Recently, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadela and Google chief Sundar Pichai were awarded Padma Bhushan, which is India’s third highest civilian award. While I can’t stop complementing what they have achieved in their professional lives, I wonder if they really need the award.
Both these bright minds achieved everything that they achieved in US. US gave them the opportunity that they deserved and an environment where they could showcase their talent and rise up the ranks. What India did was to give them birth and education. Giving award to them seems akin to the situation when your relatives suddenly become your best buddies and act unimaginably good to you once you become successful. It’s like clinging on to a success that was never yours and claiming to be a part or driver of it. India doesn’t own them by giving them an award.
Of course, I am talking about the loss that we have incurred by not having these two individuals in India, working for Indian companies headquarterd in India. And I know that India is not America. India didn’t have the environment when these two went off to US, and it still doesn’t have that. So, it is understandable that we not only make peace with the fact that an Indian origin individual succeeds outside, we also celebrate it.
What troubles me?
What troubles me is not the problem of brain drain. It is too big a problem for us to solve and I know we have been making some gradual progress. I don’t want to lament about whether the progress has been up to the mark. What troubles me is the lack of understanding of few basic principles. In my conversation with my colleagues, I often hear that America is full of dumb people and that it needs Indians to work on technical skills, which is what explains the elevation of Indians to top posts in global IT companies. According to them, just being born in a country gives you some magic trait that sets you apart from others, and that every country which recognizes the talent and creates a platform where that talent can flourish is simply taking advantage of that talent. Have you ever heard a more chauvinistic and outrageous comment than that?
They fail to understand that providing a platform and opportunity to everyone without any bias is something that we can learn from US and its companies. Indians have benefitted from this culture of global acceptance. I wonder if a foreign individual could ever become a CEO of a multinational Indian company, without Indians being up in arms about it. Yes, face it. It takes courage to give equal opportunity to everyone without preference.
For those, who can’t stop harping about how Indians have contributed to global IT success, let me tell you bluntly that what we at best do is provide ancillary services. Every major innovation is driven from outside India. Google, Facebook, or any other global conglomerate that you can think of is not Indian. In a nutshell, we are consumers and not creators. So, what we should ideally do is thank a global work culture that provides opportunity to every individual to work with transparency and hope that he/she can achieve success.
Role of India
India with its huge workforce can contribute significantly to IT industry. We can also be one of the key drivers of technological innovation because of our immense consumer base. It is fair to say that technological innovations would revolve around solving our problems. India can take a big share of the pie and for that to happen, we need product development firms in India and not just the service driven models that we currently provide. We need to learn from the innovations happening across the globe and try to build similar innovations within our country for local purposes. And most importantly, we must respect a global work culture and embrace it, as we have all benefited from it.