Fireside Chat

Join us for the Fireside Chats of Empower 2023

Ashok Jhunjhunwala

President-IITM Research Park, IITM Incubation Cell, RTBI


Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala did his B.Tech degree from IIT Kanpur and MS and PhD from University of Maine, USA and was a faculty at Washington State University, USA for a year and half before joining as a faculty at IIT Madras in 1981.

Prof. Jhunjhunwala is considered a pioneer in nurturing Industry-Academia interaction in India towards R&D, Innovation and Product Development. He conceived and built India’s first university affiliated business park (IIT Madras Research Park) to promote Industry-Academia R&D collaboration. TIE conferred him the title of Dronacharya for his contributions to the cause of entrepreneurship, as he incubated and nurtured more than 280 companies at IIT Madras. He heads the IITM Incubation Cell and Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI). He leads TeNeT group, which has worked closely with industry to create innovative affordable products in sectors like telecom, banking, energy and electric vehicles.


Co-Founder of Kanthari


Knowing what it is to be marginalized, Sabriye developed an intrinsic interest to create ethical social change, Studied Tibetology / Central Asian Sciences at Bonn University and was able to take notes in Tibetan, Sabriye developed the Tibetan Braille Script. Traveling on horseback through the Himalayas in 1997, Sabriye discovered that Tibetans who in majority are Buddhists have a stigma against people with disabilities. accordingly blind children are often neglected, locked away in dark rooms or sent to the streets to beg for money. Experiencing this situation inspired Sabriye to take action.In 1998, together with paul kronenberg, Sabriye started the first school for the blind in Tibet. This school formed the foundation of Braille Without Borders, an organization that empowers blind people to take their lives in their own hands.

In 2005, Sabriye and Paul also founded ‘kanthari’ in Kerala, South of India, a leadership institute for social change makers. kanthari fosters individuals from all over the world, who have overcome adversity and because of that carry a plan to create social change. In the daily activities, Sabriye mainly focuses on developing and leading the academic program.

Next to being a public speaker, Sabriye is the author of “My path leads to Tibet”, a book that has been translated into 16 languages. Sabriye and paul also had the honor to take a part in the award winning documentaries ‘BLINDSIGHT’ and ‘KANTHARI – change from within”.


Programme Director at Saksham and serves as a Senior Fellow and Programme Director at the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICT


Nirmita Narasimhan educational background encompasses degrees in Law, German, and Music, chairs the Committee on inclusion of persons with disabilities at the Broadband India Forum. Previously, she was a founding member of the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore, where she established the Accessibility and Inclusion program focusing on digital accessibility, gaining recognition both nationally and internationally.

Nirmita is a renowned global advocate for accessibility and has collaborated with governments and intergovernmental organizations in shaping accessibility policies and programs. Her work includes authoring reports on accessibility in partnership with organizations like G3ict and ITU, which have been utilized by policymakers worldwide. Recognized for her contributions, Nirmita has received numerous awards, including the National award from the President of India in 2010.