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Convocation address delivered by Dr.R.A.Mashelkar, Director General, CSIR, at the 4th Convocation of IIIT-H

Following is the (truly inspiring) convocation address delivered by Dr. R.A.
Mashelkar, Director General, CSIR, at the 4th Convocation of our institute on
20th August 2005.

"India's Future: "IT" as in "Indian Talent"

1. Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Hon.ble Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh,
Prof. Rajeev Sangal, Director, International Institute of Information
Technology, Hyderabad, proud graduates, their equally proud parents and
friends, all members of the family of IIIT, distinguished guests, ladies
and gentlemen.

2. I consider it to be a great honour and a special privilege to have been
invited to deliver the convocation address of IIIT. In a short span of
time, this institute has created a unique niche for itself. The institute
has the dream of becoming a global center of excellence in IT education,
research and technology development. This dream that can be converted into
reality, if we create the right .ambition. and the right .ambience.. I see
the presence of both here. I have no doubt, therefore, that this dream
will be fulfilled.

3. Let me begin by extending my wholehearted congratulations and my very
best wishes to the young graduates. You are going to enter a new exciting
world, which is changing rapidly. There are extra-ordinary opportunities
for those, who are prepared to face the challenge of change. Indeed, only
those of us will survive and succeed, who will be able to anticipate the
change and also exploit the change. And those who do this will one day
lead the change. We in India should have the ambition of leading the
change and make things happen on our own terms.

4. Speaking about change, there are several things that have undergone a
change in recent times. One of the most important one is the perception
about India. Let me explain. I was reading Times magazine recently. I
browsed through the interview of Peter Mandelson, who is Tony Blair.s most
valued adviser. I was struck by what I read. He said .in the space of a
decade, China and India have emerged as dramatic, dynamic competitors.
Over here and in America, there is a sense that this has put our jobs and
livelihoods at stake.. Would you have ever imagined a change of perception
of India from a poor and deprived country to a challenger to US & Europe?

5. Just about an year ago, I was having a dinner with the famous economist
Jeffrey Sachs. We were discussing the Goldman Sachs report, which predicts
that India along with China and USA will be the three top economies of the
world by 2050. Jeffrey Sachs said that he disagreed with this report. I
wondered why. I thought he meant that India could not perhaps be the part
of this privileged pack. I was surprised when he said something quite to
the contrary. He said that this could happen sooner than 2050, and also
that if India plays its card right, it could occupy even a higher

6. What factors cause a rapid turnaround for a country? The turnaround in
the fortune of different countries at different points in their history
has been attributed to different factors. For USA, it was roads and
railways, which led to the big spurt in its economic growth. For Britain,
the same factor was textiles. For Denmark, it was milk and milk products.
For Sweden, it was timber and timber products. For Middle East, it was
oil. What is the oil for India in the 21st Century? I strongly believe
that it is IT. And by that I do not mean IT as in .Information
Technology. but IT as in .Indian talent.. It is this talent that is going
to catapult India to great heights in the comity of nations. Other nations
have already recognized the power of Indian talent. Let me share my own
experience with you.

7. As a member of Indo-German Consultative Committee, I remember attending
a meeting in Bonn. There was a presentation by a senior German member. He
expressed a concern that one third of Germany in the next 10 to 15 years
will be more than 60 years old. A question was put to our German friend.
Germany and Japan became economic powerhouses because they excelled in
technological innovations. But then innovation is the domain of the
young. How could a predominantly old Germany survive when it becomes old?
The reply came quickly from our German friend. He asserted that in the
twenty first century, Germany will be sourcing the innovations from a
country that is expected to lead in innovation due to the quality of its
talent, namely, the Indian talent!

8. We all thought that he was being nice to the Indian delegation. But
that is not the case. What he predicted is already happening. One hundred
and fifty major companies from USA and Europe have set up their research,
design and development centres in India in the last five years and they
are not small. Some of them employ 2000 to 3000 employees. They include
big names such as Boeing, Daimler Chrysler, Du Point, General Electric,
General Motors, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Siemens, Unilever and so on. And
more are coming every day. Why is this happening? As legendary Jack
Welch, the CEO of General Electric (GE) said during the inauguration of
GE.s R&D Centre in Bangalore .India is a developing country but it is a
developed country as far as its intellectual capital is concerned. We get
the best intellectual capital per dollar here . thanks to the amazing
quality of Indian talent.. I believe the key word in his remarks is
.Indian talent..

9. What is so unique about Indian talent? The uniqueness of the Indian
mind has been well accepted. It was the Indian mind which recognised the
power of the fusion of mind, body and spirit for the first time. The
products of Indian mind have influenced the events of the twentieth
century. For example, we could not talk about digital economy if binary
digits, comprising the numerals .zero. and .one. did not exist. But who
invented zero? We all know that it was the Indian mind, which invented the
concept of .shunya. or the zero.

