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Why India lags behind as innovator

Reading the full text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s speech at the Indian Science Congress annual session at Bhuvaneshwar on Tuesday alongside the Indian media reports on it will sent you into giggles. Most reports cast the speech as a war cry to take on China in the field of science and innovative technology. Very few got the drift of the PM’s speech right. Most cub reporters got it terribly wrong. 

Is it that there is something seriously wrong with the grasping power of our reporters due to poor IQ or lack of good education? I don’t think so. Somehow, the Indian media have come to assume that if the establishment mentions China in any context, it must be invariably in a spirit of rivalry. The thesis of the ‘competition-cum-cooperation’ with China, which our pundits have begun enthusiastically expounding (soon after the Americans began using the phraseology), has permeated the popular consciousness. 
Before filing the copy from Bhuvaneshwar, our guys could have done some surfing on the internet to see where China figures in comparison with India in the field of innovative technology so that they could somewhat divine what might have been PM’s thought process like. 
I have this Economist Intelligence Unit’s report on the subject dated April 2009. Of course, by 2005 in the listing of triadic patents per million population, India was already placed at rank bottom although with an improved standing as compared to ten years ago. China was a shade above India. When the OECD average was 42.97, India’s was 0.12 and China’s 0.27. 
But then, India and China also held the world record in population. A better barometer was the international patent index. Here China was evaluated expectedly at 5.67 while India’s stood at 5.14, which was a shade below. PM is right: China began ‘overtaking’ India. 
But what struck me really was that both India and China have some solid catching up to do; countries that outstripped them were UK, USA, SWitzerland, Germany, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Singapore and South Korea. India was stuck in a league that broadly included Russia, China, Brazil and Mexico. 
So, why compare with China? Why not with UK, who was our old lord and master? I think PM was rightly pointing out that in the poor man’s league, too, India is increasingly lagging behind. 
Now comes the shocking part – global innovation index of 2011. By 2011 China is zooming ahead of India, having reached the 29th spot on the world table, as compared to India’s placement at 62. China has virtually joined the OECD countries while India gets bracketted with Mongolia, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, Guyana, Ukraine, Oman, etc. Is there any scope for harbouring a sense of ‘competition’ with China? Envy, admiration, disbelief, despair – yes. Rivalry? No, Sir.  
By the way, what are the inputs that go into innovation inputs index? Don’t get a fit of uncontrollable laughter, but according to one prominent TV channel at least, they boil down to finding the money to make a supercomputer. Whereas, the EIU lists out the following inputs: R&D as percentage of GDP; quality of the local research infrastructure; education of the work force; technical skills of the work force; quality of IT and communications infrastructure; broadband penetration. 
In a nutshell, it is a tough proposition. But then, it all boils down to how much money India can find for butter after apportioning generously for the guns. It’s a hard choice between A.K.Antony and Vilasrao Deshmukh. You can’t have the cake and eat it too, can you? Seriously, make the difficult choice at this formative period of India’s ‘take-off’. Want to live like Switzerland? Or, like USSR? It’s up to us. China seems to be able to have the money for butter as well as guns — like Ronald Reagan’s America did. But is it a matter of finding the money alone?
According to the EIU report, the weights for the innovation index is split among the following ‘enviornmental’ conditions: political stability; macroeconomic stability; institutional framework; regulatory enviornment (tax regime, labour market, openness to foreign investment, etc); openness of national culture to foreign influence; popular attitudes to sceientific advancement, and so on. It’s a long haul for India, isn’t it? On the whole, I think PM gave a rosy picture. PM’s speech is here

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10 Responses

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  1. Eddie Ray says

    Asoka must be living in dreamland – he has difficulty understanding data.
    On 18 JAn 12, Arundati Roy wrote in ZNet:
    “After two decades of these “reforms” and of high but jobless growth, India has more malnourished children than anywhere else in the world (42%), and more poor people in eight of its states than 26 countries of sub-Saharan Africa put together. And now the international financial crisis is closing in. The growth rate has plummeted to 6.9 per cent. Foreign investment is pulling out.”

