Mr. Ajay G. Piramal
Chairman, Nicholas Piramal India Ltd.
Thanks Dharen. It is always a challenge to speak in the afternoon at the last session on a Saturday. But let me give to you my view of what we can do ahead in to the future. I was actually hearing what Dr. Mashelkar said and in some ways I think you may find a bit of repetition of what he said and what I’m going to say. Let me tell you that we hadn’t planned it together. Coming to the vision, I want to share with you something which inspired me right when I was in school and I’m sure that you must have read about this poem and in some ways really gives a very good poet’s view a vision for this country. It was written in the early 1900s by Rabindranath Tagore but it is as relevant today as it was today as then. So let me start with it.

I think the vision is really well said by Tagore and what I today wanted to share with you is yes we all have a vision today, a vision that India becomes a leading economic power. Several reports say that India could be among the top 3 powers in the next 40-50 years. Others say that yes we need to have this economic power but there should be enough equitable distribution, that the differences between rich and poor, between rural and urban, between man and woman which we see so much in India a lot should be as much as possible reduced, this vision is shared by all of us. But today what I thought I would do with you is to see how we can achieve this vision. The vision may differ slightly from one individual to the another but I think there is a larger vision but not enough time is spent on realizing how this vision can be achieved.

So I’m going to drift a little away from the topic and go into the hows more than what the vision is because as I said Tagore has had a vision and all of us have another vision and this is what Michael Porter says that the fundamental determinance of the national competitive advantage really are rooted in the national character. So what is it in our national character that we need to do so that the vision that we have for this country can be really realized? What shapes national character and I want to speak about 3 subjects; knowledge, leadership, values and belief. What I heard I came in half way from Dr. Mashelkar’s speech but I think he emphasized what at least I heard him talk about knowledge, innovation and belief.

But let’s see what I mean by this and I’m going to quote from Bhaskaracharya who was a renowned mathematician of India. When he said that, he actually made a prediction what India would be in the 12th century and he spoke about, when he saw into the future of India he was actually very worried at that time because he saw that India would be a country which will be divided where there would be a lot of strife and struggle between different castes and different types of people. He also saw that India would be reigned by a foreign power. But he said that he saw some light in the future, at the end of the millennium, he said India had a bright future and that was because knowledge would once again become supreme and he said that knowledge is God and therefore I want to talk to you today about how important knowledge is for us to achieve any vision for this country. We all know that today India is thriving than ever before really because of the knowledge industries whether it is the IT sector or whether it pharmaceuticals and it is not only in these service industries for the first time in the last few years, even in the manufacturing industries, in fact wherever there is an element of design, of intellectual capital India is going ahead. Its in R&D we heard what Mashelkar said, whether it is in engineering and design.

So knowledge is really important and I think the most important reason why the western world has really gone ahead today, its because of the knowledge that they are able to apply. Today according to me it is not a shortage of funds in this country it is how we can apply this knowledge. The more and more people that can apply this knowledge that can take our country ahead. I think I really don’t want to talk about this because I heard Mashelkar say the same thing. Many industries or companies are setting their R&D here. But if we want the country to go ahead, we want our real vision to be realized, this knowledge has to be inclusive and we have to include more and more people in it. Each Indian must have access to it.

Today we still have a large number of people who can’t read and write. Recently we did a study. Dharen spoke about a group of people I’m associated with Pratham and Pratham did a study which they presented to the government which said that yes 93% of the children that have been enrolled or who are children in the age of 8-14 are enrolled in schools. But the question was are they really learning. You will be surprised but children in the 5th, 6th and 7th std, actually cannot read. We found that 52% of these children couldn’t read and 40% couldn’t do simple arithmetic. So if we really want our vision to be realized, want an inclusive role, then education is most important. Realizing the importance of knowledge the more we spend on getting the right education, that is really the important thing, coming from knowledge let’s look at what is leadership.

