Educating The Future Minds

Most important element of Educating the Future Minds, lies in such an access, such a commitment and enabling environment, for all aspiring students not just in science alone, but in all subjects and multidisciplinary fields (even if some of them are ill defined at that time). It should not be mere virtual or electronic access, but also a physical access transmitting affection and confidence. (The reason for this emphasis can be seen in the later part of this talk when I address the Learning Society).



(CII Seminar on 16th November 2011 – Concluding Remarks by Y S Rajan)

Dear Sam Pitroda, Prof. Samir Brahmachari, Dr. Nishad Forbes, distinguished participants and members of the media, it is a pleasure to be in the event organised by CII.  I am happy to see that Technology group of CII is growing remarkably well and has now touched all aspects of the Indian Innovation Ecosystem.

With the distinguished speakers in the dais who have spoken already and others to follow, I will limit my concluding remarks of the inaugural to a few points

I desire to place before you, three points:  FIRST ONE, is that we in India have to learn to differentiate between KNOWLEDGE AND INNOVATION.  Most of our academic and S&T system are geared towards acquisition of KNOWLEDGE. Others admire it, are in awe of it, reward it, and celebrate it.    Knowledge is a key element, no doubt.

But KNOWLEDGE tends to stand alone, and over a period, it can EVOPORATE.  But     INNOVATION Spreads, Diffuses, and Transforms the existing things.And above all, it creates WEALTH and NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL

If we enable the overall national system to capture the fruits of INNOVATION, then every one will be prepared in advance to get into the transformed new businesses, services and applications  as well as enjoy new life styles of consumption of products.

SAM PITRODA  emphasised the need for reaching the BULKEY BASE.  Only all round focussed innovations can make it possible.

Prof Samir Brahmachari traced the first wave of establishing a base for INNOVATION:  It was around mid-1980’s with the establishment of institutions like C-DOT, CDAC, TIFAC etc.  There was literally an Explosion of Innovation Bases.  He showed a few examples from tractors to waste management to molecules to auto components.

Some of these early efforts benefited from the liberalisation and globalisation which started in 1991.  The story is not over here.

Now I come to my SECOND POINT:  While some initial govt/organisational support is required for creating  A BASE FOR INNOVATION in a company (firm), or laboratory or institution or a service entity or an operational system like railways, shipping, hospitals, aviation etc., it is important to have COMPETITION.  POST -= 1991 India provided that opportunity, though everything was not done in the best or optimal way.  Many things were done helter skelter; still the competitive environment triggered many innovative impulses.  These, always, did not capture on the strengths created furing the first wave of INNOVATION BASE.

But still Innovative India coasted along, if not accelerated and rise up in its trajectory.  Therefore many of you present here may have mixed feelings.  â€œWhen will we move fast?  When will we reach new heights?”  will be the dominant question in your minds.  That is getting louder because many of you, now have realised that you are capable of INNOVATIONS and not just to  acquire KNOWLEDGE and keep on discussing or publishing.

Yes, we all have to raise our voices; call for change of mindsets:  we don’t need protection but we need our fetters removed!

In order to do that let us all REMOVE:    

-Self pity 

-Diffidence and

-“Hoga nai” attitude


THIRD AND LAST POINT  I wish to place before you:  Let us arm ourselves and celebrate the three essential ingredients for INNOVATION, be it in individuals, institutions, industries, fields or market place etc.,




IN FIFTEEN YEARS, whole of India will be INNOVATIVE.

Thank you.


(Y S Rajan)




(Based on YS Rajan’s remarks in a CII Panel discussion during 2012 )

Y S Rajan



‘Technology’ is one of the most used and abused word in contemporary public discourse.  Politicians proudly declare that Indian technology is “second to none in the world” and reiterate their commitments to ‘science’.  Science policy makers continue to demand more and more public funds for ‘basic research’ stating that more of it will give technologies to India.  Top Indian business persons (India Inc) proudly state that they have the latest technologies through partnerships and acquisition of  companies abroad.  They emphasize their commitment to innovation.  For  economists technology is a black box to be inferred through expenditures and value additions as determined in prices of products and services in the market. Most MSME’s (Micro Small Medium Enterprises) buy a few new machinery and are happy with their new technology acquisition.  They also go for ISO certification,  TQM, TPM, Six sigma etc., training with the hope that they have acquired technology strengths.  Persons in IT sector look at all technology only in terms of new computers, new software and new “apps”. 

