Ronnie Screwvala’s entrepreneurial journey has traversed
many paths. Starting from what seems very mundane by his standards –
manufacturing toothbrushes – Ronnie has been into cable television and
tele-shopping and, most successfully, into the media and film production.
From being a major provider of content to other channels
with pioneering shows like India’s first daily soap opera Shanti, Ronnie’s UTV evolved into a media player in its own right
through successful channels like Hungama and Bindass. While I knew that UTV had
made many memorable films, it’s only after reading Ronnie’s entrepreneurial
autobiography Dream with your Eyes Open
(Rupa, 2015) that I realized the extent of their range, and how successful they
Ronnie has been on a break between ventures (it’s impossible
to contemplate him sitting still!) and he has put this time to good use by
sharing with all of us some of the key insights from his life as an
entrepreneur in India!
Entrepreneurship book….or something more?
There are, of course, many books written by entrepreneurs about
what it takes to succeed as one. So, it’s natural to ask is there anything
special about Ronnie’s book? Are there any unique insights that he has to share
What I liked best about this book is that its told
first-person, direct, and with very little digression. As a result, it’s short,
pithy and eminently readable, and packs a lot into its 160+ page core. It is
motivating (just look at the range of things Ronnie has done starting with not
too much money in his pocket), yet realistic in that it does not gloss over
failures or pretend that everything happened according to plan.
The main message I got from this book is what I would call
the importance of determined execution. Once you have identified an
opportunity, made reasonable checks to verify that the opportunity is for real,
and decided to address the opportunity, put everything into it to make it
happen. That’s a characteristic Ronnie displayed from his first venture into
making toothbrushes with second-hand, automated machines imported from Europe,
through his creation of the infrastructure to produce a daily soap opera, and
into his becoming one of the biggest film producers in India with several films
simultaneously under production.
An integral part of this “determined execution” is Ronnie’s
belief that it’s better not to have a “Plan B.” His rationale is that the very
existence of a Plan B acts as a temptation to give up as soon as one hits
(inevitable) obstacles. Instead, one has to be determined to make Plan A work.
So, how does one make Plan A work? What I understood from
Ronnie’s book is that this happens essentially by planning, frugal innovation,
having the right team and clear communication. The right partnerships also
What do you need to
be a successful entrepreneur?
One of the points in Ronnie’s book that resonated very
strongly with me is to never start or run an enterprise with exit as the
objective. Instead, focus on building the enterprise’s brand, franchise and
growth potential. This is not a commandment against exits – it can’t be, for
Ronnie has exited several businesses over his career – but simply a caution
that running an enterprise with exit in mind is very likely to make you take
wrong decisions that could jeopardise the future of the company. Exits make
sense when the future of the company would be better assured in someone else’s
hands. For example, Ronnie justifies his sell-out of his TV channels to Disney
by the fact that he and Disney had a very similar approach and philosophy to
youth channels, and the future of the channels would be safe with a
well-endowed player like Disney.
One important point that Ronnie has underlined is the need
to focus on spotting emerging trends and maintaining continuous contact with
present and prospective customers. The former is important both to identify
emerging opportunities as well as get out of the way of trucks and trains that
could knock down your business. This resonated well with the pain-wave-waste
framework we proposed in 8 Steps to
Innovation – a company’s challenge book emerges from feeling the pain (of
customers, users), sensing the wave and seeing the waste (of human effort,
material and energy).
An important element of Ronnie’s managerial style that
emerges from this book is getting into detail, continuous motivation of the
team, and frequent communication. He is unequivocal about his dislike of long
Powerpoint presentations that don’t come to the point and provide an
opportunity for everyone to mentally disengage and start playing with their
phones instead. This made me wonder how Ronnie deals with Newgen employees who
are hooked to multi-tasking with one eye always on their smartphone!
Ronnie dwells quite a bit on failure and the importance of
looking failure in the face, learning one’s lessons, and moving on. Clearly, in
Ronnie’s case, this ability came from a strong sense of self-belief and
self-confidence. How do you build that confidence? Well, in Ronnie’s case it
appears to have come from his involvement with the theatre. The ability to
appear before an audience, emote your lines as planned, and hold the audience’s
attention was, I am sure, helpful in building this confidence. Though he
doesn’t dwell too much on his family, I get a sense that his family gave him
that confidence too – while I am sure his family wasn’t pleased by his failing
in his college exams, they gave him the space and encouragement to start again.
Like many entrepreneurs, Ronnie alludes to what is commonly
called the affordable loss approach to risk management. He is willing to take
big bets as long as he will be able to survive the downside. This simple
heuristic is invaluable to entrepreneurs, particularly in India where so many
things seem outside one’s control.
I found one of Ronnie’s observations particularly
insightful. We often find businesspeople complaining about regulation and how
it impedes business. But, based on his experience in the then fledgling cable
TV business, Ronnie argues that some regulation is important to ensure that ground
rules are in place and that there is orderly development of the industry. Here
I might add that it’s not only regulation that is needed, but its fair and
transparent enforcement. In the absence
of such enforcement, players who follow the rules are at a disadvantage and
this often leads to poor quality products and services.
A Couple of Cribs…
For Ronnie, clearly big is beautiful. Though he acknowledges
that scale is an individual choice and that some may choose to start niche
businesses, his own preference for the large and impactful is clear. Ronnie
argues that strategy becomes important only when you pursue scale. I found that
too much of a stretch – in today’s highly competitive world, even a small
company in a narrow niche needs to keep sharpening its competitive advantage if
it wants to survive. Yes, for sure, the strategic challenges become greater
when you are investing thousands of crores in setting up a Reliance Jio, but
even a boutique consulting firm needs a strategy to survive and prosper!
One of the big challenges of starting and running a business
in India is coping with corruption. Prospective entrepreneurs, particularly
those who lack a business background, are often unsure how to deal with this.
Ronnie makes only a passing mention of ethics and integrity. I wish he had
shared his perspective on this issue.
There is a surge of entrepreneurial energy in the country
today. For the would-be entrepreneur looking for the right motivation and some
tips on how to keep going, Ronnie Screwvala’s book has come out at the right
[The views expressed here are the personal views of the author.]