10. But then you would say here he is one more of those Indians gloating
about the glory of our past. Let me assure you that this great journey of
Indian mind continues unabated. For instance, we always worry about the
fact that in Olympics after Olympics we hardly win any medals inspite of
being a country of a billion. But I am proud to say that when it comes to
the Olympics of mind, we win all the time. Last year, in the Science
Olympiads for the school children, we had sent 19 young Indian children.
There was a competition amongst eighty nations. Do you know how many of
them returned with medals? All 19 of them. So powerful was the quality of
those young minds. And so is the case with the quality of all the minds,
who have gathered here in this hall today.

11. It is the power of the Indian talent that has given the prestige to
Indian IT industry like in no other industry. Infosys and Wipro have
caught the imagination of the world. Around 600,000 software professionals
contribute to 20% of our exports, and their average age is just around 27
years. Can you imagine 0.06 percent of Indian population making such a

12. This Indian talent has created great waves across the shores of India.
The dominant position of Indian diaspora in the American IT industry is
legendary. Whether it is Suhas Patil of Cirrus Logic or Gururaj Deshpande
of Sycamore Networks or Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems, all of them have
been stars in their own right. And the Indian talent goes beyond IT. We
are then reminded of Victor Menezes of Citibank and Rajat Gupta of
McKinsey and Raghuram Rajan of IMF and Rakesh Gangwal of US Airways and
Arun Netravali of Bell Laboratories. The list goes on. They have all done
us proud. But then you would say that I am citing these examples of
Indians in USA. What about India? Would Patil, Khosla, Gupta, Netravali
have succeeded in India? Let me respond to this question by narrating an
anecdote again.

13. I was involved in the process of interview for the Chief Innovation
Officer of National Innovation Foundation, which I chair. I found that the
individual that we were interviewing had an experience in branding a
product. I said .I want to brand my India. How would you do that?. He was
puzzled. He had branded a soap, a refrigerator, but he wondered as to how
he could brand a nation? I said .I will make it easy for you. Let me tell
you as to how other nations brand themselves. For instance, US brands
itself as a land of opportunity!. He immediately replied, .I will brand
India as a land of ideas.. Now here is the issue. India is a land of
ideas but it is US that is a land of opportunities. That is why our young
people with aspirations go to USA, which provides them an opportunity to
reach their own potential. The challenge before all Indians, whether they
are in India or abroad, is to make India the land of opportunity.

14. Is India becoming a land of opportunity? I believe it is. Look at
the of Indian industry today. It is beginning to realize that if they do
not innovate, they will perish. Indian drugs and pharmaceutical industry
survived so far by copying known molecules. Now at least ten Indian
companies are inventing their own new molecules by getting into discovery
research. I spoke to several pharma industry leaders. Collectively, they
are looking to employ now hundreds of bright young Ph.D.s. In fact, they
are complaining about the shortage of suitably skilled Ph.D.s. in India!

15. There are other sectors where magical changes are taking place. In
auto industry, the wheel has turned the full circle. Fifty years ago, it
was British Morris Oxford, which was sold as Indian Ambassador on Indian
roads. Today, it is Indian Indica that is being sold as City Rover on
London roads! Why did this happen? It happened because Indian talent was
given an opportunity due to a vision of a leader and because of a
conducive policy of the Government.

16. In March 1978, JRD Tata had said .If Telco was allowed to make a car,
we would have been as good in it as we were in trucks.. But he was not
allowed to make the Tata car. Why? Because India was a closed economy. It
had not opened up. It had policies which killed competition. In 1991,
the then Finance Minister and the present Prime Minister opened this
economy up. Ratan Tata was allowed to make the cars. He had the courage
to give this challenge to 700 engineers, who had never done an auto-design
in their life. He invested Rs. 1760 crores, the highest that have been
invested in backing up an indigenously designed, developed and
manufactured product. What was the result. The result was a world class
car, namely Indica. What is the lesson in this? The .Indian Talent. of
700 engineers found an expression only when the Government policies
allowed competition and a visionary leader, who trusted the .Indian
Talent. baited on them. The winner was India.

17. We lament the loss of the best Indian Talent to the western world. But
as we make India as a .land of opportunity., more talent will return to
India. This is already beginning to happen. I spoke to the Chairman of
NASSCOM, Dr. Kiran Karnik, recently. NASSCOM have done research on
returning Indian professionals. He told me that during the last two years
over 20,000 professionals have returned. I went to Jack Welch R&D Centre
in Bangalore a few months ago. They have 2400 professionals working there.
They told me that 700 of them were young Indians, who had returned in the
last 3 to 4 years. I met someone from Intel last month. He told me that
in their Indian R&D Centre, they are having 2600 professionals. 400 of
them have come back from USA over the last 3 to 4 years. Admittedly, this
is a trickle of Indian talent in returning. It is not a torrent yet. But
it is heartening to see the change.