But the reality on the ground is very different.  India is a very heavy importer of technologies.  In order to export, we import more of technology embodied materials and machine.  Our ‘current account deficit’ keeps on going up as we have very little of sustained growth of technology strengths and resultant intellectual properties (IP) in our enterprises.  Acquisitions of technologies are just for immediate consumption.  The actual realities of building up of technology strengths within industries, agriculture, services, institutions, and the country as whole, are much more complex.  It has to be an assiduous accumulation over a long period.  Europe and later USA built it up since industrial revolution over a period of one-and-half century.  The catching up country Japan with highly focussed efforts (and with borrowing of or import of technologies of US & Europe) took more than two decades to catch up.  So did South Korea.  There are examples from countries like Taiwan and South east Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand. 

There are earlier examples from Israel and Australia.   China is successfully emulating the examples of Japan, S. Korea and Taiwan:  Buy or Borrow Technologies; sometime, whenever possible, do reverse engineering; or do incremental additions and learn and finally enter the game of new creations. 

 I have written about various facets of these complex operations in my books “Empowering Indians” and articles.  Please visit, the Article and book sections. 

In order that you may remember these complex processes technology acquisition and development in simple terms, I have developed some ASSOCIATIVE ANALOGIES so that you can remember easily and  develop insights for actions in actual situations.


Real life situations mostly demand introduction of newer technologies on the existing systems.  In an agricultural field, it could be introduction of newer seeds or new irrigation methods or agronomic practices such as soil testing and using right fertiliser-micronutrient combinations etc.  In a factory it may mean induction of a new machinery, improvement of existing processes or use of different quality raw (input) materials etc. In the services sector, it may be an introduction of a new user friendly software or an efficient supply chain or a new monitoring system to improve the processes, a new storage technique, or a newer type retailing  etc., 

The net result of these incremental improvements would give better efficiency or increased  productivity or greater user satisfaction leading to larger market share or greater profits etc., 

How to get such upgradations in  technologies in a firm or industry or agriculture or live stock or businesses? 

It may be outright technology transfer with machinery, training of existing personnel (including the mangers etc.,) 

Imagine GRAFTING: a technique used very often by gardners.  Same rose plant when grafted with new branch of different flower variety, gives a new set of flowers.  Mango tree farmers use this technique very often.  This is a large scale pushing of technologies into a factory or a lab without disturbing too much of the existing system.   It could even involve transferring of expert personnel along with the new equipment and processes.  One part of the existing system is modernised and that leads to entirely new results in terms of outputs, even though the existing system may continue in one corner. 

Another major step, more in depth than GRAFTING, is CROSS-BREEDING.  This technique fundamentally changes the exiting genetic structure of the plants. In a factory it is like upgrading most of the existing equipment and changing the process sheets and training the personnel in new methods of operations. 

Another faster method of effecting the CROSS BREEDING on a large scale is MAKING HYBRIDS.  Low yielding varieties of grains when hybridised with high yield varieties, result in high yielding varieties.  Again in a factory or service sector, it is a mass scale application of newer incremental technologies. 

All the above have a mix of earlier technologies.  If the old is totally wiped out and to be replaced by a totally new system of technology processes (say new machines, different raw materials, process methods etc.,)  then one can adopt CLONING methods.  It is almost a carbon-copy of some other well running successful system. Often times consultants help to set up such a new system.  Many franchised units may be CLONED after the originals.  But this has its limitations; though initially it is very competitive as it is cloned after a successful company, it  has no independent innovative growth. 

Those who are not satisfied with above modes alone (they may be necessary at the initial stages in order to improve ‘technology intensity’ in the company and also to create ‘technology innovation culture’ in the company), have to go much deeper.  They have to disturb the very core philosophy of the company or firm or factory.  Of course, one cannot completely scrub the initial culture completely and totally replace by ‘cloned ones’, which are in any case like slave follower’. 

But one can remove some basic defects identified in company’s culture.  For example a total aversion to risk and therefore total avoidance of trial of a new idea which appears promising.  Such ‘genetic defects’ can be rectified by ‘splicing the gene and injecting’ relevant better gene material.  In other words, it is GENETIC ENGINEERING, just as some plants are made resistant to certain pests; some are enabled to withstand greater moisture stress. 