This post is dedicated to two of my friends who just turned
A Creative Persona
He was one of the first friends I made as a doctoral student
at IIM Ahmedabad (IIMA) in 1991. Poet, film buff, supporter of the underdog,
teacher of creativity, voracious reader, questioner of authority, former left
activist, jazz enthusiast Vidyanand Jha celebrated his 50th birthday
As doctoral students at IIMA, we had to do many of the first
year classes along with the MBA students. So, we were part of one of the
sections of the MBA class, in the spacious amphitheatre-like classrooms for
which IIMA is famous. We were seated towards the back, on the right hand side,
with one MBA student between us. But as
far as I can recall, we were already friendly even before we were
serendipitously seated so close to each other.
Several things stood out about Jha – his looks, his photo-chromatic
glasses which helped him hide his eyes or even let him sleep while classes were
in progress, the diversity of his experience compared to the typical MBA
student! Many of our classmates had probably never heard of the CPI-ML, let
alone been a member. I recall one occasion on which a professor asked how many
students had a rural address, and Jha was the only one who put up his hand. Jha
used to hang out with the senior, scholarly yet rebellious doctoral students
who held forth on the philosophy of management thought and life.
While at IIMA, Jha and I used to attend every seminar we
could. So, we got exposure to a wide variety of subjects and speakers. But,
neither he nor I became great researchers in the traditional academic sense. I
think we just enjoyed the exposure and the discussions.
As evidenced by his Facebook posts today, Jha is a member of
multiple worlds. One is the world of Maithili literature. Jha is an
accomplished poet himself, and has been published by the Sahitya Akademi. He
has also translated books into Hindi. I tried to persuade him to translate my
book From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation into Hindi but didn’t succeed in
doing so. Maybe he would have done it if it were fiction. I often ask myself
how strong is the dividing line between fiction and non-fiction – after all,
even non-fiction is based on the lens through which you see things. But, may be
Jha doesn’t see it that way.
Jha has been a member of the faculty at IIM Calcutta since
he finished FPM at IIMA. Kolkata has always been the gateway to the east, and
his location has helped him remain in close contact with his home. He has also
become a fluent speaker of Bengali. Kolkata has a good number of literary and
cultural events, and it’s a clear sign of Jha’s cultural interests that he has
managed to attend these in spite of the fact that IIMC is miles away from the
centre of town. That’s quite unlike many contemporary management academics who
lead a much more sequestered life.
Over the time I have known him, Jha has been a compulsive
giver, particularly of macabre films. But the fun part is that he doesn’t see
them as violent or offensive. Maybe that just comes from being a writer and a
Many years ago, in an article in EPW, Ramachandra Guha
bemoaned the loss of the bilingual intellectual. Guha spoke too soon – Jha can
be an intellectual in Maithili, Hindi and Bengali in addition to English! But
if I have one regret, it’s that Jha (like many other Indian scholars) has been
more in the Indian oral tradition than a great writer as far as management is
concerned. From talking to him, and seeing the feedback of his students, I can
see that he has lots of interesting insights into management and organizations,
but few of these have found their way into print.
Reflecting his left leanings, Jha has always been quick to
take the side of the underdog. I can remember one warm afternoon many summers
ago when he and another friend of ours derided the IT industry for creating
Another friend who turned 50 recently, is an equally weighty
academic. Dheeraj Sanghi was technically one batch junior to me at IIT Kanpur,
but we graduated in the same year as he did a 4-year BTech, and I did a 5-year
integrated MSc programme.
I got to know Dheeraj thanks to another friend, Pramath
Sinha. We were building our team for the Cultural Festival and Pramath brought
in Dheeraj to manage our finances. Dheeraj was active in student politics , and
so was I, but I got to know him well only after he became a member of our
Festival team (he did a great job!).
After a PhD at Maryland, Dheeraj returned to our alma mater
and has been a faculty member there ever since. Like Jha, Dheeraj is also a
straight talker, and not one given to excessive diplomacy and tact. But he has
been fiercely loyal to IITK and has put tremendous effort into sustaining its
best traditions. As Dean of Academic Affairs over the last few years, he was an
enthusiastic innovator, with all his efforts directed towards helping IITK achieve
the best academic standards.
Dheeraj has never been afraid to experiment. He took a
couple of years off to head the LN Mittal Institute of Technology in Jaipur,
and though I couldn’t visit him during that stint, from what he told me it is
clear he managed to try out a lot of new things there as well.
Dheeraj just moved to IIIT Delhi for a couple of years. IIIT
Delhi already has a creative leader at its helm. But Pankaj Jalote should watch
out, Dheeraj will soon be ready to unleash his ideas there as well.
Dheeraj’s commitment to engineering education has been
evident from his blog. He has waded into controversial issues like the
two-stage JEE process with gusto and has always managed to provide very logical
and thought-provoking analyses.
One of Dheeraj’s other passions has been the Indian
Railways. He travels long distances (by train, of course) to attend conferences
of other rail buffs like himself. He explores the myriad options available on
the IRCTC ticketing website, sometimes landing up in all sorts of trouble as a
result, and he then has to valiantly try to recover his money using various
clauses of the Railway manual.
I am surprised that Dheeraj hasn’t figured in the recent
round of IIT director appointments. Maybe he is too outspoken. But, time is on
his side, and I hope the country will take advantage of his energy and vast
reservoir of ideas to build one of our institutions.
It’s been my privilege to know Jha and Dheeraj. As they
cross 50, here’s wishing them many more years of creative endeavours.
How should the Indian B-school and MBA program of 2015 be
distinctive? And what can our business education offer to the rest of the
world? These are two questions that flashed across my mind as I attended MBA
Universe’s Asian Management Conclave (AMC) at Singapore recently.
[This week's post is a continuation from last week's post - insights from the Inclusive Innovation conference held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.]
Funding of innovation is always a challenge, and one that
different countries solve in different ways.
Gilles G. Patry, President & CEO spoke about how the
Canada Foundation for Innovation has invested over a billion dollars in state-of-the-art
facilities at universities across Canada to help them do world-class research. The
Foundation funds upto 40% of the project cost and focuses on partnerships. He
suggested that the model is largely successful. The evidence? - Canada punches above its weight on research
and accounts for 5% of impactful research papers [sorry, I can’t recall exactly
how this was measured or over which period.]
For me, one of the big attractions of the Round Table was
the participation of Nobel Laureate and Grameen Bank founder Mohammed Yunus.
For someone who has brought revolutionary ideas like microfinance to the world,
he was surprisingly skeptical about the availability of finance. According to Yunus, the sector needing the
largest innovations is the finance sector! Professor Yunus drew our attention
to what he considered the biggest achievement of Grameen Bank - in savings and
not in lending! He estimated that the Grameen Bank had contributed to more than
$2B savings so far.
