Rajesh Jain is a technology entrepreneur and a pioneer in Asia’s dotcom revolution. He created India’s first Internet portals in the late 1990s. He then started what is today India’s largest digital marketing company. Rajesh continues to be an entrepreneur but in a different domain – nation building. Rajesh believes that India needs transformation and we have to be the political entrepreneurs in that revolution.
Nayi Disha, an initiative by Rajesh, is a political platform for making Indians prosperous.
Rajesh’s previous political-tech venture, Niti Digital, was one of the key organisations that supported the 2014 BJP election campaign for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It had a 100-person team working for two years in the right-of-centre digital media space (NitiCentral.com), elections data and analytics (IndiaVotes.com), and volunteering platform (India272.com). Rajesh was the first person to publicly articulate a campaign focused on ensuring a wave election for BJP in a June 2011 emergic.org blog post “Project 275 for 2014”.
Rajesh is founder and Chairman of Netcore Solutions, India’s leading provider of digital real-time communications via email and mobile, and multi-channel marketing automation and campaign management solutions for enterprises. Netcore serves over 2,000 Indian and international corporates through its product and platform solutions, and sends over 10 billion messages (emails and SMSes) monthly through its messaging gateways.
One of Rajesh’s early ventures, IndiaWorld Communications, launched in 1995 was acquired by Satyam Infoway in November 1999 for US$ 115 million in one of Asia's largest Internet deals. IndiaWorld was the largest collection of India-centric websites, comprising Samachar (news), Khel (cricket), Khoj (search) and Bawarchi (food).
Rajesh did his B. Tech (Electrical Engineering) from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1988, followed by M.S. from Columbia University, New York in 1989. He worked at NYNEX, USA, for 2 years before returning to India to begin his entrepreneurial ventures in 1992.Rajesh is a recognised leader in the information technology and has been an invited speaker at national and international forums. He has also been featured in cover stories in both TIME (2000) and Newsweek (2007). Rajesh was named “one of India’s Best Strategists” by The Economic Times in Sept 2013.
A few interesting highlights from Rajesh’s life:
When Harshad Mehta met Prime Minister Narasimha Rao: telling the time on a half-hidden wristwatch from a grainy image. In the summer of 1993, a controversy was raging – did Harshad Mehta give a suitcase filled with money to the then Prime Minister? The Prime Minister’s Office released a photo saying that the PM could not have met Harshad Mehta because he was meeting with a Pakistani delegation at the same time. Rajesh looked at the photo in India Today, and saw a watch on the hands of Aga Shahi, the Pakistan foreign minister. Using his image processing software, he analysed the watch in the photo and gave an analysis to India Today with a revelation that shook the PM’s office!
IndiaWorld: sparking India’s dotcom revolution. Rajesh launched India’s first Internet portals in March 1995. They grew to be the largest. Satyam Infoway (later, Sify) acquired Rajesh’s fledgling 20-person company for Rs 500 crore in one of Asia’s largest deals in November 1999.
Covers of TIME and Newsweek magazines: a unique double for two innovative ventures. TIME magazine featured Rajesh as part of a cover story on Asia’s Internet boom in March 2000, and Newsweek magazine wrote about Rajesh’s $100 computer project (Novatium) in Feb 2006.
How Rajesh became a political entrepreneur: a question that changed his life. Rajesh’s transition from the world of technology to politics began when a friend asked him a question in 2008: “When your son grows up and asks you, ‘Papa, you saw all that was going wrong in India. You had the time and the money. Why didn’t you do something about it?’, what will you answer him?” Thinking about the answer to that question put Rajesh on a journey to take up the greatest challenge an entrepreneur could possibly want: how to make India prosperous?
The early years at the intersection of politics and technology: from Friends of BJP to Niti Digital. In early 2009, Rajesh co-founded the political action group, Friends of BJP, to get the urban middle class to support the BJP. In 2010, Rajesh met Mr. Narendra Modi for the first time and told him that he would like to work to make him Prime Minister in 2014. In 2011, Rajesh wrote a public blog post entitled “Project 275 for 2014” – it detailed how the BJP could get a majority on its own in the general election of 2014. Rajesh then put together a team of 100 people in “Niti Digital” to work on media, data and technology for Mr. Modi’s campaign.
Predicting the 2014 election – in 2011: The secret behind BJP’s Mission 272+. In June 2011, public blog post “Project 275 for 2014”, Rajesh wrote: “For the BJP to form a govt at the Centre, it needs to focus winning not just 175 but 275 seats (or 225 + 45 with the three current NDA allies). Winning 275 needs a dramatically different strategy from trying to win 175. To get to 275 seats out of 350-odd seats [where it is competitive], the BJP needs to ensure a “wave” election with a 75% hit rate. That needs to be focus of future efforts. A summation of state elections will only get us to 175-odd, and if the Congress manages 150, BJP will not be able to form the government. A wave election last happened in India in 1984. BJP’s approach needs to be to work towards creating a wave in 2014 – across the country, and especially in the 330-350 seats where the BJP is competitive…[BJP needs to] switch focus from maximising allies to maximising seats for 2014. All strategy needs to be focused on this.” For the record, BJP won 282 seats in May 2014.
A love for data: Khel.com and IndiaVotes.com. Rajesh had set up India’s foremost cricket site, Khel.com, in 1997. Besides the live coverage of all cricket matches, what made Khel.com stand apart was its treasure trove of statistics – all Tests, ODIs and Ranji Trophy matches had been digitised to offer insights into cricket like never before. Rajesh did the same with elections data in 2012 with the launch of IndiaVotes.com. Every national and state election data has been digitised to offer an intuitive data-driven understanding of the results.
The journey from Niti Digital to Nayi Disha: understanding why some nations are rich and others stay poor. After the 2014 elections, Rajesh had trusted that the new BJP government would put India on the path to prosperity. But with time, Rajesh realised that all governments are essentially the same – they all focus on growing the size and scope of the government; their only difference lies in the packing and selling. Rajesh has spent time in the past three years reading, talking to people and thinking – to understand a very basic question: why are Indians not rich? The answer was also simple but non-intuitive: Indians have too much government, and too little freedom. Governments do not create prosperity; people do. In India, constraints are put on individuals while giving a free hand to governments – exactly the opposite of what is needed to make Indians prosperous.
Rajesh’s belief: make big plans. Rajesh sees himself as an entrepreneur, not a politician. He likes to think big – in technology and politics. Rajesh embodies the quote from Daniel Burnham, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”
Rajesh’s next goal: making Indians prosperous. Rajesh has done a few impossible things in his life for himself. This time through Nayi Disha, he wants to do it for 130 crore Indians.
Write to me at email@example.com. The journey begins in January 2018.