In such a phase of technology management, the factory or company will have a good degree of internal changes to the organisation. For example, introduction of R&D culture; creating internal capability to map how Intellectual property rights (IPRs such as patents, designs etc.,) are emerging in the world, in the area of interest to the company; debating alternate strategies and options; continual upgradation of skills of all personnel to deal with new technologies and the resultant businesses; new  marketing techniques etc., 



Most firms (even institutions) can be broadly categorised as: 




In most fields of economic and social activity , in view of the strongly ingrained risk aversion and many decades of autarkic governance systems in post independence India, we have a large number of LAGGARDS.  They will look for continued govt. support, subsides, protection etc., Political systems may support them as they require patronage and that makes those in power more powerful.  But for the economy as a whole and for better lives of our people, it is not good to be LAGGARDS.  Those who are laggards get lesser incomes as a company or a farmer or individual. 

Laggards mostly tend to be very risk averse and are afraid of change.  In return they are satisfied with meagre rewards.  They do not even want to look ahead to know whether there are better pastures. They 

like to be safe in the company of other  laggards. This is equivalent to: 


Many students, unfortunately, follow this mode too – read the same tutorials, and if possible copy!  Our examination and entry norms seem to encourage such a pattern.  It is not good if we desire to create a high income (for all) and globally competitive India. 

Next stage of their graduation is pull out of HERDS and look outside.  If they see some “persons” outside, apparently doing very well, their desire to follow them, to emulate them.  Post liberalisation in 1991, there have been persons who wanted to follow global leaders. Though they may not acquire all their capabilities, they try to get into their lower end of the value chain.  Much of our IT industry grew up this way. 

Manufacturing sector followed a similar route by acquiring better capital goods (if not the very best), having foreign consultancies and also having joining venture.  Acquiring companies abroad also will fall in this category, because full technological and managerial strengths are  with the foreign entity in the foreign soil though ownership may be of an  India.  Sociological equivalent is:  EMULATION, FOLLOWER.  This is what happened to many “elite”  Indians under the British colonial rule. 

While being a FOLLOWER is better than being laggards, who have a danger of mass destruction, it has the danger of permanently being behind and dependent on the foreign (or Indian) leader being followed. Profitability will always be under pressure as the leader(s) can decide to crash a market or introduce new models of products  which may put pressure of the products/services which the follower is providing in the market place. 

Therefore it is necessary to get out of purely follower mode.  It may not be possible in one or two leaps forward (though leap frogging is a nice imagery to have).  Real life processes of building up internal technological strengths take many years.  Those who are leaders already,  continuously add additional strengths to themseles much easily.  Therefore follower in the march towards LEADERSHIP use two different approaches 



Syncretic is marginal adaptation of several modes: leadership processes of different types and follower type mixed up and yet be of great practical utility.  Just as many cultural adaptations have taken place in dresses, food, religious practices, languages used etc.,  One may loosely call them some hybrid mode. 

Another one SYMBIOTIC is existence of opposites (different ones)  collectively useful but their distinctness is not lost.  In a factory some portions may use totally brand new near – disruptive technologies but still other parts may be normal convention technologies and management processes.  This is normally a transition phase where one likes to make the best use of existing investments and yet attempting to modernise. 


On the whole, there is no escape from getting out of laggard status through  various (biological equivalent) processes described – grafting to genetic engineering. 

In sociological terms, it is necessary for industries, institutions and individuals to get out of HERD (SHEEP) mentality. They need to learn to emulate the best in the world. 

From then on, create SYNCRETIC & SYMBIOTIC systems where a large portion of innovation, technologies, business processes, ideas etc., are ours. 

If we maintain the above in a sustained manner for a decade or more, then we can move to LEADERSHIP status in many sectors. 

Let us keep the HOPE AND TRY HARD.


Twenty First Century Mission : Living with Nature in the Modern Form TECHNOLOGY for CONSERVATION, DIVERSIFICATION and GROWTH 


Appeared in KISAN WORLD June 2011 Vol 38 No.6 



 As long as we self – produce and consume, we have very little to worry about quality. Amongst our ancestors, the early food gatherers belonged to this category. But when the specialisation in production and division of labour began in human societies which adopted agriculture about 10,000 years ago, human transactions became complex. Producers and consumers were different. In the early societies, mostly all were producers of some or other products and there was barter deals. There was a mutual confidence between them about the products they exchanged.

