26 Jan 2010

Where is our wave of imagination?

I am a proud Indian. Yet, sometimes when I look at the kind of innovation and creativity that’s happening in the US and the Europe (and lately, in China), I can’t help but wonder why India is lacking imagination – atleast in the technology field. Apart from getting frustrated, it makes me question our motivation, and whether we are just all too happy to be contended with what we have. Yes, we are one of the largest exporters of students to the USA, and our IT professionals are working for clients all over the world. But – the question I always ask is how innovative are we with regards to bringing breakthrough, cutting edge technology out to the masses? Now, I really have no idea how innovative our pioneering IT firms are within the corporate/enterprise world, but as far as the web or technology that directly affects the masses are concerned, we lag way behind the west – especially the USA.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C Clarke once said. I’m not asking for magic, we need more mavericks – those who confront our apathy, and inspire imagination. We need more start ups – not yet another software consultancy firm – but start-ups which build actual products that change the way people work. They need not be altruistic in nature (of course that would be splendid) – just show me a different perspective. Show me what could be done better.

Many people would say that research is what will drive innovation. But, I can tell you that that’s not true. Research and lack of funding for it has become an all too easy excuse for those who are happy to live in the world they have been given. I am not trashing the importance of research – but many great ideas that have been driving the technology outside India are technology we already possess. It’s not a failure in research – it’s just a failure in applying what we already know imaginatively.

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