Skip to main content

R: Rohini Nilekani #AToZChallenge

Image Source

While most people only know her as the wife of Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of tech giant Infosys, Rohini Nilekani has used that as a stepping stone to make the world a better place. Not many people talk about her or her achievements, but Rohini is a philanthropist like no other. An active advocate of Indian philanthropy, Rohini believes that dialogue has the power to de-risk our future. Through her work, she seeks to address the extreme inequality between the ‘have-everythings’ and the ‘have-nothings.’ Rohini has spent several years as a journalist, working with leading publications of the time, including Bombay Magazine, India Today, MINT and The Times of India.

With wealth comes huge responsibilities, she says, and thinks that wealth is best deployed in the larger public interest. She believes only a strong society can keep markets and state accountable to the public good. We cannot be mere consumers of good governance; we have to co-create it, she says. Through her work she hopes to enable more creative collaborations across divides and silos. As a citizen and a philanthropist, she wishes to be vested in that positive change.

Rohini Nilekani is the Founder-Chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation that strives to provide safe, sustainable water for all. Since 2005, Arghyam has funded numerous groundwater management and sanitation projects across the country. It has also set up India Water Portal, a knowledge bank that has grown to be a crucial resource for the sector. In 2004, Rohini co-founded and funded Pratham Books, a non-profit publisher of children’s books. The organization seeks to democratize the joy of reading and put ‘a book in every child’s hand.’

Rohini is also the Co-Founder and Director of EkStep. Set up with her husband, Nandan Nilekani, in 2014, the education non-profit is an open learning platform that improves and amplifies learning opportunities for every child. By the time she retired as Chairperson in 2014, Pratham Books had touched the lives of millions of children with its captivating, locally-set stories in multiple Indian languages. She is the brainchild behind all of this and works endlessly to bridge the various gaps that society has today.

As signatories of the Giving Pledge, Rohini and Nandan Nilekani have committed half their wealth to philanthropy.

This is what she believes in:

“Karmanye Va dhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma karma phalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani” 

Translation: We have a right to do our duty but no automatic right to the fruits from the doing. It is critical that we do not slip into inaction fearing that we may not be able to reap direct reward.

Keep doing good, rest will follow. She might not always have a spotlight on her or she probably will never be able to get out of the shadow of her famous husband, but Rohini Nilekani is an inspiration in more ways than one.


I'm participating in the April A to Z Challenge for 2019 and my theme is Wonder Women.


  1. I wasnt aware of Rohini and her work. She is making such a big difference in so many lives with her initiatives. Awe-inspiring!

    1. Sadly, she's always over shadowed by her husband's work. But I hope people start looking at her now.

  2. It was common to see Nandan and NRN dine at Mysore and Bangalore campus, but with their better-halves I have seen both only once. Sudha Murthy addressed us during our training, but I saw Rohini at Cloud Nine Fertility center in Bangalore once.

    Until then I had not much idea about Rohini, but after I read about her pratham books, I was really impressed. To know more about her is interesting and inspiring Sou. I will dig her Water Portal story further.

    When money is in the right hands, it gets spent wisely. They are best examples.

    1. You said this! This woman needs to be more in focus. She's doing a fabulous job.

  3. You're right.. This was a name i did not know much about myself. And that is my bad. Exactly why this series is so important

  4. I had read a little about her earlier. It is laudable how she has been working for the society.


Post a Comment

Just like me, say what you feel. While constructive criticism is welcome, please keep it subtle and kind. Thank you!