When societies grew larger and more complex, producers and consumers did not see each other and often did not know each other as well. It is the trading community which was the channel of ‘communication’. Even in those times, there were many forms of products differentiation and competition. The quality assurance was through the traders and through the sources (some forms of geographic indicators of origin) ranging from Chettinad chicken to Aligarh bocks hotel or Kancheepuram sarees. Many fruits, vegetables, and artisanal products carry their brands of quality through the geography, names of producers etc. Even in services like music such sharp differentiations occurred.

In the modern industrial world it is not just adequate to know the origin and the names of producers. No doubt even now such brands are very important Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) through Geographic Indicators (GI) and Trade marks and Brand Logos. But these are limited to a relatively a small percentage of producers who often get a much better price for the confidence they provide to their consumers for the consistency of their qualities.

But there are many other products and services which are sold in market. Even in the developed countries there are large amounts of non – branded, ordinary generic types of products. Many of them are as good as branded products in terms of meeting technical specifications and consumer satisfaction. Some of them get a ‘standards certification’. In India it is ISI marking (Indian Standards Institution) now called Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Without any special GI or Trade Mark or Brand Logo, the customers can be satisfied about minimum assured quality of the product, with such certification. Nowadays there are several other marking for export quality or for several other ‘niche’ quality assurances.

In addition, many food products nowadays print about their contents, as a part, ‘quality assurance information’ to the consumers.

Arrival of standards by BIS is a fairly complex process, as it is so in various international standards. BIS has many committees of experts to arrive at a nationally acceptable minimum specifications. There are various factors that need to be accounted for. It is easy to draw up specifications for ‘highest’ quality standard; but it can push the costs of products. In countries like India such standards can wipe out whole range of micro and small – medium – enterprises (MSME’s) causing severe dislocation to the economy and society. Therefore the process of drawing BIS specifications carefully balances several such considerations. 


Many common persons and even many persons in elite circles, are not fully aware of various competitive commercial politics and geopolitical pressures that enter to standards making. Such pressures were there earlier too. But sovereign countries could fairly well balance these. But modern democratic States are under various other forms of global competitive trade and commercial pressures, because of the use of electronic and print media as well as through activist groups. While there are some positive elements in such pressures such as keeping the governance systems agile and away from stagnating lethargy, injecting greater care for public accountability etc, there are a number of negative elements, as well.

For example many advertisements go beyond the usual highlighting the positive features of the products or services and also informing the public of authentic comparative advantages against competitors. Big companies spend lots of money (often more expenditure than for research and development – R & D) for advertisement. It is difficult for smaller companies to go to court against superlative claims against “other” products.

In addition to the advertisements there are many planted articles which look “scientific” – as ultimate truths, preferring their products.

A recent phenomenon especially after globalisation has spread to all countries, is to use many activist channels – a number of them funded directly or indirectly by companies to further their commercial interests. All use scientific jargons and cite some studies!

Thus there is a multipronged attack to capture the minds of middle class consumers and to create scar about all products which are not of “their” specifications.

As long as these are merely in terms of advertisements, articles and lectures, one need not be unduly worried. But nowadays the increasing tendency is to presswise through activism and scaremongering, the channels of standards making processes. For each and every item, pressures are built up to ban an item or enact a new law to introduce a new set of stringent specifications. Such activism has become an industry or business!

Pressures t adopt Euro standards for all automobiles were one such example. Similarly there are pressures to ban most chemical fertilisers and pesticides from the agricultural field. There are some activist groups which would like to abolish all street hawkers of food from cities and towns in order to have better hygienic standards for “Indian people”.


A number of those who promote such activist ideas, think only about their surroundings and assume that India has already become a developed nation which should eradicate such ‘dirty’ ‘low quality cheap’ things from being seen. Then there will be a shinning India, at a stroke of a pen, by enacting a new ban, or a new law for different quality standards.

It is good to remember that out of the 1.2 billion Indians now about 100 million are rich / super rich; about 400 million are middle class (upper, middle and lower); if India grows fast with 9 to 10% GDP growth, some 40 – 50 million may get added to this 400 million every year; rest 700 million (BULKY BASE) are too poor for the modern world; they don’t have famine now; no major epidemic. But they live with scarcity, uncertainty of tomorrow, and many endemic diseases. Every year we add 20 million Indians for all of the 1.2 billion total.    

If we grow well in 5 years from now say 2017, we will have 100 million rich, 720 million middle class and 500 million in BULKY BASE. Total 1.32 Billion.

