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Neelesh Kelkar, Head, Smart Cities, Indus Towers
For Neelesh Kelkar, working on India’s first and biggest private smart city project in Mumbai in 2012 was one of the most challenging and exciting assignments of his career that spans over two decades. He was with IBM at the time. “This was a first-of-its-kind project. We only had a vague idea of a smart city; there was no clear roadmap, no partner ecosystem and in-built resistance from the team. The project, however, was successfully implemented in 2015,” he says.
Kelkar is currently working with Indus Towers as head of its smart cities vertical. He believes that the telecom roll-outs and data explosion have paved way for the development of smart cities. “At present, the smart city framework revolves around citizen services, which focus on collaboration with the government on ICT services. We aim to engage the government and develop a suitable environment for private participation in this journey, and establish a sustainable business model.”
He adds, “IoT and M2M communication is a key area for the smart city initiatives. The acceptance of new ICT solutions by core industries is accelerating growth in this domain. Smart cities are a starting point of this convergence and will be followed by a big wave of smart factories. Since I have worked in the manufacturing sector in the past and with the IT and telecom industry recently, I see it as a great opportunity to be associated with.”
Besides Indus and IBM, Kelkar has been associated with companies in the manufacturing, food and beverage, and infrastructure sectors. He counts his eclectic experience in diverse sectors as his key strength. “However, the same happens to be my weakness as well. Short stints in various fields led to limited networking,” he says.
Kelkar has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, Pune. He has also completed a programme for business managers from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
Kelkar enjoys listening to classical music and has been playing the tabla for the past 14 years. He is now learning to play the guitar. “Teaching mathematics, particularly to needy and poor children, is also an activity that energises me,” he says. His family includes his wife, a homemaker and their two children. “My daughter was diagnosed with a hearing disability at birth. Today, she is in Class 10 and has passed five exams in Kathak. My son was recently selected for the Mumbai district gymnastics team.”
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