India and Innovation

In today’s world, Innovation is paramount. I like thinking of it as a key. Success is the rather stubborn lock, but if you innovate you will triumph. Innovation is what gets you to the top, no matter where you are.

The Merriam-Webster lists the definition of innovation as “a new idea, method, or device”.

I believe that is exactly what one needs to break out of the monotonous rut of societal conventions that the most of us are stuck in, and to make a dent in our universe. People who are remembered, who achieve great things, get there by breaking out of the standard conventions. They formulate new ideas, methods and devices. They innovate.

In my mind, I have loosely equated success with innovation. I’m fascinated by the world of technology and science. Looking at the epic journeys of the tech giants towering over Silicon Valley, it’s a source of inspiration. They are a case in point for innovation. They stay ahead by innovation. They were conceived through innovation. And it all originates from the people working for them, the people at the helm of these giants, steering them through the abyss of mediocrity.

I am from India. 1.252 billion people. It’s been home to some of the oldest civilizations, and is crisscrossed with a multitude of cultures, customs and traditions. We have 122 major languages and 1599 other languages spread over 1.269 million miles. Diversity is the norm, and there are a multitude of things to source as inspiration. The sheer scale of human population means there exists a fierce competition amongst the youngsters to do well in life. This leads to a sort of natural selection, with only the better ones reaching the top.

Recently, there has been a spotlight on us Indians. We have taken the helm of some the biggest and most powerful tech companies in the world. Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Adobe and SanDisk are a few more popular names. Evidently, a few of us are able to make it out of that process of natural selection and make it big in the world.

But here’s the thing

None of these companies are Indian. None of them originated from India. We have a ginormous population, we are capable of producing exceptionally talented individuals, but why in the world cant we create game changing ideas, products and services on our own? Why do we see it as a mission to aim for huge foreign multinational companies instead of creating our own?

Why isn’t India innovating?

I might be painting an overly drab picture. Obviously we have our own share of success stories, and game changing innovations that I’m extremely proud of. Our first mission to Mars was a huge success, and we achieved it within a lesser budget than Alfonso Cuarón’s film, Gravity. So it isn’t that India is not innovating. It’s the question of scale.

1.252 billion people. That’s a lot of people. Logically we should be innovating at that scale too. But it isn’t happening.

Why?
Well that is the right question to be asking.

Case1:

Only 31.16% of Indians live in urban centers. 21.36% of the population is considered middle class. From this we can ascertain that the majority of Indians simply don’t have the exposure or access to the current state of things on a global scale.

Case2:

Indian society is deeply rooted in tradition and heritage, and sometimes pursues ancient mindsets that are out of tune with today’s world. This effectively removes entrepreneurship and innovation from the equation.

All in all, I feel that mindsets must change. The youth must be exposed to global phenomenon, and must be challenged to face the uncertain and tackle the unknown. They must be taught to innovate, and push their ideas to reality.

They must understand the power of the Internet, and successfully utilize it. Only then can India get on track.

It’s time to start innovating.