MIT India Conference 2019.
Yesterday, I attended the MIT India Conference 2019 and it was definitely the most informative and inspiring conference I have been to. Eminent speakers from all walks of life shared their experiences and as usual, I am sharing some of the key takeaways with you all.
1. SP Kothari (Chief Economist, SEC): The key for India is to emulate the US education system. Especially the way hiring in institutions works.
My advice to students is that you should specialize. That will be your best competitive edge. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus. Take risks. Risk taking implies that you delve into something with passion knowing that you may not succeed.
2. Preetish Nijhawan (Co-Founder, Cervin Ventures): We Indians learn at an early age to be stubborn and flexible at the right time. Our idea of jugaad helps us maneuver with ease. Jugaad is the key to a successful entrepreneurial journey.
‘Entrepreneurs work 24 hours a day, but get to choose which 24.’
As entrepreneurs, look for a large growing market as it allows you to make mistakes. Look for old boring, non sexy industries (such as agriculture, wine making, etc.) that will come online and that is the future of business.
3. Subramanian Swamy (MP, BJP): Economic success may influence political outcomes but it definitely doesn’t necessarily assure any party of victory. Take Narsimha Rao and Atal Bihari Bajpai, for example. Their governments were thrown out of power despite some extra ordinary economic progress.
Farm loan waivers are stupid. We must allow contract farming, pooling of land. Japan has succeeded with small plots of agricultural land. One of the better ways to really help farmers is to organize and promote agricultural export.
4. Shereen Bhan (Managing Editor, CNBC): The biggest challenge as a media house is to guard yourself from telling the single story. And in pursuit of objective reporting, ground reportage is really crucial. It is the essence of journalism.
Learn to differentiate between fake news and the inconvenient truth. I often tell this to those in our industry, if you can’t report it, don’t tweet it. They can’t getaway by claiming that their views are personal as they clearly represent a brand. Also, the anchor should never be the story, the story should be the anchor.
Exploring the unexplored, empowering the disenfranchised and holding those who are powerful accountable is quintessential.
5. Sanjiv Mehta (MD, HUL): I believe that the biggest force for good is the power of our brands that reach almost 95% households in India. And I think our brands must stand for social values.
India is not a zero sum game. HUL doesn’t have to win at someone else’s expense. I love my competitors and I think they bring out the best in HUL.
Frugal innovation is better than jugaad. Jugaad, I believe stands for less from less. I think that is myopic and unsustainable. Whereas frugal innovation is about making more from less.
6. Satish Reddy (Chairman, Dr. Reddy’s): China’s 1000 talents program was successful in inviting extra-ordinary Chinese scientists from across the world to return to China and innovate. This really made China come up with path-breaking drug discoveries. India needs similar programs to invite and nurture talent.
India is called the pharmacy of the world and when it comes to M&A’s I feel Indian companies will acquire more global players and not the other way round.
7. Anupam Kher (Actor): Failure is an event, never a person.
I took risks in my life because I didn’t have an alternate. When you don’t have choices you invariably give it your all.
When I spent 27 days at the Bandra station being homeless, I just said one thing to God, ‘Please give me a job and I will never complain.’ And since that day, I have never complained about my work even once.
8. Arundhati Katju (Lawyer, the one who helped strike down Section 377): Ask yourself what the kind of country you want to live in is? And then decide what are the best actions you can take in your personal life to build that country.
Education gives you choices. You can carve your own path thereafter.
9. Ami Shroff (Project Director, Srujan)): If you want to do something for society, do it for at least 10 years. Or don’t do it at all. Don’t leave those underprivileged folks high and dry.
10. Farhan Akhtar (Actor): Include the idea of gender sensitivity, respect for all sexes, etc in your idea of masculinity. Only then can you be a true Mard.
The conference really left me with inspiration and optimism. Based on what these leaders believe, India is geared for growth but for it to be exponential, we really need to INNOVATE. Policies and regulations need to create incentives, encourage and fund research & innovation so as to make India an engine for global growth instead of a copier. At the same time, this economic development should not necessarily come at a social cost – communal tensions, human rights violations, inequality, etc. If growth isn’t well distributed, is it truly even growth?
So, keep striving hard, give back, work with a conscience, ask the right questions and stand for each other to help India grow in the true sense.