Dec 21, 2007

Great Minds... waiting to be discovered!!!

The other day I received an email with ‘Great Indians’ as its subject header. I opened the mail casually, eager to check if I’ve seen it before. But it wasn’t just another forward. This one got me thinking… it got me thinking real hard!!!

The mail highlighted some breakthrough innovations in the field of mathematics, science, astrology, medicine, yoga etc. It spanned across the likes of Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya, Sushrut and Varahamihir. A sense of pride engulfed me when I realized that all the modern day wonders in these domains have their roots in India. I closed the mail with a broad smile. While doing that I chanced upon the subject line once again and a thought pierced through my mind. ‘Great Indians’ – These great Indians made their contributions hundreds of years ago. Why have we not had as many ‘Great Indians’ in the last couple of decades?

Food for thought isn’t it? Spend a couple of minutes pondering over this and you will realize that most of the world’s leading innovations have their origins in something that was pioneered in India. I am sure this thought will lead you to question yourself. Has innovation in India stagnated? Have we learnt and grown enough? Have we stopped looking for newer things?

Given that the ‘Great Indians’ who I quoted earlier achieved their claim to fame so many years ago, it is an understood fact that access to information, communication, technology etc was not available to them. What they have achieved was purely on the basis of merit and the genius within them. With so much of advancement happening around us today why has the number of great Indian minds dwindled over the years? Why don’t we hear of such breakthroughs in India instead of simply being in awe of what the developed nations are churning out, in spite of the fact that one of the main reasons they’re doing well is that they get a lot of their inputs off Indian shelves!!!

With the boom in Information Technology, easy access to information and strong knowledge hubs available to us, the proportion of great thinking and such innovations should have been much higher. Sadly though most of today’s ‘great thinking’ happens abroad, and in most cases it is fuelled by Indian minds branded internationally. More crudely put – the brain drain continues!!!

India often complains about her problem of population explosion. It is a problem no doubt, but our inability to channelize our human resources is one of the main reasons why we’re drifting away unguided.

Information Technology in India has played the role of a catalyst in many ways. Be it bridging the urban-rural divide, generation of employment opportunities for people from the smallest of towns in India or the boom in our country’s economy, a lot has changed … a lot has improved. Unfortunately, though this entire boom is driven by the western world. We Indians are just following the crowd… potential great minds simply rusting away!!!

What then are the reasons for this stagnation? We cannot really blame our educational system entirely. In terms of curricula I think we are surely progressing but the Indian pedagogy needs a major revamp!!! Today most of our leading business schools and premier technical institutes market their brand on the basis of their placement statistics. Jobs in blue chip companies and hefty pay packets are what students are looking out for. Quality learning and practical implementation seem to have lost their significance.

Once we achieve our ‘dream’ jobs, there’s nothing much to be really happy about. Most of our corporate setups believe in taking the easier approach to business practices. Taking the trodden path seems to be the safest way out. Innovative Thinking takes yet another beating… all in the name of following ‘industry standards’ and ‘best practices’ laid down by the west.

For instance, take a look at a cross section of the IT companies in India. A majority of them adopt an onsite-offshore business model. This means our onsite counterparts decide what we do and how we do it. Take a closer look… and you’ll realize that most of the work that is off shored is some variant of software maintenance activity – production support, code upgrades and bug fixing etc. Simply put the quality of work that comes to us is very menial as compared to what we are capable of.

Is this how are dream jobs were meant to be? The irony of the whole thing is that we fail to realize this at the right time because all this humbug is brilliantly camouflaged. Interesting salary packages, stylish perks and incentives, pick up and drop facilities, Sodexho passes, a couple of onsite trips (not to mention the allowances in foreign currency) and the entire shopping mall - multiplex culture that has gripped our nation blankets the monotony of the inferior quality of the work being dumped on us. When we realize what we’ve got ourselves into we look up to job-hopping as the only solution!!! If this continues the larger problem will only get larger!!!

India’s corporate community has a major role to play to help our her emerge as a global innovator. In this fast paced economy there will be many obstacles that stunt efforts made by an individual or a group of individuals. Corporate bigwigs, political visionaries and our IT giants need to encourage, finance, market and sustain innovative thinking in order to help our nation scale greater heights. The appreciation in the value of the Indian Rupee is something we should be proud of. Instead there seems to be a lull in the business community. Imagine the returns we could have garnered if we had geared up ourselves intellectually. We could have done so well exporting all our homegrown products, services and ideas.

Also, I strongly believe that the IT sector has got a lot of undue mileage over the last few years. There are so many sectors like agriculture, medicine, finance, biotechnology, education and many more such areas where we can innovate and come out with path breaking revelations. There’s a lot of potential and there are a lot of avenues waiting to be explored. We just need to get started!!! We cannot rely on our government to help us in this initiative. There’s a lot of mess within that needs to tackled anyway. CEO’s of huge organizations in India should look beyond their company balance sheets and extend the required platform and opportunity to harness our true potential and emerge as a global leader in the true sense.

It’s time we look beyond earning profits for international multinational companies. It’s time we make way for many more ‘Great Indians’!!!

(PS: A special thanks to Balaji for forwarding the 'Great Indians' mail to me and to Saravanan for his comments on what I felt about that mail.)

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Dec 13, 2007

Aaja Nachle... to the tune of politics!!!

Madhuri Dixit-Nene's return to Bollywood has been the latest buzz in Bollywood. The dancing queen continues to dazzle one and all with her beautiful smile. Her fans sure are happy to have her back!!! Movie buffs are happy to see her back on the silver screen. Reality shows are cashing in on the occasion by inviting Madhuri over. Aaja Nachle was the talk of the town!!! Sounds too perfect to be so straight and clean, right. There has to be something that plays spoilsport... and when there's no one to do that... politicians and their supporters nonchalantly oblige!!!
The lyrics in the movie's title track, 'mohalle mein kaisi mara mar hai/ bole mochi bhi khud ko sunaar hai' (what is this commotion in the neighbourhood/ a cobbler is calling himself a goldsmith) has given a chance for people to complain and create an issue out of something that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. I'm sure the lyricist meant no offence to those of a particular caste!!!
With all due respect to people of all castes and creed, all I'd like to say is that such incidents are exploited by our politicians to the core!!! Film music lovers (cobblers, goldsmiths and the rest of the clan) would have gone ahead and enjoyed the song without even paying attention to the lyrics and taking such serious offence!!!
I'm not a casteist, but if our (???!!!!) politicians were really so sensitive to casteism why can't they really 'do' something for the upliftment of the lower castes (sadly it does exist as a concept!!) instead of publicizing the whole matter and blowing it out of proportion and in the melee enjoy their much needed political mileage!!!
Grow up dear politicians... we're a mature audience... and we're watching you too!!!

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