CRY OF A TALENTED SOUL: What India do for its talented flocks?

If we want to realise the Indian progress and success in research and innovation we will have to count the Nobel prizes. The bitter truth is since 1947, there has not been a single Nobel-prize winning scientific or technological discovery, despite India’s successes in space, radio astronomy, biology and pharmaceuticals and the worldwide reputation of its US$100-billion information technology (IT) industry. Three Indian-born scientists have won a Nobel Prize — biochemist HarGovind Khorana (in 1968), astrophysicist Subramanian Chandrasekhar (in 1983) and molecular biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishna (in 2009), Amartya Sen in Economical Sciences (1998) — but for work done entirely outside India. No mathematician from India has won the Fields Medal. And Indian institutes and universities do not feature in the world’s top 100 higher-education institutions.

India’s Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) as a percentage of GDP has remained so far less than 1% as compared to the developed and emerging economies. As per the data of 2015, India invested 0.85% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards Research and Development (R&D), whereas the USA and South Korea spent 2.79% and 4.293% respectively.  Among BRICS nations, Brazil and Russia spend more than 1% and China more than 2% of GDP towards R&D. The Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy, 2013 envisions increasing R&D expenditure to 2% of GDP with the enhanced participation of private sector through policy and reform processes but it has not been materialised till now.

Then the question arises “Who thinks about talent preservation in India? How the talents are nurtured here?”

Let us first understand what talent is. Simply, talent is the ability to do something very well.

Let us hear from John W Gardner to understand its complex meaning- “There are those who perform great deeds and those that make it possible for others to perform great deeds. There are pathfinders and path preserves. There are those who nurture and those who inspire. There are those whose excellence involves doing something well and those whose excellence lies in being the kind of people they are, lies in their kindness or honesty or courage”

In modern era Talent is more diluted. A talented person needs to have good managerial and leadership potential, the ability to connect different functional areas, cultures and geographic boundaries — all in a continuous manner. We need to assess not only his intellectual skills, but also softer skills such as emotional intelligence, values, creativity, the ability to work in teams, to think out of the box, entrepreneurial abilities, and also, importantly, the willingness to learn and share.

Today, you speak to any organisational head and they will complain about the scarcity of talents. In every field, India lacks the talented people who can guide others and take the organisation at its best. Things are changing fast. Demands are growing globally and we have to catch up with the pace with which the world is moving. “Win the competition and survive” is the slogan. In National competition ranking India stands at 55th position among 140 countries. The ranking is based on five important criteria like healthcare & primary education, Institutional advancements, market efficiency, technological readiness and innovation. To move up in the ladder, talent hunting, talent nurturing and talent preservation is required. No compromise with quality, face what may but give the talented a chance to innovate. Look at the positive side-Indians have already broken the glass ceiling and achieved topmost positions globally. A competitive environment at Indian schools keeps the children alert, enhances the zeal to excel. Indian children have good command over English and a strong numerical aptitude. By the time they reach college they become adaptable with hard work and it continues till they graduate.

But unfortunately, the workplaces cannot provide them with the same pressure to excel and the talented becomes bored, starts to think about leaving the country. Sometimes these talents see the bitter side – suppression, guided by less talented, encouragement of mediocrity and becomes frustrated. This is about the children from affluent families and strong educational background. Most of them prefer a comfortable life in a foreign country.

But the talents who prefer own country, continue to suffer in frustration. If in the field of Science, Medicine or Technology, there is no supply of funds to execute innovative ideas. Sixty percent of the sanctioned Governmental fund goes to its own organisations irrespective of their low performance – although India ranks tenth in the world for the output of scientific papers, it ranks 166th for average citations per paper. Almost 20% of patents filed at the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2010 were from China, with just 1.9% from India (below Russia’s 2.1% but above Brazil’s 1.1%). All talents can’t get a job in Government organisations due to one big stigma of Indian administration –“RESERVATION”. So where these talents go? In private sector where they continue to be thirsty of funds and lives wishes ends one day, abruptly, out of frustration.

Other potential innovators in the field of music, sports, arts, die a silent death as one of my friends says “they struggle to make both ends meet which takes away all energy and time”.

What is the need of the hour?

  • Talents can’t sit quietly, you have to keep them busy by work. Always remember talents will innovate and sometimes the innovative ideas fail.
  • Let them learn from failures. Let them allow to take risk, experiment and enjoy their success at the organizational level.
  • Respect and reward their work. Set a system to reward so that misuse of money can be checked.
  • Create an atmosphere where talents compete.
  • Build public-private sector collaborations to increase the expenditure towards innovation.
  • Science could attract talented young people if it provides them with a more exciting work environment and a career path that rewards achievement.

The Indian pioneers of the early twentieth century, such as the first Indian Nobel laureate in Science, Dr. Raman, made their theoretical and experimental breakthroughs with almost no government support; their research suffered from government apathy but not bureaucratic interference. The strong urge for discovery that drove them could return — if there were greater respect and rewards for innovation.

“You have to have a big vision and take very small steps to get there. You have to be humble as you execute but visionary and gigantic in terms of your aspiration. In the Internet industry, it’s not about grand innovation, it’s about a lot of little innovations: every day, every week, every month, making something a little bit better”                                                                                           ——– Jason Calacanis


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