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Re: Indiresan: a critique
Sanjeev: I did not quite get your message. Are you saying innovation
and invention is the same? You would agree with Indrasen's speech,
interspersed with sanskrit shloks (I am always suspiscious when people
bring in Sanskrit!), that rigidity in the present system kills
innovation, let alone any invention? I am not sure what has killed
innovation in India, but I have to agree that whatever the reason
there is no innovation in any sector in India -- starting with
government, the public sector and the private sector. It is likey
that rigid bureaucracy killed innovation in government,
semi-government institutions and the public sector. BUT WHAT KILLED
INNOVATION IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR?? Indrasen does not really address
that. But he does refers to Autos (as the only country that still
manufactures "vantage" cars). In one of my post I had mentioned that
how India could continue to manufacture the "Ambassador", which was
rejected by the British company that invented it, is beyond me. Even
now when India borrows from others there is no innovation in the auto
industry either in exterior design, or under the hood or in the
manufacturing process. Compare that to Japan's auto industry where
they have shown remarkable innovation in style, design, engineering
and the manufacturing process. Today, without exception all American
autoplants are equiped with robots and assembly lines similar to
Forget cars, let us take bicylces. Having one of the biggest bicyles
domestic markets in the world have we seen any innovation there?
NONE AT ALL. India today should be leading the world in bicylces
technology but instead it is importing know how and technology even in
that field after being a manufacture for nearly 50 years? The same
holds true in the twowheeler industry. NO INNOVATION AT ALL.
Therefore, I think Puneet Singh is absolutely right that despite all
the hoopla of software, where are we showing any innnovation?
I think that is a critical point. Yes, to some extent you can borrow
and have a cookie cutter assembly line producing similar products and
can find success because of low labor costs. But once your labor
costs go up and you start loosing that edge the only way you can keep
up is through innovation as Japan has. China is probably realizing
that now. They know that shoes, toys and stuffed animals can take
them only so far. That is what japan realized in the early sixties.
When by early seventies Japan entered the US auto market, the US
automakers laughed. By Mid eithties they were not laughing but
bitterly complaining that Japan through "unfair" trade practices had
taken up one third of the US auto market. All that could not have
happened without innovation.
Coming back to the same question (and I know we are digressing here) I
do not know why the Indian private sector has shown no innovative
spirit. I find that dangerous as well as disturbing.
Sanjeev Sabhlok <email@example.com> wrote:
> Thanks Prem for the Indiresan speech which was quite good.
> Nuggets of wisdom from Indiresan (which corroborate our approach):
> "It [MITI, Japan] assumes that bureaucrats can out-guess
> know that is not true. It is merciless competition (with unsentimental
> bloody exit) that ensures prosperity for worthwhile ideas and the
> elimination of useless ones."
> "Our country will march forward in technology only when our managers
> insisting on assured returns, and prepare to gamble to lose all --
> the jackpot!"
> Error of judgement:
> On the other hand there was at least one complete misunderstanding of
> technological progress by Mr. Indiresan, which I thought I would
> challenge since he misses out a vital point here:
> "East Asian countries operate with technologies that are available for
> sale, not with innovations of their own. However, a large country like
> India cannot become rich by selling TV sets and notebook computers
> on somebody else's design."
> This is not quite correct. For one, India today is SMALLER than most
> Asian countries in its total GNP, leave alone its per capita income.
> Second, the East Asian countries did not quite copy the designs from
> West. They broke these down into locally assembled parts, made them
> cheaper and of better quality, and re-sold them to the USA, Japan
> the rest of the world. The case of Samsung's microwave ovens is world
> famous for having virtually ousted the US manufacturers from the
> production of microwave ovens. By "copying" these designs their
> learnt a lot, and then added their own brains to the process. What
> did 30 years ago is being done precisely by China since the last 20
> and it too is getting rich at an 'alarming' rate of over 10% per
> the last 20 years!
> Clearly, a nation need not be a nation of 'inventors' to be able to
> rich and to succeed on a vast scale. To be able to invent is
> but not a necessary condition.
> There is this great difference between an inventor and an entrepreneur
> that Mr. Indiresan missed out (though he mentioned Schumpeter and
> therefore should have known better). The inventor need not always be
> entrepreneur (Edison was an exception). To be an entrepreneur (e.g.,
> Henry Ford), all you need is to utilize existing technology, and to
> it the following: capital, management, and marketing. India had the
> potential (and still has it) to have copied the products of the West
> GRAND scale and to outsell all the Japanese and East Asian sellers.
> Copying is no crime: it is a great achievement to be able to copy
> adding one's own input of management. That is the secret of economic
> Give me ten thousand Indian engineers who have the freedom to buy
> technology or otherwise copy everything they can lay their hands on
> will produce an industrial powerhouse unparalleled in history. Our
> theoretical scientists seem to be giving too much importance to
> at the expense of entrepreneurship. That is a great folly. Our first
> objective has to be to earn like mad: by selling, selling and selling,
> goods. Obviously, only goods that are in demand will sell and there
> nothing better than that, initially, to copy and produce on a mass
> These things would even sell in India, believe me!
> People keep saying that Japan copied all the time, but remember,
> the number 2 economy in the world in size today, and has become so
> mere 10 years, unlike the USA which took 200 years to become what it
> Even this manifesto that we are writing is nothing but copied stuff
> various sources. If we can get these copied and stolen ideas to work
> India, we would have converted India into a super-power.
> I am not against invention or innovation. Only against looking down
> the East Asian nations or on Japan who are considered 'second' rate
> super-geniuses and theoritical scientists who could not themselves
> much innovation or wealth for India nor could promote a culture of
> entreprneurship because they thought that 'copying' was intellectually
> On Sun, 10 May 1998, Premkumar S. Rallabandi wrote:
> > People: Here's a wonderful thing on the net you all should read;
> > the speech given by Prof. Indiresan at IIT Delhi recently. I am sure
> > we can learn some very important things from his speech.
> > Go to :
> > http://www.glue.umd.edu/~arvindr/articles/indir.htm
> > More later,
> > Prem.
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