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A Tribute to Dewang Mehta (1962-2001)
Tuesday, May 1, 2001

It matters not how long we live, but how - Philip James Bailey.
Appropriate words for Dewang Mehta. Those who knew him well are aware of the life he led. Working all day long, going to sleep at 4:00 am, and up and about before anyone around him, or fixing up a crucial meeting at his office way past midnight. And, to top it all off, traveling at least 20 days a month.

Without undermining the work of others, clearly if there is one person India should thank for putting it on the pecking order in software, it’s Dewang Mehta. The industry always had potential. Our vast nation had the brainpower, but it needed a messiah who would sell it to the world. And that, I have no doubt in my mind, was Dewang.

In fact, in a country like ours, there was an equal measure of selling to do to the corridors of power, which Dewang successfully managed.

I still remember a day 10 years ago at the then bustling Sea Rock Sheraton where I was interviewing Veer Sagar (then CEO of DCM Data) and there was someone familiar who was sitting at the table next to us. I asked Veer who he was, and didn’t look twice at the man. He had just joined NASSCOM, but then who really cared about NASSCOM, the software industry or a Dewang Mehta then?

In the decade since, he singly made NASSCOM into one of the most powerful trade bodies in India. It is not without reason that Dewang came to be known as one of the best lobbyists in the country. The man almost always got what he wanted, and other trades were left wondering why they couldn’t do as much.

The most important contribution of Dewang’s was that he got the industry together and made sure that it approached the West with one voice. The IT sector got a catalyst who rallied around them, and because he had no personal stake in software, he worked selflessly for everyone. He had facts and figures on his fingertips, and the finesse with which he presented all of them even had the most hard-nosed politicians eating out of his hands.

The annual convention he organized for NASSCOM became a runaway success. It was after looking at a small demo of the Internet that I gave him six years ago that Dewang instantly decided to set up a ‘Cybercity’ at NASSCOM 1995. He intuitively appreciated the true potential of the Internet and has since been championing the cause of the Web community.

His public relations ability was par excellence — he could be at ease with chief ministers from different parties and industry leaders from India and the rest of the world. Over the years, he had also turned into a very charismatic speaker. His anecdotes and very easy style of speaking could hold even the most disinterested audience for over an hour.

Despite all the technology practitioners around him, Dewang was an extremely religious person. He was a devotee of the Shirdi Sai Baba, and would find happiness in prayer. Words from Tennyson come to mind: God’s finger touched him, and he slept. May the software industry prosper as Dewang had envisioned it. Vijay Mukhi founded The Bombay Computer Club, with Dewang Mehta, Harish Mehta and Raj Saraf si

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