Jay To The World: iHub-Data’s New CEO Is Come

Witty, empathetic and meaning business. Meet Dr. Jay Mookherje, a tennis fanatic and the CEO of iHub-Data at IIITH, who is setting the bar high with his serve.

If you were to search for ‘Jay Mookherje’ on the internet, a little typo in the spelling could throw up results about the yesteryear ‘heart throb’ actor – Joy Mukherjee. And as Jay, the iHub CEO will have you know, the search results are not entirely wrong. “I was born Joy Mookherjee,” he nods while smiling disarmingly. “It’s a long story. Do you have the time?” The story goes that a teenaged Jay owed the swapping of a vowel in his first name and the dropping of another in his last, to the recommendation of a numerologist. “Call it what you may, but the very next day, it was like a switch had been turned,” he exclaims, while brandishing a semi-precious stone set in his finger ring – another recommendation, neither of which has incidentally been challenged by Jay since.

Keeping It Real
In an era when a strong online presence is often underscored for greater visibility and reach, Jay’s limited digital footprint may seem counter-intuitive. But he explains it to being a private person, going so far as to label himself “old-fashioned”. Give him in-person communication versus online meetups over Zoom anyday. Expressing his disdain over ‘WhatsApp University’, he remarks, “You can’t believe anything you see. Everything can be manufactured by Adobe or Photoshop and others. I have a limited set of close friends with whom I interact and would never publicise my life online”. Dr. Jay Mookherje seems to bust some geek stereotypes when he confesses to essentially being a people’s person despite possessing a deep technical background. “Even though I come with the Math and Computer Science sort of skills, at some point in my career, the organisation I was with moved me towards the people side of things,” he recalls. The rest as they say, is history. In fact, most of the accolades and awards that Jay has won in his professional life – at Microsoft and later at Amazon, he attributes to the very connections he has made.

Sharing Space With Academia
To explain how an industry veteran like himself came to helm a company that focuses on research at an academic institute, Jay mentions his familial background that is rooted in academics. “My grandfather hails from Bangladesh where he single-handedly set up an entire town – the university, post office and so on. By default, he was the Principal of the university and he himself was an academic with 5-6 gold medals. Similarly, there’s a cousin who is a well known economist in the US who narrowly missed winning the Nobel Prize, and another cousin in Kolkata who is an Economics professor,” he narrates. For Jay, despite the immediate inspiration and his natural proclivity towards academia from the start, financial dependencies urged him to look for a job upon graduation. After around 28 years of being in the industry “with daily late night calls and non-stop global travel”, an impulse to reprioritize brought him to IIITH. “I did a cold walk on Prof. PJN,” he chuckles.

New Innings
“It’s been a great start. I got the opportunity to sit next to Robert Metcalfe, the founder of the ethernet and was pulled into an hour-long discussion with him!,” exclaims Jay, in response to his transition to an academic institute so far. He admits that this sort of exposure to great minds and events alike would have been unthinkable of previously. The iHub-Data currently focuses on three domains – healthcare, mobility and data foundation. Jay, who admits he would love to see an expansion beyond these three verticals, labels healthcare as the closest to his heart. “For me, progress of a country depends primarily on two things – healthcare and education. You cannot call yourself a progressive country if you don’t advance on these fronts. Hence healthcare…I mean, you can maybe live with some potholes..,” he muses.

From The Ground Up
As the newly minted CEO of the iHub-Data, Jay has his work cut out for him. His biggest focus right now is creating an organisational structure and setting up a team. For someone who enjoys planning and meticulously organising things, his goal is also to make sure there are no surprises. According to him, stakeholder management is key and one way to get it right is via unambiguous communication. “I try to drive things forward by working backwards from business goals,” he states, adding that communication of plans to everyone on the ground is crucial for success. “There’s the example of two people breaking stones that I often give. The motivation of the guy who is told he is building a church is way higher than that of the person who is kept in the dark. Hence giving the big picture to everyone is important.” Speaking of communication, owing to years of experience with managing people, Jay is adept at picking up on subtle non-verbal cues. “Body language speaks volumes and is perhaps even louder than words. Just by walking around on the floor, I can tell if someone has a low morale or if someone is excited about work,” he states.

Order On The Court
Jay’s affability notwithstanding, his no-nonsense approach to professionalism is well known. “The bar has to be high for everything – quality, the deliverables and everything we do. So I have a strike one, strike two and strike three policy. When you are getting paid, you are not doing anyone a charity. You are here to do a job,” he emphasises. The self-confessed outdoorsy leader however draws a line between work and life as we know it. “Work is important, but that’s not the only thing,” he shrugs, even as he calls tennis his “biggest source of oxygen”. The school and university-level player says nothing at work can ruin his day if he plays an hour of tennis every morning.

The Jay Of Small Things
The iHub-Data centre, like the other hubs set up by the Government of India is funded by the DST for an initial period of 5 years. Jay’s immediate focus therefore is on creating a continuous revenue generation model. Besides this, as head of the Applied AI centre that is part of the IIITH ecosystem, Jay says that his efforts will also lie in advancing translational research, one that can be put to practice, directly benefiting society. But for all this, a high-performing team is in order. “Because I’m only as good as my team,” he says, while excusing himself for a bunch of interviews that he has scheduled.

Sarita Chebbi is a compulsive early riser. Devourer of all news. Kettlebell enthusiast. Nit-picker of the written word especially when it’s not her own.



  1. Sarita – This is a nicely narrated article👌🏼. Really liked your story depicting style 🤓

    Raghavendra says:

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