A German participant pointed out that money is available for
impact investment but not enough social enterprises are available to absorb
this investment. But, other participants were skeptical of Impact investing,
citing a conflict between the social mission of the enterprise and the
investor’s desired outcomes
Anil Gupta said the ecosystem should support both managed
innovation and spontaneous innovation. He stressed the need for both a sanctuary
model that has chaos inside and order
outside and an incubator model that has
chaos outside and order inside.
Making Social Innovation Work
Several useful ideas emerged on this theme:
One participant made an interesting observation – most people
today recognize 1000 corporate logos but fewer than 10 plant species. Parag
Anand of the School of Planning & Architecture (SPA) at Delhi came up with
at least one solution to this problem – the SPA organizes tours for student
immersion as user experience is critical to social innovation.
Iyer from the Mumbai-based Indian Foundation for Development
(IFD) spoke about the need for tinkering rooms/workshops in schools as also
innovation exchange programmes. The IFD has started 185 balagurukuls that host
12500 children, and there is a need to expose them to creativity and innovation.
Anil Gupta advocated the Indian concept of samavedana –
making others’ pain your own, or empathetic innovation.
Mohammed Yunus suggested targeting waste. He said that at
least one out of every 6 pairs of shoes bought by customers is not worn. Can’t
these be re-channelised to the poor? Can’t cloth rejected by textile mills also
Some participants wondered how existing innovations could be
spread or diffused better. Reaching the market is often difficult. Anil Gupta
gave an interesting example of four machine tool start-ups in
Ghazaiabad/Faridabad that started a common marketing company so that together they
would have a broad enough catalogue and a large enough volume of products to
justify marketing expenditures.
Grameen Bank uses the joint venture route to solve new
problems and reach users. For example, it has a joint venture with BASF for
treated mosquito nets, and uses the Grameen Bank channel including self-help
groups to reach users. The scientist from LBNL advocated coming up with innovations
that the corporate sector will embrace.
Corporate Sector vs. Social Sector
In fact, the liveliest debates were about the role of the
corporate sector and the social sector. Lines
were clearly drawn with some people like this scientist clearly preferring
market-based solutions and others clearly distrusting the private sector to do
anything beyond enriching itself. The word “trust” figured in many of these
Solomon Darwin of the University of California at Berkeley
pointed out that while open innovation is a 2-way street involving ideas
flowing both outside in and inside out, corporations have tended to focus only
on the former. He pronounced that the world of high margins is over though I
wonder how this can be completely true when Apple is sitting on hundreds of
billions of dollars amassed through huge margins.
One of the most engaged participants in the Round Table was Jin
Hyo Joseph Yun of South Korea. One could almost see his mind working as he
tried to relate what he had seen in the exhibition to the discussion in the
conference room! He tried to build a model on the fly – volunteers are needed to
connect technology to society/market but virtuous big business is needed to make
it commercially successful.
Stuart Hart cited Polanyi to make a point that was in one of
his articles - production has got disembedded from the social world. People
have come to distrust the business process. There is a need to re-embed
economic activity in society, that is to build business models that create
Mukesh Puri, Secretary Higher & Technical Education, Government
of Gujarat believed that successful innovations have to be owned by the people
. The perceived benefits need to be clear. He cited Pravesh Utsav, a
celebration held at the time of girls joining school in Class 1 All political
figures participate. He said that the drop-out rate has declined as a result.
It is ironic that innovation which is inherently an
integrative activity is today impeded by silos. These silos are reinforced by
different philosophies and worldviews. We may have to rely on other forces at
work to lower these walls. Take the new requirement of compulsory CSR activity
by Indian companies – this is forcing companies to work more closely with NGOs
and other social organizations. Hopefully, this will create an environment in
which companies and NGOs recognize each others’ worth, and lead to
collaborative and inclusive innovation in the future.
[This blog has been written based on notes taken by the
author. These have not been re-checked with the speakers. Views expressed are
those of the individuals and do not necessarily represent the institutions they
The practice of inviting outstanding grassroot innovators to
the majestic environs of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the home of India’s head of state,
was started by President APJ Abdul Kalam when he was president. It’s a tribute
to the rootedness of our national leaders and the persistence of Drs. Anil
Gupta and RA Mashelkar that the practice has not only continued but been
reinforced over time. This year, the event evolved into a week-long “Festival
of Innovations” with award ceremonies, workshops and roundtables.
Under the Tent…
The centre of the festival was a huge temporary structure
pitched on the Rashtrapati Bhavan Football Grounds that had exhibits and
demonstrations of all the award-winning innovations. The innovators must have
been encouraged by the large crowds in the hall, even though the main
destination of the crowds was the famed Mughal Gardens, thrown open to the
public at this time every year.
The innovations themselves were not very different from
earlier grassroot innovations that I have seen, at least in terms of the
categories they represented. The most prominent was mechanical devices to do
tasks that would otherwise be done manually. Many of these were focused on farm
operations but some were on health and sanitation. Devices to help people with
disabilities, and improved agricultural varieties were other important
Some of the impressive innovations included a modified
walker that enables climbing stairs, interlocking bricks, and wearing a helmet
as an ignition switch for a motorcycle.
The centre of the hall had banners with quotations on
innovation, largely from Anil Gupta and Mashelkar. Truth be said though, there
weren’t many people reading these banners, and I wonder how many people would
have appreciated the nuances of the quotes even if they had read them!
The innovators themselves were present, and many of them
were peppered with questions by enthusiastic visitors. I imagine this must have
been motivating for them, though by the end of the day they must have been
But, if the purpose of the event was to recognize and
encourage innovators from all corners of our country, and to underline the
democratic idiom of innovation (“Anyone can innovate”), I am sure this event
served its purpose.
…. And Inside the Conference Room
Inside the newly constructed Rashtrapati Bhavan Cultural
Centre with its high ceilings and ornate decorations (including larger than
life size portraits of all India’s presidents till date), innovation experts
from all over the world conferred about the future of inclusive innovation.
What are the problems to solve?
