Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Yay, Sundar Pichai

Replace Sundar with Satya Nadella or any Indian executive who has made big in the US. Extend that to many prominent academicians and entrepreneurs.

The moment it happens - two things we get. First up, interviews with anyone who went to school with them, who shared a PG with them or who were their study partner or whatever and the fawning adulation. Sometimes, there is a bit of chest thumping on how Indians are ruling every sphere in the world and so on and so forth.

And then, someone will finally ask this question. Why can India create a Sundar Pichar but not create a Google. 

The answer is a fairly simple one to start with and a rather complex one beyond that.
So, why do Indians leave India? For one, quality of higher education - which is why people leave. Why can't that they do that in India? Because for one, because of our socialistic outlook - there are simply limited seats. Second, because in India, universities and educational institutions are stifled under "Cannot make profit" laws.  Third, foreign universities cannot enter (I think even Indian universities are not allowed to go out of the country - or with a thousand regulatory hurdles.) At the very least, it needs an overhaul.

Second, if it is not for education, it is for research. Our research sucks. And one post is not enough to capture all of the sad stories. But the combination of the bad universities and bad research and funds is about as worse as it gets.

Third, they leave for jobs. Well, we do have jobs, but the better ones are in the US(mostly) because of the points A and B above. And, not to mention the ecosystem that runs between academia and business.

And don't forget basic infrastructure like electricity and land and water that is needed for universities and industries alike.

Even if all this did not matter and somehow a set of students broke through and had a great idea, it is not an easy business environment in the country. Setting up a company is not easy. Running it, more so. So, even if someone who went to the US for either of the three reasons and wanted to come back  - that is still not easy.

So, Sundar exemplifies what India could have done had we had a great university ecosystem that allowed people like him to research and do what they love to do. And the similar ecosystem plus ease of doing business allowed someone like Sergey Brin and Larry Page to set up a Google. The issue therefore, is our socialist legacy that stifles both these and ensures that we don't grow.

So, the next time we ask ourselves why we have a Sundar Pichar who goes to US and makes it big, we need to also ask ourselves, what can we have done for the countless people like him who can make it big, provided they are given access to an ecosystem like that. Of course, to build an ecosystem like that, we need visionaries and not socialist fetters...

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