India now has the resources, talent and political will to think big on issues it faces, be it in providing access to education and healthcare or in terms of a competitive economy, according to Sam Pitroda, chairperson, National Innovation Council (NIC).
He was addressing an audience of corporate professionals, academics and students at a conference, organised by a city-based business school, via video link from Mexico City. The 17-member NIC, which Pitroda heads, is tasked with evolving a road map for a decade of innovation, 2010-20, with a focus on inclusive growth.
Speaking on the Indian model of innovation, Pitroda said the country needed innovation for the bottom of the pyramid through democratisation of knowledge. For this, the work to be done during 12th Five-year Plan would be critical for the future of the country.
The remark that drew the biggest applause was his take on why Indians approach failure differently from, say, Americans. He said: “When we were children, if we had failed, it meant we would have nothing to eat. It was a question of survival.”
“Today’s children are the children of the well-to-do. They can afford to take risk. The change in mindset will happen over a period of time. We should give ourselves some time as a society.”
According to Pitroda, the country is at a tipping point, with sufficient talent available along with access to technology, tools and opportunities in IT, biotechnology, nanotechnology sectors.
The targeted $250 billion worth of software exports would need some investment in hardware too, and the government was willing to address the needs, he said.
Technology leaders from the corporate sector said the most important qualities for students to have for future are clarity on first principles, original thinking, and ability to collaborate.
They said the Indian education system had responded well by providing 2 million skilled people, who were capable of incremental innovation. But the need now was for ‘inventive’ people who can conceptualise and think independently, along with a society open to maverick ideas.