Inventors vs Innovators vs Consumers – Why India can never be an economic super power

Might be a controversial post but it is the truth.

We have the population… so does China… lot more than us actually… But numbers do not convert into turning the nation into super power.

I have started reading “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires” by Tim Wu (part of must read by Seth Godin). The first 50 pages into the book and I arrived at this conclusion.

US became the economic power house because majority of the inventions in the 20th century happened over there. it was a country which realized what technology can do. And this awareness, coupled with the freedom, individuals and groups invested time and effort in doing new things… discovering… experimenting… developing…  The results are all there for us to see.  Any new technology that emerges and becomes a rage, the origin is in US. Of course with freedom and the power to dictate terms to the entire world, comes arrogance. And this arrogance has led to the state of affairs that exist in US . But this post is not about that.

The point is that countries that invent… are the ones which take leadership position and make the other countries gravitate towards them

Then there is the next level… which also takes the super power status. These are the countries where they innovate… take the basic invention and take it through a series of innovations to make them better… thereby appropriating to themselves economic leadership. Germany for automobiles, Japan & Korea in consumer electronics and of course China which takes all of it and produces it at half the cost and seeks domination.

So where does that leave India? or where has it left in India after 64 years of Independence and warped political policies and the brain drain from 1960’s till perhaps 2000. NOWHERE is the answer.

We are the consumers for now. This rise of the middle class in last couple of decades and the urbanization, we are hungry to consume all that the world of technology has to offer. Whether it is the iPhone from US, LCD TV from Japan or Korea, Cars from Japan or Germany… we will take them all. We have the numbers and the world realizes that. So the markets are full of these innovative products. We can get everything we want and we can pay for. Our consumerism has for the moment numbed our innovative thinking and of course these countries would not want us to innovate so they keep giving us object of desires and do not want us to bother about inventing. If we start with that process, who will buy their technology?

Another way of keeping us busy is the whole BPO and KPO and various kinds of business processing that we are involved in. Infosys is huge and admired but eh.. what is it they do? Sabeer Bhatia made hotmail famous… what did it do for India? The various nobel laureates from India… did their invention or innovation make this country big? We gave the world zero and got nothing in return because nobody did anything after that. Now we only talk about it.

Unless we become inventors or innovators (and on a technological breakthrough scale), we can never become the power that everyone keeps saying we have the potential for… specially the politicians and commentators who can’t look beyond the population numbers and the prestige of our tech education institutions.

And it is a collective effort that is needed… politicians, corporates, people, media, policies, mindset and a willingness to invest.

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