It does not take that many people to lead and to inspire a nation and I’m going to begin with a quote from the Bhagwad Gita, which talks about the importance of leadership and says “How behaves the best of men so behaves the rest of men. His example they will show, saying that he did so, we do so.” So it is really exemplary leadership that is what the Gita exhorts us to do and if you look at our country, the most successful leader was Gandhiji. It did not take that much, it took just one person to galvanize a whole nation, to fight against the most powerful empire of the world, of which Alan is the member. Please understand that we are talking about a country in the early 1900s, which was ruled by foreigners for centuries, where there was illiteracy and poverty and where people were divided and where there was no communication at that time and on the other side you had the most powerful empire where the sun never set and which realized the importance of India in that empire. If there were no India the British Empire would not exist. That is what Winston Churchill realized and here one individual was less than maybe 120 pounds and who took on the might. So it is really leadership that sets an example and what is it, what does leadership entail and what can all of us do? It’s a lesson I think each one of us can learn if we have the will and Gandhiji as he said great challenges are not overcome by physical strength or mental capacity but by indomitable role.

So can we create more leaders who have this will and then the vision can be realized. In India many of us talk about destiny and this is my favorite quotation from the Upanishads and I said I couldn’t do without it because it is very important that we understand this. It is written and everybody says that in India we are a fatalistic nation and we say that whatever is written in my fate will happen. But what does the Upanishad exhort us to do. It tells us that you are what your deep thriving desire is, as your desire is, so is your will, as your will is, so is your deed and as your deed is, so is your destiny. So the destiny is what our desire is. If we desire that this nation has to go ahead, if we desire that we need to be a leader, it will be destiny. It is the collective desire of all of us that will make this destiny of this nation. Dare to dream. Again I think the mightiest of things have been accomplished by men who have kept the ability to big dreams. You have to dream.

I heard Mashelkar talking about Ratan Tata who dreamt that we should have a car of less than a lakh of rupees and I’m sure they will achieve it. It is again our own ability and Mashelkar talked about how he exhorted his scientists that there was no limit to dream and that is what it is. But you can’t just dream. You also have to have a bias for action. Very often many of us really love to talk, love to engage in great conversation, but we need to have a bias for action. As Goeth has said, whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius power and magic in it. Begin it now. Again in India we need to have this bias. Courage. These are all very simple things but I think if all of us can do this together then there is really no reason why a nation cannot go ahead. Whatever you do you need courage I must insist.

Whatever course you decide upon there must be someone to tell you that you are wrong, to map out a course of action & follow it to an end requires some of the same courage, which a soldier needs. Peace has its victories but it takes great men to get them. Very often I find when we don’t have to do things we hesitate and get scared. This can’t be done, this will go wrong. But really it needs courage and another thing we need is integrity, perfect alignment between what you think, what you say and what you do. I find increasingly today that this is the example, which somehow is not there. We have seen our leaders whether they are in politics, in industry or any other field, what you think, what you say and what you do, if there is perfect alignment then that is a person who can be respected. We saw all this in Gandhiji.

I studied whatever Gandhiji said and just pulled out, whether it is integrity or courage or ability to dream. Finally I believe that all leaders need to be optimistic, there are going to be challenges. Is that a sign that the time is up? Ya? So I will cut it down. We need to see that we have to move faster. We have to see that we move our world from one of resignation to one of possibility and finally I think if we need to make, we must understand that there is a higher purpose to strive for and to make a difference in the world we live in and we make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give. And finally I think Mashelkar spoke about it is on belief. We have to believe in ourselves that we can do it and we have to believe in our country that we can do it. The first classic surgeon was an Indian, Sushmita. Bhaskaracharya whom I spoke about, he calculated this several several centuries ago. The zero was invented in India and India has done this before. We know all this that the reports say that we will be the third largest by 2050. It is now being recognized globally to some extent and if I look at innovation I think Mashelkar spoke a lot about it, we need to do much more in innovation. We are lagging far behind. I think some years ago IBM used to file more patterns in all companies and all the patterns are of India. We have to do much more to get intellectual property, create our own IP and I thought I want to leave you with a last comment on how we can create this intellectual property, because today we really are at the crossroads. Never before has there been an opportunity to make us the intellectual capital of the world. We need to use knowledge and innovation to stand up and be counted and this is something again a song that was written by Tagore, in the early 1900s, which we could gather back and put into modern usage and I want to leave that as the last thought for you.

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