The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

August - 2010 - issue > Cover Story

Education-Innovation: India's Success Mantra

Eureka Bharali
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Eureka Bharali
A football player at his heart, Ajit Balakrishnan, the tech-savvy CEO of Indian online giant Rediff, knows how to successfully bring the ball to his court. He wanted to be a football player ignoring his education until one day he encountered a football player who had to compromise in a thatched hut due to lack of education. The next day he was back to his books, and even today Balakrishnan thanks his father who made him realize the importance of education in life, as without it no country can develop.

The success of Rediff as a news, information, entertainment, and shopping portal, which allowed them to be the first Indian internet firm, to be listed in NASDAQ, is not merely a boost to Ajit Balakrishnan’s financial assets. For him, in a country like India, being a leader of a company like Rediff allows his voice to reach out to a much larger mass, than it would have allowed being a footballer.

“In today’s world of globalization, success comes only through innovation. And to talk about innovation, we have to talk about education,”Ajit succinctly puts his view. To prove his point he promptly draws out the research paper The Anatomy of a Large Scale Hyper-Textual Web Search Engine’, by Sergey Brin and Larry Page that reveals the history of the search giant Google. Right at the first note, a glance at the company address shows where the idea came from – students of a university. This in itself is remarkable. As, in an earlier era of 1970s or 1980s, one would expect an innovation of this kind to emerge from industrial labs like AT&T’s Bell Labs, which were maintained by large American, German or British companies. Thus, the core of the system of innovation lies in the increased interest for more knowledge which in result can boost the number of doctorates.

The locus of innovation is more and more PhD students working on their doctoral dissertations. “However, India as a whole produces about 300-350 PHDs in computer science, a number which is easily crossed over by universities based only in California,” Balakrishnan pinpoints as he mulls over the challenges of innovation in India. The only solution to it he presumes is the increase in the number of PHDs in computer science to 5000-10000 every year. Especially it is witnessed that scholars, more and more, look at the underlying network of universities, government research and financing bodies and companies and the complex interactions between them to unravel the puzzle of Innovation.

Innovation in India
For many of the Indian companies innovation means ‘innovating for the rich’. They are more inclined to target six million households sitting at the top of the social ladder, a group that has the purchasing capacity anywhere around the world. “The missing point is the target – which is a promiscuous crowd. A crowd that stays in India, with their heads in U.S.,”he quickly opens the rich’s mind to enlighten Indian entrepreneurs. To deal with such a crowd is an ever-lasting process, as their change in preference is directly proportional to the change in the days. So, who could be the right target? It’s the next genre of the society. In Ajit Balakrishnan’s crispy words, “Think of the man in the scooter with his wife behind and a child in the front while innovating and it will be a success.”

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