A heartfelt tribute to Hemant Sonawala

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Hemant Sonawala was one of the early Indians to learn about electronics and computers in the US and return to India. His technical knowledge combined with business acumen took him to pioneering heights of the Indian computer industry. Hundreds of Indian professionals in the field got their experience by working in enterprises started by him. Many of them are now serving as leaders of the profession. He never allowed business commitments to reduce his professional and social service activities.

His work through the Computer Society of India and his social service activities through the Lions are well-known. His work, in collaboration with Prof PVS Rao, to train visually challenged youngsters in computing is legendary. I had the great pleasure of working with him and Dr P P Gupta in planning and running India’s first international conference in the computer field – Networks 80. Among the many exhibits at this conference was a demonstration of the concept of Railway Passenger Reservations that we had planned.

Hemant and I had called on the Railway Board Chairman to solicit Railway’s interest in the demo and the concept. The demo was implemented by a team headed by Mr P Sadanandan at TIFR. Dr Gupta’s enduring enthusiasm for this mass application was to make it a reality through the energy of his CMC Colleagues, a few years later. Hemant’s contributions to creating the Digital Equipment Corporation of India Ltd. were very important to the growth of the Indian software and services industry.


Hemant's passing away is a great loss to every one of us who has worked with him. We have individually benefited a lot from the inspiration and encouragement he gave us in our endeavors. I will remember him for the rest of my life as a cheerful, enthusiastic and supportive colleague and friend.

- Dr S Ramani

Dr S Ramani started his career with TIFR, Mumbai, and then went on to be the first director of the National Center for Software Technology. NCST helped him play a significant role in creating India's academic network, ERNET, which brought the Internet to India in 1987. Later, in 2001, Dr Ramani played a key role in setting up the HP Labs India, as its first director. Dr Ramani has also served as President of the International Council for Computer Communication, and of the Computer Society of India (CSI). He has also served on the Expert Panel advising the ICT Task Force of the UN.

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