August 3, 2015
There is a massive wave of entrepreneurial energy coursing through India’s arteries. The need is to connect this enthusiasm with excellence in basic and applied research in our higher educational institutions.
A newspaper headline, “The Lament and the Lash”, made waves recently. Interestingly, it was a report on how Chairman Emeritus, Infosys Ltd., N.R. Narayana Murthy had lamented, while delivering the convocation address at the Indian Institute of Science, on July 15, 2015, that India has not produced a single invention that became a global household name. “… let us pause and ask what the contributions of Indian institutions of higher learning particularly IISc and IITs [Indian Institutes of Technology], have been over the last 60-plus years to make our society and the world a better place. Is there one invention from India that has become a household name in the globe? Is there one technology that has transformed the productivity of global corporations? Is there one idea that has led to an earth-shaking invention to delight global citizens? Folks, the reality is that there is no such contribution from India in the last 60 years….,” were his words.
Mr. Murthy then went on to contrast local achievements with some by MIT (the one in Massachusetts, and not Madras or Manipal), recalled the contributions made by Indian scientists in the 1950s and 1960s and then challenged IISc’s finest to revisit that passion. This is a bit of an unfair comparison since most global universities, the West included, would fare poorly in comparison with MIT. According to the Kauffman Foundation report in 2009, MIT alumni founded companies that generated over $2 trillion in revenue a year (the 11th largest economy, when viewed as the GDP of a nation) and provided gainful employment to over 3.3 million people.