Think Local, Go Global
Date: Tuesday , December 01, 2009
I have recently attended the World Economic Forum in Delhi. The event was not only well attended by the industry leaders from India and abroad, but was also attended by prominent government leaders including Dr. Manhonan Singh, P. Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee, Kanal Nath and Kapil Sibal. The highlight of the conference was that almost every one believed that India could come back to nine percent GDP growth in two years and sustain it for years to come. However, the main challenges are education (primary, vocational & professional), lack of skilled and employable human resources, infrastructure, power, healthcare and effective governance. The good news is that technology can play a HUGE role in helping with these massive challenges.
In the past, for a lot of our challenges we would look at the ‘West’, take a solution and apply in our country. But, the scale of challenges which India is facing today, has not really been faced by West or anyone else, and these problems at such a large scale have never been solved before. For example, we have more than 300 million children going to school in India. This is more than the total population of the United States. Out of these, more than 200 million are going to schools that do not have proper quality of education, infrastructure and teachers. Nowhere in the world has anyone ever developed a solution that can help solve education crisis for 300 million children within the cost structure that an average Indian can afford. Finding and training millions of teachers for these schools itself is a massive challenge that can take a very long time. Hence, it’s time we look at developing an indigenous solution ourselves. A big help can come from technology in the form of creative e-learning for teachers training and class room teaching.
Similarly, we need to use technology and innovative and indigenous solutions to find affordable healthcare, energy, water, sanitation facilities for two third of our people who earn less than $2/day.
There are numerous examples where such solutions have been developed in India. Aravind Eye Hospital carries out as many eye surgeries in a year as are done in the whole of UK. The cost per surgery is a fraction of the cost in UK with similar quality and success rate. Jaipur foot, Mobile Phones that our masses can afford, e-Choupal, eSeva,Tata Nano, affordable medical equipment from Philips India and GE India and drugs from the Indian pharmaceutical companies are some other examples.
Indian companies, as well as multinational companies, who want a piece of Indian market, need to do focused research on developing such solutions. Not only these solutions will work out as smart solutions for India and the emerging markets, they will also be commercially viable for the developed countries. Good examples of such solutions are a $1,000 hand held electrocardiogram, and a $15000 portable ultrasound developed by GE in India (conventional ultrasound costs $100,000+). Although developed for India and the emerging markets, these are finding tremendous business success in US and the developed world. Other such examples are Mahindra tractor, Bajaj three-wheeler, Reva electric car, Tally financial software and a number of pharmaceutical drugs.
India has a thriving culture of entrepreneurship that is ready to leverage such innovation. It is great to see that despite the downturn, last year alone we saw a venture capital financing of close to $700 million in India. Last week, Deloitte invited me to attend India’s top 50-technology startup award ceremony. The growth rates of these top 50 startups were in the range of few hundred percent/year to few thousand percent per year with a minimum revenue of Rs. 50 Crore in the last financial year. What an amazing tribute to the capability of our entrepreneurs, even in such a tough economic environment?
Hence the mantra for our entrepreneurs, technologists and business leaders is to “Think Local, Go Global”.
The author is Country Head of Dell India R&D