    80% of the population have to live under $1 a day. According to a new Oxford University study (2010), 55 percent of India’s population of 1.1 billion, or 645 million people, are living in poverty. Using a newly-developed index, the study found that about one-third of the world’s poor live in India.
    The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and the UNDP is a more precise and comprehensive means of estimating poverty levels. It will replace the Human Poverty Index that has been used in the UNDP’s annual Human Development Report since 1997.
    As measured by the new index, half of the world’s poor are in South Asia (51 percent or 844 million people) and one quarter in Africa (28 per cent or 458 million). While poverty in Africa is often highlighted, the Oxford research found that there was more acute poverty in India than many African countries combined. Poverty in eight Indian states—Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal—exceeded that of the 26 poorest African countries. Uttar Pradesh is the home of largest number of poor people—21 percent of India’s poor people live there. West Bengal is home to the third largest number of poor people.”

    One can go on. Poor India invents nothing and ranks low on the Innovation Index. India can only send low-ornit satellites whereas China has established an awesome array of satellies, has sent astronauts walking in space, set up as space station and has planes to send a manned missionb to the moon. With a surplus of $3 trillions, CHina could buy large chunks of India but won’t because there is nothing much there – just poor people.

    So Asoka don’t get carried away by a false patriotism. Let’s have the facts.

  2. Asoka says

    John, there is only one vision for India. It makes no sense to talk about India’s future. India IS the future. India IS the superpower of the world. India’s superpowerdom/superpowerhoo/superpower status has arrived and we are enjoying every bits of it. If you study the statistics more carefully, you will realize that too we Indians. Don’t be too jealous or envious like the Chinese, John.

  3. Glenn Hansen says

    @Asoka – Reading your post one cant help but feel you should take a little more care in the use of data. Perhaps enquire a little further, check the sources, take a step back and ask yourself “does this seem reasonable? Does it seem consistent with other sources and my own experience?”.

    Did 30% of all Indians really engage in leisure travel in 2004? Really?
    Is the Indian rate of poverty really only 2%? Are you sure?
    1 billion MIDDLE CLASS consumers? That is simply untrue.

    Is it actually a good thing for Indias population to continue to grow?

    You failed top quote the Transparency International Corruption Index rating for India of 3.1 (top rating is New Zealand at 9.5, India ranks 95th of 178; a rating below 5.0 means significantly corrupt). If you don’t believe that, how about the World Bank Governance Indicators ? (Hint: those line gradients are static or declining).

    May I also suggest you pay less attention to economic forecasts predicting 70 years into an unknown future. These same people struggle to predict conditions 12 months from now. I similarly caution against putting too much faith in GDP growth as a sensible measure of economic success – excess leverage can produce impressive growth, resulting in excess fragility and often resulting in painful correction.

    For India to truly reach its potential, its citizens need to be realistic in their assessment of advantages, achievements AND weaknesses and failures. They also need to be united (if that is even possible) in pursuing common goals.

    What is the common vision for Indias future?

  4. Asoka says

    I am tired of hearing that India is behind China and that she will one day catch up to China. Let me tell you the Truth India is already a global superpower. Forget about G2, G8, G20, India is class by itself.

    India is G1, the lone hyper-superpower in the world.

    We are not behind China in the race. We have already won the race to become the world’s next superpower. We are already enjoying our Superpowerdom, superpowerhood, and supoerpower status, thank you very much Bloomberg editors.India has the fastest growing economy in the world with over 10% annual growth rate, the world’s largest middle class consumers with over 1 billion people, the world’s largest and greatest democracy, and a huge foreign reserve that is second to none.

    It makes no sense to talk about India’s future. India is the Future. We will rule the world. India is shining.

    Let me tell you a few more facts about our Great Country India:

    1>India Largest Democracy in the world-: Population: 1.2 Bn. India’s population will surpass china’s by 2030. India has the largest middle class in the world –> Population superpower.

    2>India the most industrialized country. India produced the cheapest car, the Tata Nano. India’s IT industry is second to none. Industrial superpower.

    3> India never lost a war in its 8000 years history. War superpower.

    4> India never invaded other country in history. Peace Superpower.

    5>Largest english speaking nation by 2010. The world’s biggest back office. world’s largest skilled workforce. World’s largest working age population. People superpower.

    6> over 800 movies made anuualy–bollywood overshadows hollywood, Movies superpower.

    7> 6 Miss Universe / Miss world titles in last 10 years: Beauty superpower

    8>Per capita income US $9550 ; 2% live in poverty, literacy levels at 88%. India has the world’s largest number of millionaires and billionaires: economic superpower!

