Of Rishis and Sunaks…

A few months back I had written about the brain drain – where Indian Americans make huge inroads managing the world’s biggest companies, where they could have in theory worked in India as well.

In general, this applies to any person of Indian origin – when such a person makes it big, we Indians celebrate – regardless of how that person views us or how strong (or weak) their actual ties are to India.

The latest in the news is Rishi Sunak, who is a whisker away from becoming the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the (once) Great Britain.

What a turnaround, they say. From ruling us, to one of us in pole position in their own country.

We conveniently forget that Rishi’s parents came in from Africa, and so his “Indianness” is pretty far away from what we think it is. I don’t think he considers himself Indian, and even if he did, he wouldn’t make an open announcement of it, given that it would effectively rule him out of the race.

He is of Indian-origin, is Hindu, and is British at heart. Let’s leave it at that. We have over one and a half billion people to celebrate back home, let’s try that for a change:)

Here is what I wrote when Parag became the CEO of Twitter. Well, in hindsight, what a roller-coaster ride has that been for him!

See you tomorrow:)

Welcome to the club Parag!

…so say Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Inc, Arvind Krishna of International Business Machines Corp., Sundar Pichai of Alphabet Inc. , Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Ajay Banga of Mastercard Inc.

It’s heartening to see Indian talent being celebrated on the world stage. It’s also amusing to see people scramble to find connections within India when such announcements are made.

On one side, there is chest-thumping about the “Indian-ness”, and on the other, there is lamenting on the loss of talent to other countries.

I for one, sail in both boats. Ajay Devgn, if you may.

Yes, it feels nice when a countryman makes it to the upper echelons of multinational companies, and one also wonders why such talent cannot make homegrown success stories of the same magnitude.

Cannot blame them really. The infrastructure and opportunities for creating technology behemoths was just not there in India. Parag holds a doctorate degree – how many universities in India boast of their research capabilities? How much money is allocated to research in Indian schools and colleges?

Exposure to cutting-edge tech is essential and for this, creating an ecosystem is critical. It starts from world-class universities, which can then attract world-class teaching talent, and this creates a snowball effect that leads up to fostering innovation on a global scale.

It takes time and effort. And Indians do not lack effort, nor talent. What we lack is that ecosystem, but I am sure that this will be built in time. But for this, we also have to let go of our own prejudices regarding teaching and research. We have to pay our teachers on par with those working in industry, else the brightest will never be teachers and this would lead to missed opportunities for students. Facilities for research will have to be upgraded, and we will have to be patient with researchers. Give them the infrastructure, and let them take their time.

We heard about the “brain-drain” in the 80s and 90s – this has reduced considerably. Unicorns are being built in India at a very fast pace, but innovation? Now that is another story. It’s one thing to copy ideas that are successful in other parts of the world, but innovation means to come up with that idea in the first place, execute it well, and then take it global.

That will lead to the next Google, Twitter and Apple from India – to the world.

Now that would make me much happier than celebrating one from a billion who made it big in another country.

See you tomorrow!