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Rajesh Jain, Internet Visionary and Millionaire
Rajesh Jain, seated at a computer terminal in the Monell Engineering
Library, with his portal, IndiaWorld.co.in, on the screen.
Twelve years ago on Labor Day Weekend, Rajesh Jain, a graduate
of the Indian Institute of Technology, came to Columbia for the
first time. He had no housing, so he stayed with friends.
On this year's Labor Day Weekend, Rajesh Jain returned to the
campus for the first time since his graduation with a master's degree
in 1989. This time he also stayed with friends. But some changes
have occurred in the intervening years. Rajesh Jain has become a
multi-millionaire and an advocate for Internet accessibility for
everyone, especially those in his country. Last year, Jain sold
his portal company, IndiaWorld, to Satyam Infoway for a reported
Jain's transformation from graduate student to technocrat began
after a two-year stint with NYNEX, marketing high-speed data networks.
In 1991, he returned to India and, in May of the following year,
founded Ravi Database, a consulting and image-processing company
for medical and metallurgical needs. "We had a product but
the lead time to order was two or three years and we were losing
money," said Jain, matter-of-factly. "The business had
But, like the phoenix, a re-born company, IndiaWorld.com, rose
from the ashes in March, 1995. The new company was the result of
an inspiration Jain had when he was on the West Coast following
the collapse of Ravi Database. It was 1994, Netscape had been launched
and there was much talk about the Internet and its potential. Jain
recognized it as a way to serve as a bridge in the electronic marketplace
and to connect non-resident Indians (NRIs) to their homeland.
Within four years, IndiaWorld.co.in (the successor to Indiaworld.com)
had 13 specialized websites linking topics of interest to non-resident
Indians: news, cricket, recipes and a search engine were the most
popular. To keep the information up-to-the-minute, Jain created
a software program that trolls the Internet, gets headlines from
actual newspaper websites, and brings them to the IndiaWorld website
for the user to access. The headlines are refreshed every 20 minutes.
Jain's most popular sites are samachar.com for news; khel.com
for cricket; khoj.com as a search engine; and bawarchi.com for recipes.
(The recipes site started with recipes of his Aunt Saroj and has
grown to a collection of more than 5,000.)
In November, 1999, Jain sold IndiaWorld.co.in to Satyam Infoway,
India's largest Internet service provider, which also owns one of
India's largest portals for domestic Indians. IndiaWorld's appeal
to NRIs was complementary to Satyam's and he is now working for
the parent company. "I have three responsibilities at Satyam,"
Jain said on a recent trip to New York. "I oversee IndiaWorld
operations, I provide strategic direction and input to Satyam and
I am now setting up an investment fund for technology companies
out of India."
He maintains his modest demeanor and an unspoiled, boyish smile.
At 33, he is looking for ways to improve life for his fellow countrymen.
Strolling through the Morningside campus on a sunny, September morning,
he described his hopes for the future. "I envision the farmers
and fishermen being able to access the weather report from wherever
they are, no matter how remote. With innovative technologies, they
should be able to rent a unit the size of a Palm Pilot for $3 or
$4 a month.""We need to skip intervening generations of
technology to level the footing with the rest of the world,"
he said. "We need to make a difference in people's lives so
that it is not just 10 million Indians but 100 million Indians using
the system in the next three years."
If past performance is any indication of future success, Jain's
personal vision will become a reality, and he credits Columbia with
helping him achieve his success. "I am grateful to Columbia
for the high quality of education that I received," he said.