Why can’t we make great products, companies?

It’s a question that was asked on churumuri.com by Pratap Sharma shortly after India’s exit from the World Cup: Just, what are we good at as a nation?

“We cannot make a single product—a car, a computer, a phone, a TV set, a plane, a submarine—that the world will queue up to buy. We cannot create a single magazine, newspaper or television channel that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the world. We cannot nurture a world-class University. We cannot build a laboratory or do pathbreaking research or making an earth shattering discovery. We cannot think of an Indian multinational. Etcetera.”

And it’s a question that was yesterday asked on The Hindu‘s Open Page by E.C. Thomas.

“It is highly creditable indeed that India is achieving a growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent in recent years. But it is incredible that with such a growth rate and abundance of technical manpower, Indian DNA is not on the products which rule the world such as personal computers, digital cameras, cell phones, iPods, DVD players, plasma television sets or medical breakthroughs like stent.

“The list is long. India has no products which have revolutionised the world scene. Or do we excel only in the development of revolutionary concepts like zero or in soft skills like computer software?

“Nor do we have innovative companies such as Google, Apple or Microsoft. Our IT giants are really glorified sub-contractors to the elite corporations of the world. Our great manufacturing enterprises are just makers of products engineered by others. Even celebrated businessmen such as Lakshmi Mittal just built on existing entities.”

Do we, as a species, lack the spirit of innovation, the ability to stray from the straight and narrow, and plough a lonely furrow? Does our middleclass upbringing result in our desire for safety-first job security? Is our learn-by-rote education system responsible for dousing the fire in our collective belly? Because of long years of colonial and outside rule, are we just good at serving our masters?

Also read: Pssst, just what are we good at as a nation?

Keeping the fire of innovative spirit burning