Meet NLSIU’s Chief Operating Officer | Mr. Shailesh Agarwal
November 21, 2022
We extend a warm welcome to Mr. Shailesh Agarwal who joins NLSIU as its first Chief Operating Officer. In a career spanning 30 years, he has led large business units, strategic client relationships and operations at scale across industries and customer segments. Prior to joining NLSIU, he has worked with Larsen & Toubro, and with IBM for over 25 years.
At NLSIU, he will lead and execute all operational functions to meet our evolving needs and strategic goals across a variety of the University’s functions including its infrastructure projects, estate, facilities, and IT. He will also work in partnership with teams across the University to drive innovation, transformation and improved performance, within and across functions.
We spoke to him to find out more about his interests and his work.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I am originally from Uttarakhand but have lived in Bangalore for about 30 years. Interestingly, my father was a Professor of Law and therefore, most of my student life was spent in university campuses in Allahabad, Delhi, Rohtak. However, I followed the technical field and graduated from IIT-Delhi. I then pursued post-graduation in management from XLRI, Jamshedpur.
I was one of those fortunate people who started their work life along with advent of liberalisation in India around 1993. As part of the industry, I have seen the India growth story unfolding up close – and I would like to believe that I played a role there. In a career spanning 30 years, I had the opportunity to lead large business units, strategic client relationships and operations at scale across industries and customer segments in the IT Industry.
Could you share some highlights of your career prior to joining NLSIU?
I joined NLS from L&T (Chennai) where I headed a business unit called L&T Smart World. The business was focused on connecting the physical world to the IT world. I was involved in executing some very large projects on Smart Cities and the National Broadband Mission that helped enable broadband connectivity in 33,000 villages across India. Prior to that, I worked with IBM for almost 25 years. I was the Chief Operating Officer for IBM for five years, driving the transformation agenda of the company. My last assignment in IBM was taking up the role of Enterprise Sales leader – this involved driving the IBM business with some of the largest clients in India.
How do you envision a COO’s role in a public university such as NLS? Would you like to share any initial plans or first steps at the University?
Higher education is one area where public universities have repeatedly scored head and shoulder above private institutions. This academic experience should be coupled with a great campus life experience. I guess, the role of a COO is to make campus life as memorable an experience for students and faculty as the academic life at the University. During my corporate career, I have seen how quality of life is becoming an increasingly big differentiating factor. The University has now drawn a Master Plan to modernize and expand the campus, and it will be my privilege to execute on that – on infrastructure, facilities and technology. The first step of the Master Plan is the Library transformation which is already underway, and I am sure we should be able to set a benchmark here for other institutions to follow.
Can you share any personal interests outside of your work zone?
In terms of personal interests – I love sports. I played a lot of squash as a student, but now am more focused on swimming, cycling and running (Triathlon). I am a certified open water scuba diver and have also done several hours of microlight flying. Recently, while I was working in Chennai, I also got the opportunity to learn a bit of surfing. I always look forward to trying new things when it comes to sports and outdoor activities.