Book Review: “Vikram Sarabhai- A Life” by Amrita Shah

For the past few months I have been reading on post-independent India’s scientific endeavours, and stumbled upon references to Vikram Sarabhai. I was fortunate to attend a talk by Amrita Shah, and until then I was not aware of the biography of Vikram Sarabhai that she authored.

One would marvel at an early age decision of Sarabhai not to participate in the Indian freedom movement, focus on career, and plan for long-term contributions for India. Undistracted by the Indian freedom movement, and the World War-II, he continued pursuing his scientific interest in the cosmic rays.

He was also a successful entrepreneur who not only ran his family businesses successfully but also ventured into the areas of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food products etc. He believed in competitive markets, fiercely advocated pluralism, and equality.

The book also gives insights into his vision, leadership, and execution style. The way he spotted new talent, recruited them and inspired to deliver have lessons for everyone.

As an entrepreneur, scientist, architect of Indian space programme, visionary of advancing Indian atomic energy applications, promoter of science and arts, I think he was more than Elon Musk (though this comparison is unwarranted).

The book delves into the personality of Vikram Sarabhai and what he has gone through — personally and professionally to establish institutions of scientific importance. Though it is not an unputdownable, it keeps you intrigued and engaged throughout. An insightful read and great work by the author.