Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why India lags in Innovation?

One agrees to it or not, we Indians lag in innovation when compared to nations like Germany, Japan, USA and France. Even if we disagree on this front, everybody have to agree that India has become an outsourcing destination not an innovation destination. Who is to be blamed (if at all there should be a blame) for this? Surprisingly, its the superiority and the inferiority complex of Indians that combine to pull India behind.

Inferiority complex
We love foreign. No harm. Harm is caused when we love foreign to the extent that we hate ourselves. Top companies think that we have to import goods and technology to make good products. There was a major project to reach outer space undertaken by a Indian research agency. When they were planning for this project, the first thought that came to the planners was - import the technology to manage the communication between earth and outer space. The consideration to use other research agencies within India was not done. Finally many parts of the mission came from abroad. But as a proof point to innovativeness, the organization set up an amazing hi-tech antenna developed and designed entirely in India.

How many times we talk about a local product cheaply? There is the foreign brand, the Chinese brand and then there is "the local maal sir". And in that priority. Locals are the most inferior. When we ourselves do not respect the local product, why would somebody invest into innovation of the same?

Superiority complex
Lets travel to a country where the innovation levels are better than that of India. Lets see their work culture and compare it with ours. Just to make it explicit - its an IT industry example.

A guy who is interested in coding continues to code for 20 yrs. He puts in all his effort into mastering the product and improving the product. Over a period of time the product is no longer a product, but is a passion. And passion drives excellence and innovation.
Lets come back to India. 10 yrs of experience, we see that the role of the person is to manage people...no technlogy. We take pride in telling that a person became a manager at 28 yrs. He or she automatically feels that they are superior over the others. Coding is considered inferior. This is a disease and spreads fast. The developers want to become managers and coding is considered a fresher job.

Now where is the innovation - It has to be from a customer requirement or from the developer coding the prj...Not the middle management. If the developers aim is to get up the ladder and become superior does he or she think of innovation?
(I wonder if today's brand of young managers can really do the management job for the next 20+yrs of their career. Wont it be boring?)

Indian manufacturing industries are slightly better in innovation. Because the guys there have put in years of service on the products they are building. The superiority complex of a manager is lesser there. During my college project at HAL, I have seen senior managers sitting on the lathe machine assisting the workers. A good lathe guy or a cutting specialist is recognised for his talent and is not looked down upon (paywise he gets less, but jobwise he commands respect). He continues to become an expert in that. The work is his passion and so he innovates using the lathe. This is at a grass-root level.

If one argues that Indians are less intelligent and hence less innovative, my one and only suggestion to them is -- come, stay, work in India. Understand Indian minds & society. Then you know how intelligent we Indians are.

Do we need to change? Changing minds can't be drastic.

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