India’s foremost champion of the software cause, Dewang Mehta had been
associated with Nasscom for ten active years till an untimely demise cut short
his brilliant run. A CA by qualification, Dewang’s association with IT began
with a foray in computer graphics from London in 1985. After working extensively
in the field of computer graphics, Dewang returned to India for personal reasons
and took over the fledgling Nasscom.
Dewang spearheaded the country’s IT export initiative in global markets.
Thanks to Dewang’s tireless efforts, the central government, as also some
state governments that joined in, actively promoted IT around the world. Dewang
and Nasscom have been primarily responsible for major concessions given to the
software industry like income-tax exemption, legislation on software
reproduction, excise and sales tax exemption in several states.
Dewang’s relentless pursuit saw the emergence of Indian IT as a strong
brand accepted across the globe. He propelled Nasscom from being a 72-member
body to its status today–over 1,000 members, financially healthy and the
strongest voice of the software industry.
Dewang lobbied, fought and worked with the government for the benefit of the
IT industry, be it in terms of income-tax exemptions, reduction in peak software
duties or simply making the government aware of the potential of the Indian IT
industry. He organized more than 100 international seminars around the world and
these have resulted in more than 150 formal joint ventures and strategic
alliances being signed.
He was a workaholic, who worked selflessly for the betterment of his
association and his nation. His aim was to put Nasscom and India on the world
map as the super powers in the software world. A brilliant thinker and maybe one
of the best politically and media savvy business executives,he was as much at
home with politicians as with the biggest business leaders.The biggest gift that
Dewang gave to the Indian software industry was that he brought them together to
approach the western world.
Dewang had the panache of attracting the attention of the media. He had the
knack of feeding the right amount of information and making the right statements
at the precise times. His love for the camera is maybe the reason why he made
all the ad films in the earlier part of his carrier.
He accomplished a lot in his short life span; short of his two other dreams,
one of owning a commercial pilot’s license and the other–directing his own
Born in Umreth, a small village in Gujarat on August 10, 1962, Mehta’s
family shifted to Delhi when he was six years old. He passed out from Bharatiya
Vidya Bhavan in 1979 with hopes of becoming a doctor. Although three medical
colleges accepted him, his choice was AIIMS in Delhi. Unfortunately, he got
rejected due to an admission quirk at AIIMS. He went instead to St Xaviers
College, Mumbai, studying political science, French and history. After two
months, he was bored. Six months later, he appeared for the chartered
accountancy entrance exams, and in 1984 became a CA.
Cinema to graphics: The IT connection
In 1977, on a vacation to his village, he met Shyam Benegal, who was shooting
his first movie, Manthan. For two months, Mehta worked with Benegal as a spot
boy. Here, he developed an understanding of the art of movie-making. Since then,
he was hooked on to the idea of making a movie of his own. His next lucky break
was a middle he wrote for The Times of India in 1978. Maneka Gandhi, then editor
of Surya, appointed him to write for the magazine for the princely sum of Rs 600
a month. Mehta the writer teamed up with two other journalists in 1982, to form
the ‘Asian Travel Writers Association’, to promote Indian writing on travel
and tourism. In the same year, he made his first film, a 20-minute documentary
on Indian tourism titled ‘Glimpses Of India’. This documentary won an award
at the Commonwealth Film Festival held at Leeds in July 1983. For the first
time, he came in contact with computer graphics.
In October 1988, Mehta joined Orissa Cement (OCL) as general manager. In the
meantime, the then Nasscom president Harish Mehta (of Hinditron at that time,
and now chief of Onward-Novell India) asked him to find a replacement for the
previous secretary of Nasscom. Unable to find anybody suitable, the one Mehta
offered the other the job. So in April 1991, Dewang Mehta joined Nasscom on a
part-time basis because "he wanted to carry on with his film making".
The rest is history.