If we use strict standards of quality as in Europe or USA or Japan, of the 400 million middle class now, more than half cannot afford to buy the products or services. They will join the bulky base!

For example, most of the drinking water available in India is not of a very high standard. Suppose we enact a law that all Indians should be given a drinking water to a standard available in the bottled water, most urban water supply systems will collapse. Similar will be the fate of Indians, if we place European phytosanitary standards for our agricultural products, meat poultry etc.

The list is endless.

This is one area in which the political system and the bureaucracy have been sensible and have been striking a reasonable balance between affordability and ‘better’ quality. An example was in slow withdrawal of DDT, which was needed to fight malaria, etc.

India and China and many developing countries are trying to bridge the developments which were denied to them through a normal evolutionary economic process. They are catching up. How was Europe or USA, 100 years ago? No body asks these questions. 


I am all for adopting the most advanced technology which are emerging and which have imbedded newer knowledge about the earlier deficiencies or ill effects learnt through years of applications. (When introduced decades ago, such deficiencies were not well known or alternatives did not exist.)

But ask a question: are these new technologies available in the market place (not free but at a reasonable price so that the costs of production does not go up)?

Let us look at the endosulfan case. Currently it is immensely useful to the farmers to fight a whole range of pests effectively. Leave out, for a moment, the controversies about the studies which the activists claim to be final proofs of human impact.  Let us opt for a ban. But the alternates are all under the IPR protection and the European companies will not give away the technologies ‘free’ or at a ‘reasonable price’. They would like to see a law first and that helps their monopoly sales! Well this is also a part of competitive market economy, as in love or war!

Thus standards are being used for TRADE AND TECHNOLOGY domination. I have several examples in all fields.

Can we then use the compulsory licensing route to force the production of the alternates by others in India? Is there a political will and courage? Also what are implications on international forums and further investments? Another set of activist groups will work for protection of IPR’s! Also how far India can succeed in WTO (World Trade Organisation) forums, because the current IPR owners will go to WTO against such infringement.

Thank God, there is a provision for 1+5+5 = 11 years in which period Indian authorities can help our manufactures to go to alternates, in an affordable manner.

We need transition time for many such items.

 Extremism of do-gooders while may be well intentioned (through not always well informed) will affect the bulky base and the lower and middle classes. We need to enable them grow up faster, not slip down through the ladders of new standards.


Most of the readers will be familiar with inhalers for asthma control. It has CFC, a global warming chemical. The total of the CFC’s emitted through use of such inhalers will only be a small fraction of one per cent. Activists worked on to ban it. After several scientific committees studied and reported, the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave a three year period to ban the use of CFC in asthma inhalers. It was noted that an alternate was available. A few months before the last date, some persons started realising their mistakes. First the alternates were not easy use; they get sticky. More importantly, the cost of the new type inhalers were substantially costlier, affecting the poorest of the Americans who needed them the most.      

A top scientist who was in the Committees (who had agreed earlier) came out against the ban, saying that he was not aware of these. A good person! But it was too late because units producing such pharma grade CFC’s closed down!

For A full report please refer to “Scientific American India”, Aug 2008, p.12 – 13, Newscan Health Policy Section “Change in the Air”, 


A peculiar mix selective media reporting, one – point activism without looking at the totality of all Indians, commercial vested interests and nowadays some political interests, have joined up to work against something or another. Sometimes courts enter the scene. Some oppose new technologies like biotechnology which can help a lot of Indians; some want to ban all old type chemicals just because some developed countries advocate the ban. By all means, let us remove dangers to people. But let the issues be studied carefully without prefixed biases and media induced scare. Also let us balance cost aspects, IPR aspects, affordability for all sections of persons. Let us prepare our industry, consumers, people, etc for a change in a systematic manner. Let us also remember that there is nothing like ‘zero defect’ in any human endeavour.

Use standards to build confidence for people. Those who want the newest of the newest for their consumption because they can afford and want to be different, let them have their deluxe standards. Let it not affect lives of others.

Let us help all Indians to reach reasonable quality of life – which requires faster economic growth and mass consumption by people in the bulky base and in the lower middle class, who have low incomes.

Otherwise we may end up as a deeply divided India, the top of which under the technological and intellectual domination of the commercial and geopolitical interests of the developed world, and the bulky base eternally slipping down the ladders of newer changes introduced in the developed world.