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Re: Indiresan: a critique
I personally disagree on your stance on this. Maybe there is some
misunderstanding between what prof Inderesan is saying and what you
and I are interpreting. If what you are saying is that we
go ahead and "copy" any idea, technology and mass produce to make it
cheap (like the East asian countries you mentioned): that is not what
Japan did to reach a number 2 economy. Infact from all I know on
technology sectors, Japan has taken some extremely innovative measures
to get where it is today. And in an economy that is growing global
every day we can either be a back end flow or take a lead and get a
surge, a lead that will boost growth. Sure like China we can mass produce
many products that can provide the intial push (which I believe we
should) but even China is moving towards innovative work itself
these days (they have semiconductor fabs that cost over $1 billion
and a lot of supporting technology).
As a simple example, in our much touted "sowftware" growth in the last
5 years, all that India has provided is solution to tedious manual
tasks like solving the Y2K problem etc bringing in peanuts in foreign
investment compared to what can happen if a true software company like
Infosys (which unfortunately also does a lot of "support") work on
problems that can target a much larger market. If you or I think that we
can reinvent all that already exist in the current US technology
or copy them violating all patent infringements then we are definetly
not taking the path of least resistance, infact an impossibilty. Even today
the US industry is fuled by innovation at all levels: industry, univs.
Infact what Prof Indersen says in the article is how important it is
to approximate and reach a working solution than look for exact answers.
To think. We need to take lead in some fields so that we can trade
them off for what the west already has. Trust me none of these companies
will divulge anything that they can sell to India, and India can buy
only if it can sell something in return (or devalue currency till we
ship out gold)! Unless ofcourse we start cheating (like in the pharmacuetical
industry) and keep ourselves insulated from the rest of the global
Working at Intel, or when I look at Microsoft, Oracle or any of the
high tech companies in the silicon valley I can see more than ever
how innovation can boost economy (much of US economy today is fueled
through this). And expectation from this sector is so high that profits
of $1.3 billion last quarter was not enough to keep Intel stock holders
happy (it fell from $2 billion previous quarter)! I personally met
Sabeer Bhatia over the weekend, a graduate from Stanford who started
Hotmail (recently acquired by Microsoft for ~$50 million). The company
grew from an idea in 1995 to where it is today. And thats just another
example. The future of any economy is based on innovation. Japan and US
are in constant race to be a step ahead and capture the market. Sure Coca
Cola still sells just based on a brand name (patented product) but
whats making things cheaper for them to manufacture is technology thats
a lot more than soft drinks. A healthy technology spins off in great ways.
The word technology itself says it all.
If you look beyond providing free opportunities and ask who or how
industrialization occurs, it is through innovation and execution.
Ofcourse not everyone plays the same role and any economy needs people
doing different services to fill in the spaces, but the audience that
prof Indersen is addressing to is students from institutions that are
supposed to provide that lead. I, being a gradute from IITK know exactly
what he is addressing to when he talks of so many of us becoming
management or civil servants when what we are trained for is totally
different application skill set. 90+% of innovators in the silicon valley
are graduates from MIT, Stanford etc. Andy Grove, CEO Intel, is a PhD so are
Gordon Moore and Criag Barret. So is Suhas Patil, CEO founder Cirrus Logic
.... Not that one needs a PhD, or every one can make it to that degree
of success, but people like them are responsible for where the US economy is
today. Research and learning in science has lead to technology and growth.
And from what I've seen in grad school there is tremendous more to come.
Sure India might catch up with the current US in 20-30 years but US
would have moved far ahead by then and you and me will worry and complain
why we as Indians cant do it. All Prof Indersen is saying is to
experiment & find the right and most workable solution to every problem.
To take new challanges, atleast some capable folks should.
Anyways, I have spoken enough. Gotto get back to work. BTW, to the
group I would request more efficiency and structure. I, like many I'm
sure, find it difficult to keep track of everything (not all of us are
writing a book:)! I guess I will be happy to contribute to any techy
> 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 entrepreneurs. We
> 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 stop
> insisting on assured returns, and prepare to gamble to lose all -- or win
> 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 based
> on somebody else's design."
> This is not quite correct. For one, India today is SMALLER than most East
> Asian countries in its total GNP, leave alone its per capita income.
> Second, the East Asian countries did not quite copy the designs from the
> West. They broke these down into locally assembled parts, made them
> cheaper and of better quality, and re-sold them to the USA, Japan and to
> 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 engineers
> learnt a lot, and then added their own brains to the process. What SE Asia
> did 30 years ago is being done precisely by China since the last 20 years
> and it too is getting rich at an 'alarming' rate of over 10% per year for
> the last 20 years!
> Clearly, a nation need not be a nation of 'inventors' to be able to get
> rich and to succeed on a vast scale. To be able to invent is desirable,
> 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 the
> entrepreneur (Edison was an exception). To be an entrepreneur (e.g., like
> Henry Ford), all you need is to utilize existing technology, and to add to
> it the following: capital, management, and marketing. India had the
> potential (and still has it) to have copied the products of the West in a
> 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 while
> 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 and I
> will produce an industrial powerhouse unparalleled in history. Our
> theoretical scientists seem to be giving too much importance to innovation
> 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 is
> nothing better than that, initially, to copy and produce on a mass scale.
> These things would even sell in India, believe me!
> People keep saying that Japan copied all the time, but remember, Japan is
> the number 2 economy in the world in size today, and has become so in a
> mere 10 years, unlike the USA which took 200 years to become what it did.
> Even this manifesto that we are writing is nothing but copied stuff from
> various sources. If we can get these copied and stolen ideas to work in
> India, we would have converted India into a super-power.
> I am not against invention or innovation. Only against looking down upon
> the East Asian nations or on Japan who are considered 'second' rate by our
> super-geniuses and theoritical scientists who could not themselves produce
> 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; this is
> > 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.