Monday, May 10, 2010

Vision India 2020: Take with you, the boldness...

While every book is prone to being judged by its cover, Sramana Mitra's Vision India 2020 is not your average "India Shining" coffee table read. Neither does it make empty assertions of "India Rising" with false reassurances of global supremacy. It is, in fact, exactly what it claims to be: a Vision, backed with intricate research, deep insights and realizable roadmaps, all set in an imagined, yet realistic future.

I have earlier posted a series of articles covering the keynote lecture at E-Summit 09, IIT Kharagpur by Sramana Mitra and Dominique Trempont.

A celebrated Silicon Valley strategy consultant, entrepreneur and business author, Sramana has not only penned down a complete view of the future that every Indian dreams of but cannot fully comprehend, she also bears a torch illustrating the very real paths of getting there. And when I say complete, I mean complete.

The book provides insights to 45 unique business opportunities in India. Every thinkable and unthinkable sector, field, service or product has been covered, each presenting a case for a scalable and realizable entrepreneurial endeavor, while simultaneously releasing immense untapped economic value for the nation. From shopping to shipping, engineering to equity, horticulture to furniture, candles to carbon, convergence chips to gourmet cheese, rural development to real estate development, Water Desalination to Water Diplomacy, Solar Energy to Software, Schools for slums to rural cinemas, films to pharmaceuticals... the offerings are overwhelming, but presented in a very organised fashion, so as not to confuse the reader. Significance is given to essentials such as healthcare, education, infrastructure and rural development, with multiple ideas discussed, mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, thus aiming universal access. The theme of doing well by doing good, and the idea of doing business at the Bottom-of-the-Pyramid, is touched upon at many points.

The forty five complete case studies are not just about innovative ideas, but about how the innovation can be brought to the market. Insights to crack seemingly 'done' industries as well as exploring uncharted waters have been provided, and even VC-unfriendly sectors such as education have been tackled. Every narrative has been written in a post-facto fashion, analyzing the success story of the discussed model from a future perspective. Sramana's expertise on entrepreneurial planning and strategy is clearly visible in the extremely detailed models, unraveled with not only economic but social, environmental and diplomatic factors in mind as well, while keeping pace with the timeline and the corresponding changing scenarios. Financial engineering has been incorporated wherever needed. At some points the book does take a very Utopian turn, neglecting many bureaucratic and political hurdles. However, while described as a work of business fiction, many of the futuristic models and idea bombs are discussed as scaled, extrapolated and rectified versions of already conceived success stories. Vision India 2020 remains an immaculately written exciting and inspiring read.

For budding entrepreneurs, a reading of the book should be an engaging and inspirational journey, starting off with Sramana's own saga about chasing her dreams, instructing the reader to "take with you, the boldness, as you read..." It also serves as a reminder of the responsibility that every entrepreneur must embrace, of generating a social impact on the community, nation and world. While the book shall gain interest amongst policymakers and investors, it's message is central to the youth of India - "Close your eyes, exist in this future - be each entrepreneur."

And how far is that future?

Ten years, at most.

Vision India 2020 by Sramana Mitra is available from in paperback and Kindle, from Flipkart in India, and from in all e-book formats.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

To the Class of 2010

Congratulations, graduates!

Feels odd writing this post. Messages to graduating seniors are often written by leaders in industry and academia, citing the challenges that the new generation faces, and adding that yours may be greater than previously, but they are challenges that ambitious and savvy young leaders will find ways to overcome. And asking you to consider what you learned in the classroom not as a foundation, but rather as a launch pad... you know the yada yada...

I'll just put in my two cents, as a junior who has lived the past few years in your awe. The world is a very different place from when you entered four or five years ago. Looking at the last three of those years, which would have been an otherwise extremely difficult journey for us, I can now see how smoothly we transitioned, all because you carried us that way. When I see where we have reached, from schoolboys stammering out messy 'intro's, to orators giving, well, not-so-messy intros, I see the change you've brought upon entire generations. From fear, of going to Cheddi's in first year, and of those wringing voices in the senior hall corridors the next, to an incomparable sense of respect, for someone though merely a year or two old, but a friend, mentor and guide.

When we look at you, we see that we have a long way to go, big shoes to fill. Be it securing the dream jobs in the corporate and technology world, hallowed offer letters from the topmost Universities in Technology, Science, Management and Law, germinating innovative entrepreneurial ventures... you've got it all.

And when I think of it, what is an IIT education all about anyway? It's about IITians. It's about you. About 600 exceptional boys (and a few girls)on a campus, which, in the case of Kharagpur, is far enough from civilisation to have had very interesting effects on your coming of age. A few drop out, a few didn't live to see this day, and their memories remain etched in our hearts. I suppose you became tougher, more mature, more knowing, and more aware of your dark sides, as are we, in the process of becoming. You have lived and eaten together, and shared your joys and heartbreaks and good times and bad times, in competition and camaraderie.

To quote further from Senior Indian Journalist (former managing editor of Outlook) and IIT Kharagpur Alumnus Sandipan Deb's own memoirs:

When we graduated, we went out into the world with a rare confidence and strong tribal loyalties. The confidence eroded a bit over the years, and we learnt some humility when we discovered non-IITians as smart as we were, and also people who could outwit us because they were intelligent in a different way-in a sly political way-an acumen we had not developed in our isolated environment which, above all, inculcated a sense of fairness and a respect for ability. We came to terms with a world that compared poorly with our beloved campus, and some of us even went ahead and conquered it. Others didn't do well, but knew that the ties between them and the masters-of-the-universe classmates would never change.

They were ties born of the pride of being an IITian.
That pride would never diminish.
It never can.

To end, I would remind you that Chhedi's, Asim's, Aunties, Bhaat, Bhajan (!), Bongs, Cali, Candi, Carlos, Despo, Diro, DOSA, Footer, Funda, GC, DC, PremB, GolB, GolC, GPL, Gults, Gymkhana, Tempo, Illu, Intro, Matka, Matki, Rassa, Rassi, Menty, OP, Schols Ave, Stud, Tinku, Juice, God, Maggu, Makhau, Arbit, Huha, Halu, Frusst, Load, Peace, 2.2... are just some of the things you'll miss.

And if it ain't obvious by now, you'll be missed...