Thursday, December 29, 2005

Abhay K. Bhushan- Distinguished Alumni From Kanpur IIT

Abhay K. Bhushan- Distinguished Alumni From Kanpur IIT
23rd November 2002 ( Message 174 )

Dear Members,
It was indeed a pleasure to touch base with Bhushan Dada just yesterday. He is from the very First Batch of IIT-Kanpur and graduated with a B.Tech Degree in Electronics Engineering in 1965.

It is unimaginable that I made contact with "THE GURU" of Internet and Fire wall Protocol. Dada welcome to IIT-Global adventure.

Reproduced below is an article from Hindustan Times.


Modern-day mail man

The pioneer of the E-mail and the File Transfer Protocol, Abhay Bhushan is least tainted by the fame his accomplishments have heaped on him. Himanshu Manglik traces the growth and evolution of this modest entrepreneur Abhay Bhushan.

He just keeps defying straight-jacketing. I have been trying to figure out how to slot him into a mould but its funny how some things just sort of keep eluding you. He parented the e-mail system and the File Transfer Protocol which are in a way the forerunners of the internet.

In the book "Where wizards stay up late. The origin of the Internet'' they talk of him as one of the pioneers.

Graduating in 1965 from IIT Kanpur, he went on to study at MIT for a Masters degree in electrical engineering and an MBA from the Sloan School Of Management. That was when he got involved with path-breaking work, as Chairman of the working group, giving life to the e-mail and the File Transfer Protocol. Abhay feels "perhaps the most significant turning point of my career was when the network was started in 1969... ARP Anet... I just happened to be there at MIT, interested in computers and communications... And they wanted to tie all the university computers together and start a new way of communicating.''

Modest like most people working on inventions or breakthroughs, he did not realise the real significance of what they were creating, "when we first started there was no such thing as computer networks and computer communications... everything was in the stage of infancy and no one had any idea, including myself, that some day it would become the internet and that you could tie all the world's information systems together.''

He may not have realised the awesome implications of his work then, but it was an exciting time he says. "Even at that point in time I had a bias for doing something that would be applicable and we were building the first network. The e-mail and the FTP had its roots there. Almost 10-15 years later it branched and flowered into the internet.'' But at that point the pioneering work that he had done was of little help to him as "no one in the industry had even heard of computer networks except in the research centers.'' When he did move on from MIT, he started working with Xerox Corporation in the USA, in the traditional roles of the corporate family. He did well, but his heart was really into broader issues.

He took a year off on sabbatical from Xerox, and came back to spend a year, with his family, working in the villages in India. He believed that if he was to contribute to his vision of India, then he needed to understand the issues that emanated from the 70-75 per cent population that lived in the villages. "I wanted to see what I could do to make a difference to the lives of the poorest people.'' It reinforced his belief in the model of social and ecological interdependence and consequent responsibilities. That he feels may have been the second turning point in his career.

"Environment is the most important, long term issue facing not only India or's for all of us. We must realise that we are cells in the whole body of life and the whole body of the planet. If one is getting rich at the expense of the other species or if humanity is taking more and more and more at the expense of everything else, it doesn't help humanity. Like cancer, the body would either eject the cancer or the cancer would destroy the body.'' Coming back to Xerox after his sabbatical he continued with the traditional role playing of the corporate being. But the process of inner evolution had started. "I think in the corporate sector it is the same interdependence between industries, especially in the same sector. Competition is just a way to get excellent, to define that we are all moving forward with excellence. I believe that Darwin was somewhat inaccurate in his theory of evolution, about the survival of the fittest. There is competition in nature, but there is far more cooperation.''

"Some of us worked to change the premise that environment was anti-business into an understanding that business and environment go together. When we help environment we also help business. I am proud that when I was at Xerox... the Xerox factory at Rampur was always number 1 in waste reduction.'' Abhay Bhushan just met them to give them an award for the best recycling and waste reduction site worldwide at Xerox "it's outstanding and I felt so happy that India was taking the lead.''

He has a very successful entrepreneurial side too. Abhay's company, co-founded by him just a few years ago is already listed on the NASDAQ in the USA. Another company that he had established-Portola Communications - was bought over by Netscape for the value that it provided for them. For most people this would have been time to take it easy.

But not for him. His lifestyle reflects how the emotional side in him dominates and why he is so passionate about the environmental issues and why he still has his dreams and visions. "I have personally cycled to work for at least 60 per cent of the days in the past 12 years. First it was 21/2 miles, then it was 5 miles, then my office moved to a location that was 9 miles, but I still continued to cycle to work. I was bicycling because I thought that this is the right way to be, and because it's fundamentally a better way.''

After more than three decades in the US, it is unlikely that Abhay will come back to India. He candidly admits. "I am happy there but I miss India, because my roots are here. But I draw a lot of inspiration, a lot of guidance from these roots. They are sustaining. However, my branches are in the United States, including my children, my family and my other extended family.'' He believes that like him there are many other NRIs who want to contribute to the Indian society, where their roots are. "The Indian community there has matured. These people have been there for 25-30 years and have essentially settled and made it good. Many of them are now looking at a kind of a commitment to India, whether through entrepreneurship or by giving money to NGOs.''

He too would like to do more. though he is already quite active in his concern for India. 'Indians for collective action', 'Funds for rapid advancement of India', 'India literacy projects' are some of the organisations that he is directly involved with. While airing his concern for India, he, however, does not perceive America as a materialistic-capitalist state but a value based society. He loves to quote from Kennedy's inaugural speech in 1961 'if free society cannot help the many who are poor then it cannot save the many who are rich'.

His observation is that America has achieved a good combination of socialism and capitalism. He is candid in his analysis. "Though they do not say so, the fact is that schooling is free, books are given, there is social security for aged people, there is medi-care irrespective of whether you are poor or rich. So the state is taking care of you and that is socialism. It is also capitalist and there is free enterprise. America is a sort of combination.''

He credits his personal development to a few people. "Gandhi has been a very important role model for me, from what I have heard about him, from what I have read about him, from what he has written. I don't mean Gandhi as he was in the 1930s or 1940s. I see Gandhi as he would be in the present day circumstance, because Gandhi was a very adaptable, strategic, tactical person. If you ask me, when Gandhi was talking about decentralisation and cottage industry, I think he would have liked the microchip because that allows things to be decentralised with the computer, so that everyone has the world's information resources at his fingertips like what the internet does.''