18. The challenge before us is to convert this trickle into a torrent.
Government can do a lot in this. I am happy to see some recent initiatives
taken by the Government of India through its Department of Science &
Technology. One of the notable initiatives is Ramanujan Fellowship. Any
young outstanding Indian scientist, who wants to return to India, will be
given a monthly remuneration of Rs. 50,000 with Rs. 5.00 lakh per year for
contingency to help him in his research. This Fellowship will be available
upto 5 years. There is no upper limit on the number of such Fellows.
Hopefully, such Fellows will find a challenging opportunity in an
institution or industry. We need many more such initiatives.

19. I have talked about getting the Indian talent back that was lost to
us. But what about spotting talent and nurturing it in India? We need to
.catch them young., as they say and then mentor them. Let me give an
example of what my own CSIR is doing.

20. CSIR has set up the CSIR Diamond Jubilee Invention Award for school
children. The objectives of this to spot creativity and innovativeness
amongst children and create interest and awareness for intellectual
property amongst the children. Any Indian student enrolled in an Indian
school below the age of 18 years can compete in this award competition. We
have run this competition for three years. We have received thousands of
enteries. It was amazing to see the power of Indian talent. The age group
of these young inventors ranged between 11-18 and from class six to

21. The Braille developed by Madhav Pathak from a Jabalpur school received
the first CSIR Diamond Jubilee Award. Madhav Pathak improved a
conventional Braille slate to make writing easier for the blind. It was
very tedious for a blind child to memorize more than 300 combinations,
since reading and writing is done in the opposite way for a conventional
Braille slate. Madhav.s innovation makes it possible to read and write
from left to right. This invention later received international prizes

22. But CSIR does not stop at just spotting the talent. It nurtures it
too. CSIR applied for patents in the name of Madhav. Further, the model
developed by Madhav was improved by one of CSIR.s laboratory, namely,
Central Scientific Instruments Organization (CSIO) in Chandigarh. A
prototype was developed by CSIO and was evaluated at a blind school in
Chandigarh. The new prototype is an improved pocket version providing more
space to read and write both for conventional Braille writers and the new
Braille writers. We will take Madhav.s innovation forward now. Who knows
what difference the product coming out from this young Indian talent can
make to the blind of the world?

23. I do strongly believe that we need to do much more to spot and nurture
young talent all around the country. This process has to begin from the
level of school children itself. And this cannot just be the
responsibility of the Government. The corporate world must contribute it
in a big way. In this context, I am happy to see the efforts by leading
corporates, such as Tatas, Birals, Reliance, Mahindras, WIPRO, etc.
Interestingly even multinational companies such as Microsoft, INTEL, BASF,
Dupont are also searching and recognizing young Indian talent.

24. A timely spotting and supporting of talent can make a huge
difference. Let me tell you my own story. I was born in a very poor
family. My father died when I was six. My mother, who was uneducated, did
menial work to bring me up. I went barefoot till I was twelve. I studied
under streetlights. I remember that after my Secondary School Certificate
Examination in 1960, although I had secured eleventh rank among 135,000
students in the state, I was about to leave the school, because my mother
could not fund my college education. And I remember Sir Dorab Tata Trust
coming in with a scholarship of 60 rupees per month. This Trust by Tatas
supported me until my graduation. That 60 rupees added so much value to my
life but it did not subtract any value from the Tatas.

25. I would say that every Indian, whether in India or abroad must help
the cause. On 3rd July this year, I addressed 3,000 NRIs in Atlanta in
USA. At the end of my talk I gave an idea. Apparently, there are 300,000
professionals in Silicon Valley whose average income is more than 200,000
USA dollars. This makes it an annual income of 60 billion dollars.
Supposing they would be able to spare one cent out of 10 dollars in
supporting and nurturing young Indian talent, we would have 300 crores in
Indian rupees. If we assume that a total support to a single student will
need Rs. 10,000 per year, we are talking in terms of helping 3 lakh
students. The central point I made is that the loss of one cent out of 10
dollars will not make any difference to them. But it will add so much to
the Indian talent pool. The idea was received with great enthusiasm. That
convinced me that you can take an .Indian out of India. but not .India out
of an Indian.. Therein lies our hope.

26. I have, by now, developed the reputation of being a .dangerous
optimist. about the great future of India. The reason I earned this
reputation is attributed by some to the address that I delivered to the
gathering of 5000 scientists at the Science Congress in the year 2000 in
Pune. I had said .The next century will belong to India, which will become
a unique intellectual and economic power to reckon with, recapturing all
its glory, which it had in the millennia gone by.. This confidence comes
to me because of the demonstrated power of this great Indians talent, to
which I have made a repeated reference today.

27. Finally, I would like to again congratulate IIIT. Let IIIT assume the
reputation of become .Indian Institute of Innovative Talent., well known
not only for capturing and nurturing talent but building the innovative
capacity in this talent to create world beating products, process and
services that will catapult this nation to great heights. I wish all the
IIIT family the very best in its journey up the limitless ladder of


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