If you read our book 8 Steps to Innovation, you might
remember that we advocated creating a challenge book of the most pressing
problems that are literally crying for innovation. One piece of good news is
that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) Institute for GloballyTransformative Technologies has identified the fifty most important global
problems to solve with technology. These include low-cost desalination to make
drinking water available at a reasonable cost; a DNA-based diagnostic for
accurate detection of tuberculosis; an integrated “clinic-in-a-box” for
maternal and child care; low-cost homes for the urban poor; and a very timely point-of-use
DNA-based rape kit to enable timely collection of evidence against perpetrators
Of course, there are solutions searching for problems as well.
The co-founder of the notion of the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP),
Stuart Hart drew attention to the wealth of “shelf technologies” in
universities. At Cornell alone he reported that the university found about
4,000 technologies / patents that had not been exploited.
Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonj had a different take on
problems. He argued that there are many “non-issues” that need to be made
issues. Clothing is important, as important as food and shelter. Why can’t
clothing also be a parallel currency? Earlier clothing was only part of
disaster relief and charity. Why can’t cloth be given for work?
Anshu pointed out the importance of clothing by reminding
the audience that more people die due to cold in winter than due to other
Drawing attention to another “non-issue” that needs to
become an issue, he said that 88% of women don’t have access to sanitary
How to solve the problems?
Hart advocated an intermingling of what he called “exponential
technologies” with traditional ones to address the problems of people at the
But, going back to the exhibition for a moment, it’s
interesting to reflect that there were hardly any “modern” technologies like
electronics or computers on display in any of the exhibits. The only such
device in use was the mobile phone, and even this was in very small numbers.
An earnest NRI from a US lab had a different take on this.
While he felt that India should continue to build world class R&D
institutions, he thought that solutions may be available more quickly if the
government were to subsidize private sector R&D or, more radically,
“reverse outsource” critical problems to western research centres. What he was
suggesting here is that the Indian government commission (say) a Pfizer or a
Merck to come up with a new cure for tuberculosis and make it worth their while
by underwriting all the research expenses. But I really wonder whether that’s a
business model they would be interested in; what could work though is for the
government to give a research contract to one or more outstanding academic or
research laboratories abroad.
Brock from the UNICEF Innovation Centre underlined the
importance of design with the user rather than for the user. He emphasized that
design should be for scale, and that an organization liked UNICEF should
embrace open standards (not open source) since a public organization should
embrace public goods.
But, he admitted that there was a need to change their
mindset from seeing the private sector only as suppliers to working with
grassroot innovators as partners.
I spoke about the importance of government procurement, and
policies regarding standards in making social innovation work. Rigid standards
designed with existing technologies and suppliers in mind can keep out
important innovations. Pre-qualification clauses can act as barriers to entry.
The government sometimes encourages imitation without respecting intellectual
property. And tender procedures prevent government from procuring things that
might have been developed specifically for the government. Instead, the
government should play a more positive and proactive role in supporting
How do you make Inclusive Innovation work?
To conclude this piece and share the key takeaways, please
visit this space next week….
[This blog has been written based on notes taken by the
author. These have not been re-checked with the speakers. Views expressed are
those of the individuals and do not necessarily represent the institutions they
When prominent demographer Ashish Bose suggested the name “Bimaru”
for the collective of four north Indian states that were struggling to perform
well on both the economic and social fronts, little did he realize that this
name would stick for several decades to follow. But, it’s now a moniker that at
least one of the four states – Madhya Pradesh – is keen to shed as it projects
itself as a growth state for the future.
At a workshop organized by CII at Bhopal on March 5, Professor
BB Bhattacharya (BBB) [picture below], economist and former VC of JNU, suggested an interesting distinction – you are still a
Bimaru state when, like Bihar, you are seeking special economic packages, and
not like MP when you are confident of creating your own destiny.
As is well known, MP’s economic growth in recent years has
come from agriculture. It is the country’s leading producer of soybean and
pulses and #2 in wheat. The state has won the Krishi Karman award – an award
given by the National Food Security Mission to states excelling in foodgrain
production - the last three years in a row.
I am still not completely clear about how and why the state
has been able to achieve 10+ % growth in agriculture the last three years. While
the government of MP credits the growth to improved irrigation, adoption of
technology and better farming practices, and optimum utilization of rain-fed
areas, media reports refer to a zero-interest loan scheme to farmers,
availability of power, and better irrigation coverage.
But, whatever the reason, the state has realized that it
can’t depend on growth in agriculture alone for the future development of the
state. That’s why it is increasingly looking at industry as the key to future
An Industrial Growth Strategy for MP?
At the workshop, Professor BBB made a few important
observations in his opening remarks. The East Asian growth story was as much a
story of social development as economic development, and the availability of
skilled and educated manpower made the growth story possible. East Asia also
became technologically savvy quickly, and rapidly made the transition from being
a mere recipient of technology to a creator of technology as well. He therefore
underlined the importance of human development and technological capabilities
for industrial growth.
Mr. Prabhakar Kadapa, CEO of Avtec, a CK Birla group company
that makes engines for the automotive industry observed that his company’s products
are becoming more knowledge and technology-intensive. While it has plants in
multiple locations, the technology-intensive work that has a higher element of
value-added happens in Hosur near Bangalore and not in his older plant in
Pithampur near Indore. He estimated that 70% of his future capex would flow
As a participant in the panel, I observed that the East
Asian countries had followed a similar trajectory of industrial growth,
starting with relatively less complex industries and then graduating to more
complex ones. But I wondered aloud whether manufacturing will remain the same
going forward, or whether there will be fundamental changes. Some recent
developments like the growth of 3D printing [see picture below] and the shift of some manufacturing
back to the developed world might point to fundamental changes in the nature
and patterns of global manufacturing.
Mr. Prabhakar felt that in spite of these changes there
would still be plenty of opportunities in low-cost manufacturing. He felt that
manufacturing could make a leap if MP is able to attract one or two big name
automotive companies to make the state their hub.
Prof. BBB emphasized the importance of individual companies
inserting themselves into global value chains and then striving for continuous
improvement to maintain competitiveness. Mr. Sanjay Kirloskar observed that his
company’s single biggest recent investment was in 3D printing, and that the 3D
printer was allowing dies and moulds to be created rapidly thereby cutting down
the overall cycle time of taking new products to the market. He also cautioned
that we should change perspective from low-cost to total cost of ownership, and
I also emphasized the importance of catching the next wave
at the right time. MP pretty much missed out on the IT services wave and
managed to attract companies like Infosys and TCS too late. Given the slowdown
in their businesses, it’s doubtful that their development centres in the state
will ever reach a large size.
