Apropos Kishore Asthana’s “Fifty hard-core criminals” (Mint, 24 July), I could not agree more with the author’s suggestion that the United Progressive Alliance should legislate before the coming general election so that convicted members of Parliament will automatically forfeit their membership of the House. Unless this is done, Parliament and parliamentarians can hardly command the respect they should ordinarily deserve. After the recent happenings during the confidence vote in Parliament, the question is, why would the triumphant display of bribe money on the floor of the Lok Sabha be considered such a sad spectacle in a House where history-sheeters meet? Economic reforms can wait, Parliament should reform itself first.
- M. Bhowmik
Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s “Finders and seekers” (Mint, 30 July) was very interesting. The authors says the US is a nation of seekers (incremental innovation) and Japan, of finders (radical innovation). I believe the US drives radical innovation a lot more than incremental.
Look at the health care and life sciences industry. In each of these countries, the US is way ahead of the curve in radical innovation, followed by Europe and Japan(Amgen is probably bigger than the biotech industry in Europe and Japan). In India, innovation in this space is largely incremental. So, what key factors drive each of these innovation cycles here?
1. Ecosystem — universities/research hubs. For example ,biotech hubs in San Francisco and Boston.
2. Funding — burn rate of biotech companies is more than $100 million per year for 10 years to deliver a product.
3. Culture — entrepreneurs/managers who think radically and are willing to risk on creative destruction.
4. Talent — highly trained scientists/engineers who can think out of the box.
Incremental innovation delivers the fastest results and has the highest returns on investment and on capital employed. Also, the payout is far lesser. It will always be cash-flow positive and hence the easiest to implement.
In the Indian context, the Tata Nano is clearly an incremental innovation compared with Google. Why should it be so tough to make a cheap car? It’s not as if someone hasn’t thought of it before. India will be an incremental innovator largely because it’s a low-price market. So, is it safe to assume that a low-price market would largely drive incremental innovation? As companies consolidate and grow, do they lose the ability to innovate radically? Are larger firms using their resources efficiently for radical innovation (e.g. Big Pharma vs Small Biotech in the US)?
- Rajesh Lawande
The government has already done a lot of damage to what I call the intellectual capital of the country by introducing quotas in student admissions in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and it now plans to do the same for faculty recruitment in higher education. It obviously wants to win the trust of minority communities in an election year. In my view, reservation will degrade the quality of education. The brand IIT/IIM stands for the product it delivers through a rigorous training programme. Those recruited on the basis of caste, over merit, will not be able to match the highest standards.
That IIT Bombay director Ashok Misra is leaving is disheartening. The government should use all means to retain its best teachers—a class already nearing extinction. Else, others may follow. How can a sincere person work in a biased environment? What is the meaning of autonomy if the government can interfere in the working of these institutions?
Such resorting to caste-based politics in a knowledge economy is a pity. Reservation is a game being played by an opportunistic government.
- Rahul Tikku