Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala enjoys a phenomenal stature of repute and excellence in telecommunications research. Currently serving as a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Madras, Prof. Jhunjhunwala has redefined the role of an academician in the present education system by taking his work out from the confines of a conventional set-up and translating it into wealth that has benefitted masses.
For his stellar contributions towards developing affordable technologies for rural India, he has been bestowed with several national and international awards including the Padma Shri in 2002. In 2000, IIT Kanpur conferred upon him the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his outstanding contributions to the area of communications engineering.
"Denying access to technology is denying power to people. Technology has to have societal benefits."
Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala's academic journey started in 1971 when he joined IIT Kanpur to study electrical engineering. The institute, as he says, not only offered him domain knowledge but also influenced his perspectives towards life. "I led a pretty sheltered life until I joined IIT Kanpur. It was here that I met people from different walks of life and that completely changed me." Following his B.Tech., he went to pursue MS and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Maine, USA, in 1977 and 1979, respectively.
After working for a while at the Washington State University as an Assistant Professor, Prof. Jhunjhunwala returned to India in 1981 and joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Madras. Since then, he has been associated with IIT Madras. Amongst the numerous stellar contributions he has made so far, TeNet is of prime importance. Under his vision and leadership, the Telematics and Computer Network Group (TeNet) has developed cutting-edge technologies in telecom, banking, IT, and Power Systems (including solar) sectors with a special focus on rural masses. He is also the developer of the first Wireless in Local Loop (corDECT WLL) technology system in India. Through tenet, he has mentored more than 100 R&D companies which have resulted in setting up IIT Madras Research Park.
Prof. Jhunjhunwala's contributions are not just confined to the telecom sector. He is also the founder chairman of the Mobile Payment Forum of India, which enabled mobile payments in India. Currently, he is focusing on the Rural Business Incubation Centre (RTBI) at IIT Madras, wherein he identifies the real social entrepreneurs whose products will benefit rural India and helps them incubate their businesses.
Prof, Jhunjhunwala serves on the board of several leading telecom and IT Indian companies including BSNL, VSNL, Polaris, Sasken, Tejas Networks, and IDRBT. He has been Chairman and member of various government committees and several educational institutions in the country. He is also a Fellow of World Wireless Research Forum, IEEE, and Indian academies including INAE, IAS, INSA, and NAS. For his outstanding contributions, he has been conferred Honorary Doctorates by the University of Maine, USA, and the Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden, respectively. He is also a regular speaker in international forums.
Prof. Jhunjhunwala's work has succeeded in breaking barriers between academia and industry and forge close research alliances for developing a number of telecommunications and computer network systems. His undying commitment to take technology to rural masses has earned him the title of a 'Telecommunications Evangelist'.
Achievements and Honors
Top Innovator of Top 11 Innovators Challenge, 2011.
Bernard Low Humanitarian Award, 2009.
Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Lecture Award by INSA, 2006.
IBM Innovation and Leadership Forum Award, 2006.
Shri Om Prakash Bhasin Foundation Award for Science & Technology, 2004.