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Vale of success: Silicon Valley’s success holds lessons for India on ways to transform itself into a hub of innovation

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Times of India | August 31, 2015 | TOI Editorials | Blogs |

In September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address a gathering of Indian-Americans at Silicon Valley. It is not uncommon for him to address a gathering of Indian diaspora, but it is unlikely he will address one that has as significant an impact on human society. Silicon Valley today has more influence on our lives than any other specific geography. It is synonymous with the introduction of an endless stream of disruptive technologies which are transforming old ways of living and doing things. Modi, therefore, should use his visit there as an opportunity to absorb ideas which would help transform India into an innovative society. Openness is the one word which encapsulates the essence of Silicon Valley. It stems from the belief that nothing is pre-ordained and collaboration is the path to success. Building on that idea Stanford University, which is Silicon Valley’s epicentre, not only collaborated with industry but also gave birth to iconic technology companies. A lesson for India is that micromanagement is a sure way of inhibiting the potential of higher education. An extensive system of political and bureaucratic control kills initiative in any area.

A telling statistic which reflects Silicon Valley’s strength is the overwhelming role of immigrants. Between 1995 and 2005, a little more than half of engineering and technology startups had among their founders people born outside the US. It has become a magnet for some of the world’s brightest people, thereby contributing extensively to US soft power. Other geographies such as Cambridge in the UK have many of the ingredients that make Silicon Valley a success. But it’s unlikely if any other geography has embraced diversity on the same scale. India, with its inherent diversity, should find it relatively easy to be an open society. This diversity has played an important role in the way Indian managerial talent has successfully adapted to a global role. India has some ingredients which are necessary to transform society into a hub of innovations. However, there is much more work to be done. Modi’s planned visit to Silicon Valley presents an opportunity for course correction. Innovation cannot spring from a closed and restrictive environment. As Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai have shown, in the right setting, everything is possible. Bringing about that setting is the single greatest achievement any government can boast of and it should be Modi’s aim. This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India. – Courtesy


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