What is missing in India – the one door that can open all other doors.
Returning after a three month visit to India my NRI friend felt that nothing had changed after 26/11. A self confessed India lover, he says that he would not be surprised if there were another attack on India. ‘Even Gateway of India seems as unsafe as it always has been’ he said ‘the same sloppy constables with outdated 303 rifles, the same sense of unpreparedness, the same God will save us attitude’
He contrasted this with the sense of safety that exists in the U.S where the government set up a Homeland Security Department, that went about tapping technology with great resolve. There has been no 9/11 since 2001. Reports in the US media tell us of the James Bond style nabbing of potential terrorists including one man who was on the verge of planting bombs in a New York railway Station bigger than the CST station in Mumbai.
Talking of CST station I submit as follows:
The manner in which the X Ray machine at this station is ignored suggests that another attack there can hardly be ruled out. It is easy to say that India lacks money and technology but I believe technology can be acquired and money is really not scarce in India. The amount we waste is phenomenal—after all a state government is able to find close to a thousand crores to erect statues.
I believe we lack something that cuts across most problems, the right attitude to analyse a problem and come up with well researched solutions.
Let me furnish two recent studies that were done in the US which highlight this attitude difference I write about. A group of experts analyzed millions of bank transactions and came up with an algorithm that enables authorities to identify terrorism experts and trace movement of funds to such entities.
While the details are understandably not made public what was startling was the showcasing of the analytical attitude I refer to. The analysis showed that a person with neither a first nor a last Muslim name stood only a 1 in 50000 chance of being a terrorist suspect.
The likelihood of a person with a first or a last Muslim name being a terrorist suspect, is 1 in 30000. The likelihood of a person with both the first and last name being Muslim being a terrorist suspect is 1 in 2000. That explains why Shah Rukh Khan was detained at Newark Airport. My friend Abbas from Mumbai says that he feels hurt when he sees such analysis But agrees that this can not be helped.
He also adds that ‘secular’ politicians in India will rise in protest at such findings even if they are proven to be more true in India and will also protect Indian Muslims who condemn terrorism as much as Hindus do. This is part of India’s attitude problem but I am focusing more on the analysis aspect.
The second study that is recent and interesting is that a group of scientists have found that the installation of an Easy Pass that allows motorists to zoom past a toll gate, instead of stopping to drop coins into a till, reduces pollution related illnesses by over 40 % in the adjoining localities up to a radius of six miles!
Now I suggest that students and teachers in higher educational institutes or even high school in India may well develop such an attitude and study local problems and offer solutions. The analytical attitude and creativity that this can engender is exactly what is required to make us an economic Superpower.
At the moment we are under a false delusion that we are an IT major. This is another example of our lack of analytical ability. Few of us have cared to research into the nature of our contribution in the IT and other areas.
Most readers may not know that in 2008 the per capita venture capital funding in Israel—a country forever at war—was 2.5 times greater than in the US, 30 times greater than in Europe, 80 times greater than in China, and 300 times greater than India! This is not to say that it is lack of funding that prevents India from being an innovative entrepreneurial nation.
Israel is the world leader in R&D as a percentage of GDP. Paul Smith Sr. VP of Phillips says ‘In 2 days in Israel I saw more business opportunities than in a year in the rest of the world’.
An IT expert says that there are more innovative ideas coming out of Israel than out of Silicon Valley.
A top US based expert says –and read this twice please –
‘There are lots of places with talented people certainly with many times more engineers than Israel has to offer….but we do not set up mission critical work in those countries ..Google, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, eBay….the list goes on.
The best kept secret is that we all live and die by the work of our Israeli teams. It is much more than outsourcing call centres to India what we do in Israel is unlike what we do in the rest of the world’,.
I can see the torrent of abuses coming my way—Israel is a small country, the war like atmosphere brings out he best in the people, etc etc.
All this may be true but have we nothing to learn from others? Are we to go on claiming that we taught to world how to count, invented chess, invented zero etc etc?
Such sanctimonious statements tell us something about our attitudes. We need to develop an attitude of questioning, doing research, discard our tendency to make generalized statements based on emotions and prejudices shorn of research, look to creating reliable data, use IT to cull data and apply thought to get insights and above all stop pretending that the sight of youngsters answering telephone calls makes us an I.T superpower.
As a trainer in Lateral thinking I have often encountered an experience that does not hold out much hope. I have offered to address students of B- Schools. Engineering colleges, Post graduation classes FREE on THINKING SKILLS but the response has been largely negative. Either they ask me to send in my bio data—they do not accept my website – or are too busy with their curriculum. In other words the do not consider my subject mission critical.
I may not be important but the subject that I teach—CREATIVE THINKING – is critical if we are to make the lives of a billion Indians livable But then I recall what a professor of an educational institution in India who vainly tried to invite me to his class but met with apathy from his students said in disgust.
He quoted Mark Twain — an India admirer — as having said that in India everything is sacred except life. Is there any surprise that even terrorism—the issue I began with – is not taken as a life and death matter?