has received many awards, including the Businesspersons of the Year awards from CNN-IBN and NDTV Profit, and the IT Persons of the Year from Dataquest.
Mr. Karnik regularly writes for various major national publications and occasionally lectures at important national institutes and international conferences. His book on NASSCOM and the Indian IT industry (‘The Coalition of Competitors’, Harper Collins, 2012) has been very well received.
A post-graduate from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Mr. Karnik holds an Honours degree in Physics from Bombay University.