The final point I made was on last mile connectivity and
speed. While MP has undoubtedly made significant progress in building highways
connecting the major cities in the state, city and last-mile connectivity
remains an issue. The state has the right intent, but there is a need to match
the intent with speed of execution as fast response is key to competitiveness.
What the State Government is Doing
The Government of MP has taken the mantra of “Ease of doing
business” seriously. At a workshop with industry on March 4, the government
explored 150 different possibilities for simplifying permissions and
procedures. MP CM Shivraj Chouhan personally spent a good part of the day at
this workshop, and reportedly told state bureaucrats not to worry about the few
percent of people who will take undue advantage of the simplified processes.
Instead, he advised them to focus on the benefits that will accrue from
Participants in the workshop were appreciative of the
government’s efforts but underlined the importance of the government’s
industry-friendly approach trickling down to the lowest level of the
government. Such a change in approach is reported to have happened in some
states like Gujarat. Industries Commissioner Kantha Rao said the government
hoped to use technology to overcome any problems at the delivery point.
Mr. Kantha Rao also mentioned that the state is trying to
leverage the central government’s policy initiatives – it’s been one of the
first states to have its own policies for supporting Electronics Systems Design
and Manufacture, and Defence industries. The State also offers one of the best
policies for textile units.
Professor BBB cited the example of China to warn the state
that several advantages that the state enjoys today like availability of land,
water and electricity could very rapidly change into constraints if industrial
development takes off. Echoing this concern, some of the participants suggested
that the state be sensitive to environmental concerns upfront rather than
trying to address them later in a corrective mode. One participant suggested
that the state should focus on clean energy. But, as he was speaking I recalled
President Obama’s travails in trying to support clean energy and wondered
whether Madhya Pradesh is quite ready for such challenges.
While there was broad agreement that the state needs to be
able to attract higher quality talent to support R&D investments, some
participants asked whether MP can hope to attract higher end jobs without making
its cities more attractive. Would techies ever consider an Indore or a Bhopal
on par with a Bangalore or a Hyderabad?
Another line of discussion centered around what the state can
do to promote entrepreneurship. Can it set up incubators to support young
entrepreneurs? Mr. Kantha Rao said, quite rightly in my view, that the
government is not ideally suited to setting up or running incubators, but could
be a catalyst of such initiatives.
Some Concluding Thoughts
India is embarking on a pro-manufacturing policy at a time
when manufacturing itself may be on the verge of major changes. While the speed
of adoption of new manufacturing technologies is difficult to predict, it is
clear that the last generation of technologies itself has made manufacturing
much more technology-intensive and most plants today are run by a small core of
very highly skilled people. Given this,
it’s an open question how much employment manufacturing can create. Govindraj
Ethiraj, Chief Editor of the Ping Network who moderated the discussion told me
that a recent McKinsey report predicts a decline even in knowledge-intensive
jobs thanks to changes in the way work is done.
Having said that, government policy support will create
manufacturing opportunities in some sectors for sure. Defence is one of these,
with the government having indicated its preference for products manufactured
in India, and its willingness to move away from the earlier public sector
centric model of defence production.
But, state-level strategies remain tricky. Should all states
try to woo all types of industries? How can states build additional layers of
advantage that would make companies find them more attractive as investment
destinations? These are some of the big questions to ponder over.
I just got back to Indore after a week in Odisha, Delhi and
Rajasthan. It was a good trip, and set me thinking on multiple fronts.
One of the big debates in India in recent times has been on
what conditions you need to create for investment and development to follow.
This trip raised some new issues in this debate as both Odisha and Rajasthan have
created high quality roads but not exactly been magnets for investment. You can
get from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, a distance of 285 km, in a little over 4 hours!
And this is not even a four-lane highway! The roads between Bhubaneswar,
Konark, and Puri are quite decent as well. Contrast this with Bangalore and
Mumbai which are, in spite of their creaky infrastructure, getting more crowded
by the day! Apparently, human resource availability and other agglomeration
benefits outweigh infrastructure!
Of course, it could also be argued that the reason the roads
in Odisha and Rajasthan are good is because the states are less economically
developed, and hence have less traffic. There’s definitely an element of truth
in that as far as Rajasthan is concerned, the traffic was really sparse and
consisted of only tourists or army trucks!
One big change that has happened over the last decade is the
emergence of new education hubs. Bhubaneswar is one such with a good mix of
private and government institutions. Jodhpur is one too – it has an IIT, an
AIIMS, a National Law School, to just name a few. But it’s not clear if these
locations are able to build any additional levels of advantage thanks to the
co-location of these institutions. Instead,
they appear to be operating in their own silos. Unfortunately, the
concept of a Meta University promoted by Kapil Sibal to promote collaboration
between institutions in cities never took off.
Spots of Tourist Importance
It’s good to see that there has been a conscious effort to
control traffic near important monuments. Whether it be at the Sun Temple in Konark,
or the Jagannath Temple in Puri, vehicles are stopped some distance away from
the actual location. However, this does mean that covering the “last mile”
becomes difficult or expensive – a cycle rickshaw from the designated parking
place to the Jagannath temple charges Rs. 30, and the distance is just that
little bit longer than one would ideally like to walk in the sun. While I
appreciate locals getting a livelihood thanks to these traffic restrictions,
perhaps these towns should offer an electric shuttle bus service from the parking
However, while traffic is under control, commerce has grown
by leaps and bounds. Whether it be the Pandas of the Jagannath Temple or the
guides and hawkers in front of the Sun Temple, or itinerant vendors selling
everything from soft drinks to beer on the sand dunes, commerce is loud and in
your face. And, the Jaisalmer Fort (see picture below) is a living fort, inhabited by more than
4,000 families, so naturally commerce is all around. The most subtle and
well-organised commerce is at the privately run Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur
where the designated route through the Fort takes you through a boutique, a
local crafts fair, and two cafes!
East vs. West
While we seem to have picked up the consumerism of the west
fast, we haven’t been as adept in picking up some of the western virtues. My
visit to Bhubaneswar started with attending the valedictory function of a
professional society. Much to my surprise, the function stretched to cover
double the time planned. They had too many speakers and these speakers were
either not given a clearly indicated duration to speak or the organisers
thought it rude to interrupt and tell someone when they had exceeded their
time. I noticed a similar phenomenon at the otherwise well-run conclave of the
Indore Management Association in February, and at a Rotary jamboree in Indore recently.
Maybe this is a Tier-2 city phenomenon, for I see most events in the metros
sticking to their schedules!
