Dr. Ajay Kumar most recently served as the Defence Secretary to the Government of India. In his capacity as Defence Secretary, Dr. Kumar was tasked with the overall responsibility of the defense between August 2019 and October 2022.
Dr. Kumar retired from government service as one of the senior bureaucrats. He holds the distinction of being the longest-serving Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, where he also served as Secretary in the Department of Defence Production.
As Defence Secretary of India, he was the key architect for several major transformations under Prime Minister Modi. These included the restructuring of higher defense management in the country and the formation of the Chief of Defence Staff in the Indian Armed Forces; the launch of the Agniveer scheme, a historic reform in recruitment, training, and retention of personnel in the Armed Forces. He was among the key decision-makers who successfully managed the tense stand-off on the Indo- China Line of Actual control after the Galwan incident of 2020.
Dr. Kumar is credited with transforming the defense industry ecosystem under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat, a concept of self-reliance ushered in by Prime Minister Modi. He also conceptualized and implemented the historic corporatization of the 200-year-old and 80,000-employee-strong Ordnance Factories Board and the Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) Programme, a start-up ecosystem that today powers new technologies in defense, space, drones and AI.
Before joining the Ministry of Defence, Dr. Kumar served in different capacities in the Electronics and Information Technology (IT) sector including holding key positions as Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy), Government of India; Director General, National Informatics Centre; Principal Secretary in Government of Kerala and Managing Director of KELTRON. He is credited with having been part of the team of leaders who implemented key initiatives of Digital India under Prime Minister Modi in 2014 including UPI world’s largest digital payment system; Aadhaar world’s largest biometric digital identity system; myGov, the Government-e Marketplace; Jeevan Pramaan and several others.
Dr. Kumar was born on October 2, 1962, and joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1985 in a career spanning over 37 years serving in key policy-making positions in the Government of India and the State Government of Kerala.
Dr. Kumar holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. He also has an M.S. in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota and a B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, India.
He was conferred the Distinguished Alumnus Award of IIT Kanpur an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy by Amity University, India, and a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineers for outstanding contributions to engineering and dynamic leadership in the engineering domain. He is the recipient of several awards including a citation by the Prime Minister of India, the “Champion of Change” Award, the “Electronics Leader of the Year 2013” Award, “Sarabhai Award”, among others.
Dr. Kumar is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at IIT Kanpur and Adviser to the Government of Kerala. He is also a regular speaker at various Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) campuses, and at National Training Academies for Indian Civil Service and Indian Foreign Service as well as military academies, think-tanks, both in India and overseas. Dr. Kumar is also a regular consultant to start-ups and industries in the fields of technology and defense.