Meet new Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who is a former IAS officer-turned-entrepreneur and alumnus of IIT Kanpur, Wharton

Ashwini Vaishnaw is a first-time minister who will hold the portfolios of Electronics & IT and Communications in addition to the Ministry of Railways. Here’s more on the former IAS officer-turned-entrepreneur, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and Wharton School of Business.
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Ashwini Vaishnaw – who on Thursday assumed charge as the new Union Minister for IT and Railways – may be a first-time minister in the Modi government but the policymaker has donned many hats in his nearly two-decade-long career spanning public administration, entrepreneurship, and governance.

As an engineer and former IAS officer-turned-entrepreneur, Ashwini Vaishnaw, 50, brings with him a unique experience in and an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of civil service, entrepreneurship, engineering, corporate life, and policymaking.

Union IT and Electronics Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw (right) greeted by MeiTY Secretary Ajay Sawhney

As part of a mega reshuffle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 77-member Council of Ministers this week, Ashwini Vaishnaw was appointed as the Union Minister for Railways, previously held by Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, as well the Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology and Communications, previously held by Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“With the blessings of Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi ji, I will take charge tomorrow and work relentlessly to realise his vision,” Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted, shortly after the announcement of his appointment on Wednesday.

A strong proponent of the role of entrepreneurship in fuelling the nation’s growth, Ashwini Vaishnaw believes “…India can transform with the energy of a million entrepreneurs.”

To harness this energy, India should have a dynamic policy structure that is nimble, yet stable, adds the minister, who is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Union IT & Electronics and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

The Union Minister, who graduated from IIT Kanpur with an MTech degree in industrial management and joined the IAS in 1994 representing the Odisha cadre, also has the experience of working in the private sector with blue-chip companies such as General Electric (GE) and Siemens. Post his stints at corporate life, he also became an entrepreneur, starting a venture in the automotive component sector.

He was later elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) to the Rajya Sabha representing Odisha in 2019 in a rare-bi-partisan support in recognition of his service to the people of the state, where he served in various capacities in Sundargarh, Balasore and Cuttack districts.

As a recognition of his work in Odisha, where he played a pivotal role in rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of the devastating super cyclone of 1999, Ashwini had also been deputed to work as private secretary to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The minister greeted by staff of Union Ministry of Communications

To be clear, this is the first time that he has been given a heavyweight Cabinet portfolio despite not having any ministerial experience.

The minister takes up the role at a very critical point for the nation given the fast-changing technology shifts and the need for policymakers to framework regulations that will strike a balance between individual privacy and fostering innovation.

The government has already unveiled new regulations which aim to curb digital monopolies and ensure that critical data remains within the country.

He also assumes charge at a time when India’s technology-driven startup ecosystem is playing a bigger role than ever in solving for the needs of 1.3 billion Indians and being seen as a strong enabler of the next leg of growth for the country.

Vaishnaw, who firmly believes that the way to build the country is to put the money in investment rather than putting money in consumption, is also expected to continue to build on the efforts of the IT ministry in boosting the Indian startup ecosystem and enabling a conducive environment for tech innovations and entrepreneurship.

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