Entrepreneurship alive and well
It was good to see entrepreneurship alive and kicking. I was
particularly impressed by Manvar Resort, approximately halfway on the road from
Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. Just off the highway, it’s a lovely green resort,
well-mantained, and served delicious aloo parathas. The owner is from the
family that is a major landowner in the area, but full marks to him for the
aesthetic ambience and excellent service of the resort.
Varun Arya, an IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, set up
the Aravali Institute of Management in Jodhpur over a decade ago. His endeavor
has been to bring the IIMA education philosophy to students of that part of
Rajasthan. Along the way, he has had to weather many storms – with different
agencies of the central and state governments. One result of these ups and
downs has been that he has had to suspend his education programmes for some
time till regulatory issues are addressed.
In the meantime, he has converted what was barren and saline
land on the Jodhpur-Jaipur highway into a mini-oasis. He has built 12 lakes on
this land, and all of them still have plenty of water from the last monsoon.
Thanks to the lakes, the campus is cooler by a few degrees.
Varun has done several interesting things. All construction
on campus is by local labour. He has got special equipment fabricated so that
he has to rely minimally on transporting things from Jodhpur. They grow only
trees that help other vegetation grow, and have stopped growing some plants
that are common in the area but in reality “poisonous” for other vegetation.
The boundary walls allow water to flow in during the monsoon to replenish the
lakes, and also allow excess water to flow out. The classrooms are minimalist
but functional. It’s quite a place!
The last place I expected to see empty beer bottles strewn
around was on the sand dunes of Jaisalmer. The Swachha Bharat campaign has its
work cut out – all the way from the beaches to the deserts!
I recently lost a good friend of mine whom I knew since my
school days. Looking back at his life set me thinking about a few things.
Anand Ramachandran was a voracious reader ever since I knew
him. But everyday fiction was not for him. He read Philosophy and Mathematics,
and studied these as well.
Mathematics was one of his abiding interests from the time I
first knew him. Like some others, I think he was first influenced by the logic
and precision of Maths. I can’t recall the details but he used to mention
challenging problems in Algebra and Real Analysis when he was 15 and I was 17!
At that time, he wanted to do a good first degree in Mathematics and then go on
to do a PhD. In this, he was definitely influenced by his elder brother who did
a PhD in Maths in the US and went on to be a faculty member there.
Anand spurned advice from others to be practical and do
Engineering, and decided to do Maths in a college instead. But, by the early
1980s, college education in India had started to decline in quality. Anand got
into Vivekananda College, a well-regarded college in Madras, but he found the
syllabus and teaching pedestrian. He was particularly vexed by the need to pass
exams which he didn’t find challenging, and which involved swotting if you
wanted to get outstanding marks. I can recall his getting really frustrated by
the fact that he had to do this humdrum stuff when there were so many more
interesting problems waiting to be solved. And, friends kept telling him about
the importance of exam marks to get admission to a “good” MSc programme. That only
made things worse as did the fact that his brother had done an MSc from IIT
Madras before going to the US. I am not sure of this but I think he finally
enrolled in an MSc at Vivekananda College itself.
Change of Interests
But, Anand’s interests soon broadened into Philosophy and
Linguistics. Within a couple of years, he had enrolled in Deccan College at
Pune which had a good Linguistics Department, and started working with Probal
Dasgupta (see photo below). Anand found the academic and social environment of Pune conducive to
his pursuits and interests, and this became a city where he would not only
spend time but make lasting friendships.
Anand chafed against exams wherever he went and Deccan
College was no exception. Yet, he not only managed to study there but land himself
a scholarship to MIT. By then he had become a fan of Noam Chomsky (below). While entering
MIT was probably his personal high point, his stay there was tempestuous.
I don’t recall the details, but he was asked to leave the
PhD programme. Anand told me that the Dean agreed he had been treated unfairly
but he had to leave nevertheless. From what I understood, his friendship with
Chomsky harmed rather then helped him, and he got caught in the crossfire of
vicious academic politics. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that Anand’s
lack of tact and direct talking would not have been of great help in this
This experience was tough for Anand psychologically and left
him with bitter feelings about academia. While he didn’t expect much from
Indian academia, he felt let down by US academia as well. But this was not the
culmination of his love-hate relationship with academia. More about that later!
Music takes him on a different path
One of Anand’s other passions in life was music, and he
remained a true fan of good western classical music for as long as I knew him.
While at Pune, he had become friends with a European man who had, if I remember
right, been a member of the Osho Ashram. This individual had developed very
high quality audio speakers and was making a business out of selling these hand-crafted
speakers. Once he recovered from the MIT fiasco, Anand started selling these Cadence
speakers. Prospective customers were rich, well-heeled connoisseurs of western
classical music. With his erudition, it was not difficult for Anand to become
friends with many of these individuals, friendships that became a big support
for the rest of his life.
Anand started selling the speakers in Pune, but later moved
to Bangalore where he even set up a studio that acted as a listening room to
experience the quality of the speakers. But, given his intellectual interests,
it was impossible for Anand to remain in sales, and he got interested in
academic pursuits again.
New Academic Interests
By now, his interests had shifted to Statistics and Finance.
I have forgotten how this came about, but he eventually became a consultant to
Cranes Software, a company that was developing and selling statistics tools.
Not surprisingly, he again came into conflict with some of the academic
consultants to the company who questioned his lack of certified expertise in
the form of degrees.
Anand returned to academics a few years later to do a
Masters degree in Mathematical Finance at York University. Anand really took to
the UK, and found it conducive to his temperament and interests. He struggled
to finish the degree because he again felt somewhat straitjacketed, but finish
it he did, and he stayed on to do a PhD as well.
His PhD was marred by an acute infection that affected the
functioning of his heart and almost killed him. But Anand survived. He always
gave a good deal of credit to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the
care he received from them. The NHS is often pilloried for being inefficient
and slow, but Anand was very impressed by their care for him.
Anand finally finished his PhD a couple of years ago at the
age of 45+. He had to leave the UK, but found a job with a start-up in
Anand remained a free spirit till the end. He couldn’t stand
authority and got into conflicts with people in positions of authority
throughout his life, even in the start-up! He hated other forms of rigidity as
well, particularly the regimented nature of exams. But it is a tribute to his
doggedness that he persevered to complete his PhD.
