India is “hot” these days and so is innovation and entrepreneurship. But this was not always so. As good friend, Shai Vyakarnam mentioned in his talk, an event like this would have been unthinkable even as recently as five years ago.
Innovation may have been stifled during the license-permit raj but entrepreneurship never died in India.
In fact one of the great advantages that India has today – as it opens its economy – is the large number of home-grown entrepreneurs – not yet savvy enough to compete in global markets, but certainly having the right attitude to risk-taking and the right genes to innovate.
I heard several examples of relatively low-level technology applied to very high-value situations. One of them a very neat idea to prevent high-speed train collisions by deploying a network of micro-processors (“RakshA Kavach”) fitted on coaches and locomotives to comprise an Automatic Collision Detection & Prevention system.
In Punjab where they used to have 10-15 accidents every season at level crossings, the accident rate was brought down to zero after deploying the system and it is now being rolled out across the entire rail network (second largest in the world) over the next 6-7 years.
Another idea I heard about was a high-intensity plasma torch to burn medical waste (at 2000c) without any residue or harmful smoke/gases…but the best one was “cutlery that can be eaten” (not just edible but also “nutritious”!) – more on this in the next post.
At the Valedictory Session, Dr Mashelkar was at his inspiring best. One of his bold predictions (re. India vs. China) was that India would eventually overtake China because of the 3Ds – Democracy, Diversity and Demographics.
Democracy and Diversity foster creativity and create the necessary conditions for innovation & entrepreneurship to flourish; democracy underpins the ability to think and act freely; demographics support long-term growth. This is sort of what he said…although his words sounded a 100 times more compelling…regardless, I think there is a lot of truth in the statement.
I believe that the best from Indian entrepreneurship is yet to come…and I think it will be first evident at the middle and the bottom of the pyramid.
Indian companies and products (to cite just three examples: the 2cents sanitary napkin, the $100 computer and the $4 jeans) that are being created to uniquely cater to the large number of consumers in this segment have the potential to dominate global markets in these demographics …and from these will spring the future titans of Indian industry.
Last word: Indians are not necessarily smarter than others – but there are a lot of them! (Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Dy Chairman, Planning Commission)