In the 50th talk of our “Leadership Lecture Series : Alumni Speak” , we present Dr. Gururaj Deshpande (1973/BT/EE), Chairman of Sycamore Networks on “Living & Giving”.

Dr. Gururaj Deshpande (“Desh” Deshpande) is an Indian-American venture capitalist and entrepreneur, who is best known for co-founding the Chelmsford, MA-based internet equipment manufacturer Sycamore Networks, the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT and the Deshpande Foundation.

Presently, Deshpande is the Chairman of Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks, HiveFire, Sandstone Capital, Sparta Group, and sits on the Board of Airvana.

Deshpande is also a Life Member of the MIT Corporation, the Board of Trustees of MIT.

In July 2010, Deshpande was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Co-Chairmanship of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a group established to support the US President’s innovation strategy.

 

In this article, Dr. Deshpande gives a brief introduction about himself, and his contributions to IIT Madras. Our exclusive and detailed coverage of Dr. Gururaj Deshpande’s work, career, institute life and his innumerable charitable activities shall continue for the rest of this week.

 

I graduated from IIT Madras in 1973 in Electronics/Computers.  My wife, Jaishree, graduated in 1975 after completing her M.Sc in Physics from IIT Madras.  We got married in 1980 and have been living in Boston for the last thirty years.  I have been very fortunate to have had several entrepreneurial opportunities and started several successful companies.  After achieving a certain amount of success, we wanted to see how we can help others have opportunities similar to those that we had.  We set up the Deshpande Foundation about twenty years ago, after our first company Cascade Communications went public in United States in 1994.  Our first big initiatives from the Foundation was to work with IIT Madras.  Jaishree was very instrumental in coming with the idea of building a ladies hostel, Sharavathi, to encourage more girls to enter Science and Engineering.  We funded the Institute to set up the Alumni Office and also build the first campus wide computer network.  

 

In the year 2000, I joined the Board of MIT and realized the real role that universities  need to play in the 21st century,  When I graduated in 1973, the IITs were very exclusive and excelled in educating good students.  However, the 21st century Universities have to INVENT, INNOVATE and EDUCATE ENTREPRENEURIAL students so that they can play a key role in solving the grand challenges of the 21st century. To get this process started at IIT Madras, we set up the Deshpande Center for Optical Networking at IIT Madras.  There was a lot of excellent research being done at IIT Madras, under the able leadership of Dr. Ashok Jhunjhunwala and Dr. Bhaskar Ramamurthi in Communications.  Their group not only came up with good ideas but put them in practice.  I am so pleased that IIT Madras took and full advantage of the Deshpande Center and has progressed to taking on major initiatives, such as setting up the IIT Madras Research Park, that is revolutionizing the way universities connect with the practitioners.
With the success of companies like InfoSys, Wipro, TCS, etc, India has proved that Indians can master technology and can compete with the best in the world.  However, these companies develop technologies for other countries. I firmly believe that the next generation of successful companies will be built on not only mastering technology, but developing products to solve problems of India.  This poses not only a tremendous opportunity but will dramatically change the country.  I am hoping that both the faculty and the current students at IIT Madras will rise to this challenge.  I am looking forward to interacting with all of you on 5th February, 2014.

Stay tuned for the next article of our coverage of Dr. Gururaj Deshpande, which shall talk in detail about the Deshpande Center at MIT.