Some Concluding Thoughts
I believe that with Anand’s quality of thinking and academic
interests, he would have made a really good professor if only our academic
system were more flexible. Had he the good fortune to be exposed to a classics
tripos at Cambridge or a liberal arts programme at a top US university, he
would have done really well. I hope things change fast so that we don’t lose
more Anands. I see a sliver of hope in some of the new programmes that are
coming up in India like the Liberal Arts programme at Ashoka University.
Anand was an aesthete. This was apparent from the things he
liked throughout his life – Mathematics, Classical Music, Yoga, well-written
books. While he could get very angry about some things like stubborn bureaucracies
and the narrow mindedness of Indian academia, he was himself non-violent.
One thing I really admired about Anand was his perseverance.
At a time when many people are thinking about hanging up their boots, Anand was
doing his PhD and thinking about what he should do next. He was keen to settle
down in the UK, but alas that was not to be.
In the last few years, Anand had mixed feelings about me,
since he now saw me as an establishment figure with authority. I think he felt,
like some other friends did in the past, that I tried to run with the hares and
hunt with the hounds at the same time. Anand is one of many mavericks I have
known, who were attracted towards me at some point, but later drifted apart. Luckily
I have maintained links with many of these friends thanks to Kajoli who shares
their free spirit. That happened with Anand too – she remained in much closer
touch with him than I did.
Anand Ramachandran, Rest in Peace. A tribute to Anand would
be incomplete without my great appreciation for Anand’s sister Hamsini who
supported him through thick and thin and helped him sustain his dreams.
[These are my personal views and based on my personal recollections. Sorry for any errors.]
My last visit to Bihar was more than 20 years ago, so I was
curious to see how the state has changed since then. The sense of anticipation
was high as I now look forward to a prolonged interaction with the state – as
Director of IIM Indore, I will be the mentor-director for the new IIM to be set
up in Bihar.
Patna: Improved Infrastructure, but still very crowded
I had read about runway length and clearance constraints
impeding flights in and out of Patna, and the reality of that was clear as we
landed. Unlike other airports across the country that have expanded, got new
terminal buildings, aerobridges, etc., Patna airport looked pretty much the
same as I remember it from all those years ago. Looking at it closely I
realized that it is a narrow rectangular strip with trees at the end, and no
scope at all for expansion. The apron can’t accommodate more than a few
aircraft, so clearly Bihar’s capital will need a new airport very soon.
All Indian cities have become more crowded over time, but
Patna seems to be bursting at its seams. There have been infrastructural improvements
in terms of flyovers and bridges, but the city still looks very crowded. Of
course, like other cities, Patna has some areas that are sprawling and
reminiscent of an earlier age – particularly the areas where the secretariat is
located and where minsters and senior officers stay. But these look
particularly incongruous in Patna because of the congestion in the rest of the
IIT Patna’s New “Vertical” Campus
We set off straight from the airport to the suburb of Bihta
about 35 km from Patna where the new campus of IIT Patna is coming up. On the
way, we had to negotiate significant traffic jams at Danapur as trucks heading
to the railway yard had blocked much of the road. Further down, we passed the
Bihta Air Force Base before arriving in Bihta town, and crossed the railway
track across a new-looking bridge to get to the IIT campus on the other side. All
in all, it took about 75 minutes to get from the airport to Bihta, and providing
quick access to the city will become critical in the years ahead unless Bihta
Air Force base gets converted into the new Patna airport as has been proposed
The IIT campus is flanked by a brand new Hero Cycles plant, (apparently
set up in order to meet the enhanced demand for bicycles in Bihar thanks to the
state government’s scheme to provide cycles to girl students in government
schools – more about this below) and a private educational institution with an
imposing name – NSIT. Across the road is an HPCL oil storage facility.
The IIT Campus has a massive administrative building, a few
academic buildings, 4 blocks of 8-storeyed hostels that will accommodate about
1,000 students, and multi-storeyed accommodation for faculty and staff. All
these buildings are at an advanced stage of construction and should be
completed in the next few months. A lecture hall complex and other
infrastructure will come at a later stage. Personally, I would have preferred
to see the lecture hall complex ready now rather than the admin block, but I
guess they had to make some choices!
Some friends made critical comments when I posted photos of this
IIT campus on Facebook, saying that the campus looks more like an apartment
complex. I believe such criticism is unfair. Given the scarcity of land, we
need to re-think the way we design academic campuses. Hostels and residential
facilities have to go vertical, and scarce horizontal spaces can be used primarily
for playfields and gardens. Clever design can make the campus seems spacious,
green and open. Horizontal sprawl will have to be a thing of the past! If you
want to see how this can be done, take a look at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the beautiful new university built in Clearwater Bay
about 25 years ago.
Bihar has been an exporter of students to other states for
as long as I can remember, but things are beginning to change now as high
quality education comes to the state. 2 central universities, an IIT, IIIT, and
an NIT are just some of the central institutions being set up. Besides, there
are new state-supported institutions as well such as the Chandragupt Institute
of Management at Patna (CIMP). This institute is presently located in a
temporary premises in the heart of Patna as it awaits its permanent home that
is under construction.
Gaya and Bodh Gaya
On Day 2 of our visit, we set off on the 115 km trudge from
Patna to Gaya. The road is narrow (2-lanes) but otherwise in good shape, and
the sides of the road are green with fields. It took close to two-and-a-half
hours to reach the Circuit House at Gaya. I was pleasantly surprised to find
the Circuit House spic-and-span, in much better shape than circuit houses I
have seen in some other states.
We quickly moved on to the adjoining town of Bodh Gaya which
has a very festive look. The roads are lined with flags, many countries have built
monasteries, and hotels and lodging houses are all over. Buddhist pilgrims from
all over the world throng this town where the Buddha is believed to have
attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree. The Maha Bodhi temple had a festive
air as well, as the day we visited was the concluding day of a week-long
I felt a little awkward at the temple given the
circumstances of our visit. I had been planning for years to visit all the
important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, to re-trace the path of the Buddha. But it
took an “official” visit to set up a new IIM to finally take me there!
The Mahabodhi temple is beautifully maintained with clean
approaches, marble flooring and orderly flow of pilgrims. One thing that did surprise
me though was the small number of Indian visitors – for a moment, one could
easily imagine that one was in a different part of Asia!
