Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Sabeer Bhatia, Pranav Mistry…to name a few famous Indian names, currently ruling the tech world. Not to forget about other millions of current & past. And all of them have one thing in common, besides being Indian & educated in India. All success stories have something to do with west.
I had this question since years. But, off lately, the curiosity to find answers have risen exponentially, seeing the success of Indians abroad, seeing the trends in Indian start-ups, seeing the trend in career path of these entrepreneurs. Question is “Why India cannot Innovate, rather why India is not able to innovate, when Indians are able to?”. Why even simple concepts like that of facebook, Uber, online maps, etc. didn’t get developed in India. Although, we always hear stories of immense contributions of Indians in development of these concepts & companies, but we hardly see any Indian creating something of this kind in India. WHY? WHY???? And I think I got few explanations for this, based on my past 15 years of experience (graduation stint included).
The closest one liner answer to this, I feel, is from movie 3 idiots. “Dost fail ho jaye toh dukh hota hai, lekin dost first aa jaye toh jyada dukh hota hai” . In English, that translates to ” if a friend fails, we feel bad. But if a friend comes first, we feel worst”.
As a society, we have become so competitive, that we fail to appreciate goodness in someone & in turn someone’s work/concept. The moment someone brings a new idea on table (in India), every one else starts hammering it, right there, as if we are born with hammers. The first everyone thinks is “Why it won’t work?” Worst, we Indians are good in finding out problems, but seldom give solution to those. In-fact, we don’t even think solution, to the deficit we pointed out in an Idea/work. And I have seen to extent that, even if we have solution, we won’t share it. As a society, we are so in-secure, that we feel “someone’s fall is my rise”. One historical reason may be our society has always been resource scarce & Herbert Spencer’s coined phrase “Survival of fittest” has always been kind of applicable/true to Indian society.
Why we cannot first appreciate hard work & then point out gaps in it? Why we straight away point gaps?
Why, while coming across a new idea, we think reasons of it not working? Why we don’t say, “ideas looks very good, but can be improved..if these..these issues are sorted?”
Why we don’t pitch with probable answers to the questions to be posed to someone’s idea?
If we can find out deficits, why can’t we find out fill ups for those deficits?
Why it is always that Western world stint in required to bring best in us?
Why even most Indian Start-ups are by people, who have returned after a stint in west?
Why we appreciate someone’s contribution, only after western world has done so? This is classical case. There are thousands of Indian personalities (Amartya Sen, Kailash Satyarthi to name few) ranging from field of sports, art, culture, literature, films, etc. whose domestic work was first appreciated in other parts of world & then it was recognized in India, as a FOLLOW UP. WHYYYYYYY?
Another probable to answer to these above “Whys??” is patriarchal nature of Indian society, where we hesitate to question seniors, where seniors rule over junior & not guide them. My this theory also gets kind of proven, by example of GE, where in Innovation workouts, seniors are are kind of kept quite, are not given larger roles, juniors are asked to lead seniors. And no wonder, GE is one of most innovative companies of world, despite being one of the oldest. GE is a rare example, an exception, which despite being century old, is still innovating crazily.
But all above, doesn’t mean, nothing new happens in India. Movie like Taare Zammen Par, Solar on irrigation channel etc.. are few I know are Indian origin (I may be wrong). So, it does happen, but % wise it is very very dismal to other progressive society. Irony is, same people whose Idea get rejected here or works goes unrecognized in India, come up with flying colors in other parts of world.
Then many argue, Ola(s), flipkart(s) etc. as Indian innovation. But those are not. Those are just copy of Innovation already done somewhere else. India does seem to be good in following footsteps of proven ideas/path, but then when will India create a new path, which world will follow? As Narendra Modi is pitching for Make in India, I think equal to greater thrust should be Innovate in India & Make in India. India does have all the ingredients, including the main one: INDIAN. It’s just, we have to be appreciative. We have to be positive. We have to first focus on positives & then negatives. We need just to be Innovative, on how to be POSITIVE? Rest all will fall on way automatically.
Om Prakash is originally from Bhubaneswar with a Chemical Engineering Degree from NIT Rourkela, currently a senior manager in Reliance Industries