    9>The Indian Diaspora
    38% of Doctors in AMerica are Indians
    36% of NASA employees are Indians
    34% of Microsoft employees are Indians
    28% of IBM employeesare Indians
    17% of Intel employees are Indians
    13% of Zerox employees are Indians

    intellectual superpower!

    10>India will eventually become world’s largest economy in 2083–Goldman Sachs

    11>India is fastest growing GDP’s in the world, averaging over 10% growth since 1990.

    12>India’s GDP will exceed that of Italy in 2020, France in 2020, Germany in 2025 and Japan in 2035 — USA in 2050, China in 2082 –Goldman Sachs

    13>India’s Foreign exchange reserves history
    1990-91 $40 billion
    1995-96 $200 billion
    2001-02 $600 billion
    2002-03 $760 billion
    2003-04 $1000 billion
    2004-05 close to $1500 billion
    2006-10 over $ 3000 billion

    14>Indian Economy
    Robust hyper growth of manufacturing, agriculture and services
    Low external debt, low deficit, high trade surplus

    299 Fortune 500 companies outsource IT work to India
    Increased disposable income, increased wealth
    Large emerging affluent middle class

    15>Indian Aviation
    Air deccan–1 st low cose domestic carrier
    Most international carriers now target India for network growth and profitability
    $5 bn capital infusion in govt owned carriers
    Airport privatization

    16>India will be the second fastest growing travel and tourism market over 2005-2014 at 8.8%– WTTC

    17> Size of indian tourism is 330 million as of 2004

    18>Indians going abroad as of 2004
    Singapore — 375,658
    Saudi Arabia — 373,636
    UAE — 336,046
    Kuwait — 293,621
    Thailand — 280,641
    Bahrain — 268,383
    USA — 257,271
    China — 213,611
    U.K — 205,065
    Hongkong — 193,705
    NewZealand — 16,862

    19> India growth projections
    1999 — 2.7%
    2000 — 3.4%
    2001 — 3.6%
    2002 — 4.2%
    2003 — 4.5%
    2004 — 5.9%
    2005 — 6.9%
    2006 — 8.0%
    2007 — 9.4%
    2008 — 11%
    2009 — 12.8%
    2010 — 15%
    2011-2050 — 16.8%

    20> Drivers of outbound growth
    Increased charter operations
    Upper middle income group will remain largest segment
    potential consumer pie will grow to 300 billion
    Age group of 15 to 49 likely comprise 62%
    Self-employed who account for over 40% will emerge as
    high potential target market
    Holiday finance will become popular

    21> Over 500 million Indian’s will travel overseas by 2020 — WTO

    22> india discover water in moon, space superpower

    23> 15 indian awarded Nobel prize.

    24> Indian Prime Minister Nehru gifted the UN Security Council Seat to China, and now India is the leading candidate for the permanent member, winning endorsement from USA, Great Britain and Russia. Diplomacy Superpower

  5. Asoka says

    As the leader of nuclear technology and IT in the world, India offers Japan the only hope of pulling out of its two decades of economic slum. We should utilize our trillions of foreign reserves to rebuild Japan’s industries devastated by the earthquakes and tsunami. India’s expertise in nuclear power could help Japan to improved its much criticized safety record. It’s a win-win situation. By helping Japan, India and Japan cooperation will keep China at bay, shutting her out completely, and allow India to dominate the vast expanse of India’s extended neighbourhood from the east cost of Africa to the port of Vladivostok.

  6. Johan says

    @ keshav: „making life of every citizen worthwhile like America thinks for every American citizen“
    Not true, just the opposite. Wrong country to emulate.

  7. Satyameba says

    WHY ? Reasons are known but where is the remedy?
    Partial /one eyed treatments are seen at galore
    system lacunae is another

  8. keshav says

    India is lagging behind because the vultures which forms political team which have no wide vision for the country or love for its motherland or its people, when in power think , the voters are insects and need to be wiped out and go on looting the taxes paid instead of providing good facilities and making life of every citizen worthwhile like America thinks for every American citizen. Clean and inteligent people are needed at authority level and not pigs.

  9. ravi bulusu says

    Where is the need for a big article like this … when all os us know that it is due to corrupt(congress) politicians and officials India lag behind in almost every sector.. Ravichandra

  10. indian soldier says

    people are busy with drama. neta and govt do it. media tells story. no one wants to focus on serious work. that can help us live better life. all our time and energy and attention is wasted on drama whole day.

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