Gaya has a cute airport, designed to meet the needs of
international travellers visiting Bodh Gaya. During the tourist season,
international flights connect Bodh Gaya to a number of Asian countries that
have significant Buddhist populations. The only domestic connection is to Delhi
and Varanasi (Air India) and this too doesn’t run the whole year around. But
Gaya is on the main railway line from Delhi to Howrah, and is served by three
Rajdhani Expresses apart from a host of other trains.
Gaya has a significant military establishment, a new
Officers Training Academy, built on the premises of the erstwhile Army Supply
Corps North Centre that was re-located to Bangalore a few years ago.
A Useful Learning Experience
On this trip I had the privilege of accompanying Shri
Amarjeet Sinha, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of HRD, Government of
India. Mr. Sinha has spent most of his career in Health and Education. Thanks
to him, I was able to understand the socio-economic development of Bihar in a
historic perspective ranging from the enduring impact of the Permanent
Settlement on land use in the state to the recent improvement in some of its human
I learnt that every girl student in class 9-12 in Bihar gets
a free bicycle, uniform, and a scholarship, amounting to a total of more than
Rs. 5,000. The bicycle, in particular, has resulted in a sharp reduction in
school dropouts as girls are now able to reach school quickly and without
significant cost. Thousands of girls have been trained in self-defence, in judo
and karate. I was impressed to hear about a scheme of the Bihar government
whereby young women from the Maha Dalit communities have been hired as catalysts
(called Vikas Mitra = “friend of development”) to get girls in their
communities to attend school, give remedial classes and improve adult literacy.
All of this was quite impressive, and I look forward to learning more about
these developments as I spend more time in Bihar!
[The views expressed here are the personal views of the author.]
This was a few years ago at IIM Bangalore. I was looking for
some articulate IIMB alumni who could speak to our students to give them an
alternate perspective on careers. One name that quickly came to mind was that
of Deepakk Goyal. I knew he had done a few different things – undergraduate
studies in the United States, a longish stint in his family’s trading business
in Kolkata, a late MBA at IIMB where he was one of our mature students (and
unlike almost all the others, already married with kids), and then a stint with
But I was totally unprepared for what was to follow. When I
got through to Deepakk on the phone, he told me that he had become a farmer in
Central India, near Indore. And, that farming was his new passion, what he
would be following in the years to come.
Deepakk didn’t figure in my thinking for some time
thereafter till I moved to Indore in January 2014. I was trying to discover any
connections and contacts in the Malwa region and then I suddenly remembered
Deepakk. We spoke soon after I moved to Indore, but didn’t actually meet till
the Global Investors’ Summit in October.
I had somehow got it into my head that Deepakk is into
organic farming. Maybe because I couldn’t imagine him doing anything humdrum
and, from all reports, organic farming is very challenging though also
remunerative. When we finally visited him at the end of December, I realized
that I was right about Deepakk doing something far from the ordinary, only it
doesn’t have to be organic farming for it to be exciting.
The topography can change rapidly in these parts of MP. As
we drove down the Khandwa Road, past the construction site of the new IIT at
Simrol, and across the short Ghat section a little further down, accompanied for
stretches by the huge pipeline carrying Narmada water, there are long green
stretches. You actually cross the Narmada at some point. The Narmada is one of
the few Indian rivers to retain its glory as we found to our delight during our
earlier travels in MP to places like Maheshwar and Omkareshwar. Seeing the
fertile stretches in the vicinity of the Narmada, I expected to see Deepakk
farming well-irrigated land.
But, we were soon in for another surprise. As we waited by
the side of the road a few kilometers beyond Sanawad town for Deepakk’s wife
Shilpa who was following us some distance behind on the road from Indore, we
saw dry, barren land. We turned left off the highway and followed Shilpa on a
dusty and winding road till we reached Deepakk’s farm in village Gunjari.
And, what did we see here? A small farmhouse near the gate
with a few tiny rooms on the ground floor and a kitchen and covered verandah
space on the first floor. Rows of pomegranate plants neatly running away on a
large expanse in front of the farmhouse. And a huge open tank of water close to
The Indian Farmer: A Major Risk Taker
Most people who have grown up in cities have a romantic
notion of farming, shaped by movies and books. Indian folklore shows the Indian
farmer anxiously waiting for the monsoon rains, benefiting either from the
monsoon’s bounty or ruined by its failure. The farming story has typical
villains like the usurious moneylender waiting for the crop to fail so that he
can possess the farmer’s land.
In recent years, the rash of farmer suicides in Andhra
Pradesh and Vidharbha has made many of us more aware of the complexities of
farming. Higher returns have induced farmers to embrace cash crops, but the
risks have also increased as investments are higher and farmers become more
dependent on credit to finance this investment.
I remember someone once telling me that the biggest risk
taker in our country is the Indian farmer. This was in the context of Indian
entrepreneurs being risk-averse!
I can’t recall the exact content of his thesis, but one of
my seniors in the doctoral programme at IIM Ahmedabad, SJ Phansalkar studied
the risk-taking behavior of Indian farmers. Phansalkar himself went on to
become a distinguished academic and author, and in recent years has worked for
the Tata Trusts.
The Challenges of Farming
Well, all this esoteric discussion on risk-taking in farming
became live and real when Deepakk told us about the challenges he has faced in
the last few years. Several things can go wrong – insects, pests, animals,
fungi, diseases of various kinds – any of these can unexpectedly ruin a crop.
Market prices are unpredictable as they depend on demand and supply in a
particular year across markets.
But Deepakk has learnt, even if the hard way, how to
overcome these adversities. Some things I took away from our visit – each crop
has its own idiosyncrasies and hence understanding a particular crop in all its
details across cycles becomes important; expertise is fragmented and often
tainted by the commercial interests of different sellers who are only
interested in hawking their products; yet, there is scope for experimentation
if done with careful monitoring.
Deepakk’s farm reminded me of what I saw on my visits to
Israel – healthy looking plants growing in a barren landscape. In fact, Deepakk
is very much like an Israeli farmer, totally committed to what he is doing,
using technology intensively but thoughtfully, and fiercely protective of his
efforts. He uses drip irrigation and soluble fertilisers to control the use of
water and at the same time ensure that the plants get the nutrients they
The Future of Indian Agriculture
Deepakk’s advantage is his ability to invest capital and use
technology and at the same time manage the risks involved. What we got at his
farm was a glimpse of what Indian agriculture could look like in the future. It’s
romantic, but in a different way from what you would see in an old Hindi film. What’s
not clear in my mind is how the transition from the old to the new will happen…and
how we will manage the social upheavals that are bound to accompany such a