Leapfrog Into The Sky
A fortnight earlier, some people recognised the name Sunder Pichai but now the whole world knows him as a new CEO of Google. And this has given us a reason to take pride in the success of a fellow Indian. The elevation of Pichai is really an occasion to celebrate and to write home about. It is only natural for all of us to be proud of a person who is successful and has made it to the top in life. But a lesson or two has to be learnt from his appointment, in which innovation, rather than tradition, has played a key role. However, the secular and democratic criterion followed by Google in his selection should be emulated in our political system, we faithfully follow the tradition of elevating the scion of a politician to his sire’s position. In this background, the selection of an Indian-born professional to the number one position of one of the biggest corporations in the world is an honour for India, rather a benefit, as Pichai believes in empowering people around him, and by his mentoring, more Indian leaders will emerge in the future. However, Pichai’s becoming CEO of Google was not a cake walk. All successful people in established corporations in America have to work twice as hard as the locals. This holds good for Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella, Indra Nooyi, Vikram Pandit, Punit Renjen and for all Indian immigrants there. If Pichai had chosen to stay in India, he could not even have entered in any of the top universities, because that is the respect merit gets in this country. Merit is given a lay by in the name of reservations. India is not a meritocracy due to the presence of the caste-based reservation system, which, close on the heels of Independence, sought to address the upliftment of the oppressed. It turned out to be a means to power, and over the years, it threw up neo-beneficiaries called politicians, playing up vote-bank politics to remain in power. In the present scenario, even if poverty and backwardness are totally eradicated, the caste-based reservation will not go, as it has long since become a means to power, and no political party will be prepared to dilute it, leave alone abolishing it. It would be apt to say that there is absolutely no support in India for merit. Against this backdrop, it is an enormous national misfortune that talented and ambitious Indians are compelled to leave the country, even if they want to do serious, significant and inventive work in their fields. In fact, a section of talented people maintain that choosing to remain in India almost always amounts to intellectual suicide, which is resulting in steady brain drain. The utterly dysfunctional system only punishes those who would like to use their gifts for the benefit of their motherland, and this is too great a sacrifice to demand in the name of patriotism.
Since Pichai assumed the CEO post of Google, every Indian is busy discussing his traits and abilities, but none is focussing on the fact that it’s his Bharatiya background that has developed the required traits, which have made him the CEO. This shows that our culture, social environment and education systems together develop the distinguishing features of the global leader. We are now blessed with a huge demographic potential, and we only need to give it direction. According to an estimate, about 15 lakh engineers pass out every year, we need to develop them according to the changing global scenario and make them compatible to face the world. We have the raw material, we just have to enrich it and give it the opportunity to prosper. Sundar Pichai is an IIT-Kharagpur alumnus, which shaped up his future. His elevation to the top job certainly encourages our youngsters—those who are in the US and here in India–to attain greater heights in professional life. The day is not far-off when we will witness Google, Apple and Microsoft kind of entrepreneurs in India itself. Finally, it cannot be gainsaid that the Pichai episode demonstrates the American way of utilising talent, irrespective of one’s race, creed, or caste, as it generally happens in India. So, we need to emulate the USA on these lines because there is no deficit of talent in our country. What distinguishes the US is not that it is universally meritocratic, but that it always strives to better itself. Ultimately, that is what the rest of the world, especially India, should admire and emulate. Furthermore, India has time and again produced the best brains in the world. The point to be noted here is why these people are succeeding outside India and why we are failing to reap the so-called “demographic dividend”. Answers to these questions are not so hard to answer, but the point is whether we can address this problem. Yes we can, but it requires strong political will with effective implementation on ground.