Ashok Jhunjhunwala is a Professor at IIT Madras.He has a B.Tech from IIT Kanpur, and an M.S. And Ph. D. from the University of Maine, all in the area of electrical sciences. He is a recipient of the Bhatnagar Award as well as the Padmashree Award. He has been associated with PPST from 1981 onwards. He has authored a book on Indian Mathematics, based on what he was taught by elders at his home, rather than at school.
Ashok recognises that India was a well-functioning society with rich science and technological capabilities till about 1800. Understanding this is critical for Indians to stand up and have confidence to develop technologies to solve their problems and not look up to the West for everything.
His focus has been to develop innovative technologies affordable to Indian people with help of a large pool of young engineers, inspired to make a difference. He brought in wireless communications to replace land-line telephony, so that telecom and Internet reach everyone in urban as well as in rural India. This opened up the possibility of a whole variety of digital services for education, health care and agricultural support. He worked on transforming banking and digital payments and was instrumental in introducing Internet banking, mobile-payment, and ATMs in India.
Dharampalji used to often stay at Ashok’s home. Appreciating what he did for telephony, he used to tell Ashok that he should do something similar so that electricity reaches every Indian household. Much later, Ashok learnt about solar energy, and made electricity reach rural homes using solar-DC technology. Today, he works on technologies which would enable a society to live entirely on renewable energy in line with Indian philosophy of worshipping nature.
He conceived and created IITM Research Park to enable next-generation Indians to take control of India’s destiny, develop innovative technologies and commercialise them through start-ups.
He married Bahavani in 1982 and their son Sidharth teaches Bioengineering in IISc Bangalore.