By Surekha Pendse
India has for long, been a country of herdsmen and hence Indians have what is called the herd mentality. Hence, we are a country of followers more than pioneers and earth changing habits and attitude. The education system in the past decade has gone more downhill inspite of huge bucks paid by the parents and Ivy League-kind of schools mushrooming in major metros, Tier II, Tier III cities and towns. The parents are in a race to give the best and hence it becomes more in terms of a fad, status symbol or a race for marks rather than learning. I would like to quote here from the movie 3 Idiots (and translating the same from Hindi): What it essentially says is, don’t get trapped by the aspiration of success but become capable, become learned and success will follow through.
It is true not only in education but in the startup realm too.
We are seeing the same startup culture in India as it was seen in Silicon Valley more than two decades ago. How is it different? Why India lacks innovation and disruptive technology startups as compared to the Silicon Valley or Israel?
We need to stop and ponder on this. Though in the past decade, startups have moved from the service sector and forayed in a big way, into the product sector, they are rarely new innovative products. They are products with software as its core and mostly clone of products or services existing in developed countries or somewhere else. The comfort of following a successful example is still attractive for startups.
The other culprit is our education system. Two issues here; one is the rote learning which kills innovation and thinking, though in dominions of higher studies, most educational institutes have funding for research and development. It is true even in India where most IITs and IISC have funding, which promotes research and development. The lack of research and development in other institutes is felt because brilliant innovative minds in these institutes and elsewhere in other fields do not opt to research and develop new innovative disruptive products.
The other difference is collaboration between these institutes and the industry. Most Silicon Valley innovations are in collaboration with the industry so the transfer of technology from prototype to mass production is smooth easy and fluid. Industry also provides valuable funding and angel investors to boost the disruptive startup innovations.
That is not the case in India.
Academic institutions are like pariah and do not like to collaborate with the industry and want to hold on to the invention, to be part of their institution alone. They do look down upon such association with the industry, where they believe the industry is only business conscious. But of what use is technology if its applications cannot be used to better everyday common man’s life. Imagine if Edison’s bulb was not put to mass production and just kept for institutional purpose alone, we would still be living in dark ages.
But all is not lost.
In the past decade or so we see a new India rising from this mentality. We see the new generation of children, who have seen only abundance and thus cannot fathom restrictions, or rations or lack in their daily life and that reflects in their attitude and aspirations, have a different outlook. The government being proactive is also encouraging startup culture to think differently.
So the collaboration of institutes or intelligent individual, government and industry will change the Indian scenario. India after stabilizing in this stage will move to the next phase where the industry will wed with individuals if not institutes to break the bondages to emerge a vibrant innovative disruptive land of technology startups.
For that, I can only say: Amen.
Surekha Pendse is a marketing and process enthusiast who loves working, reading, music and the internet, not necessarily in that order. She is a Welingkar’s Institute of Management alumni. Based in Mumbai, Surekha is a management consultant improving process in operations, marketing and social media marketing with more than two decades of experience to back it. You can get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org