Balancing Charisma with tact

DQW Bureau
20 Apr 2001

I wonder if anyone in contemporary IT times would be remembered in the same way as Dewang Mehta. If it's one person who will be remembered for ceaselessly working in the interest of the Indian IT industry, it will be him. It is sad

that we should have lost him in his prime. May god be with him and may he rest in peace.


I will not take the liberty of having known him as a close friend or for that matter from close quarters. Of course, I had opportunities to hear him at seminars. He definitely had a sense of humor and tried to combine serious issues with light vein stuff. I guess this combination of the serious and light mood disposition must have worked well for him. For he did manage to make considerable headway with the recommendations for reforms with the government-given the fact that he probably never lost an opportunity to take digs at the government. 

Consider this for example: The only segments in the IT sector doing well were the ones which did not have a government ministry (to this effect, thought not exactly in the same words.) I am sure he drew considerable strength as head of probably the most powerful industry association. The software industry is obviously a big foreign exchange earner for the country and by virtue of that alone would wield considerable clout. And I guess he used his position well to promote the interests of the industry.

People in general do tend to acquire a bit of brashness with success. Of course I would not be in a position to comment if that was the case with Dewang. But I guess if he could be bold enough to take digs at the government in public, he could afford to be bolder in private. And that is a stance only he who knows his job inside out can take. So it was that his seriousness of purpose was never lost on the government. They knew he meant business. And they knew he meant well. So I guess, the digs were taken in the spirit in which they were dished out. 


The important thing is that there was tremendous progress with Dewang as head of NASSCOM. There are several things that one could possibly learn from him. One, that it is possible to combine a cheerful disposition with seriousness of purpose. There is a similar posture that I have observed a couple of heads of organizations assent to. But there is a qualitative difference between the two. Maybe it is a style issue. The latter I would say is more akin to blow hot, blow cold. You are never sure how close you are to that person. At times you feel you are his favorite, at others you feel dumped.

While this approach has the advantage of ensuring that the person never gets taken for granted, it has its downsides too. Invariably in this approach, different people are looked upon as favorites at different times. And earlier favorites are looked upon as those fallen from grace. The grapevine that tends to do the rounds, therefore, is, 'who is the flavor of the month?' Obviously, the approach gets tagged with a perception of predictability and hence tends to get discounted a bit. Also, while this approach may work for a head of organization, it is unlikely to work in a situation where relationships are more on an equal footing.

Mehta's style in this context would therefore, seem very appropriate since associations like NASSCOM are in a way informal organization and neither do such associations have full sway over their members or an the government. When someone has been as successful as Dewang, it is difficult for someone to step into his shoes with ease. And this probably is not such a positive aspect. In fact, balancing between your charisma (where you appear to be the sole crusader) and the projection of the organization as a faceless but effective vehicle. I say this because for the work that is done is to my mind, is one of the toughest things to achieve. How much Dewang has been able to achieve on that front, only time will tell.


As of now, one is left with a deep sense of vacuum. The software industry has tough times ahead. And NASSCOM and Dewang had their job pretty much laid out. There is a need to spread risks by reducing over dependency on any one economy. I am sure with Dewang's amending energy; he would have worked to make the Indian software industry emerge stronger from this crisis.

Probably God has his own ideas. As they say, he too needs good guys! One can only be philosophical in times like these.

But the world has to go on. All that we can do is to carry on the good work. Dewang Mehta may be dead. But he has shown what is possible. We can keep his spirit alive by taking on from where he has left. To make this industry strong and a beacon that guides others.

Long live his spirits. Long live Dewang Mehta!