Atanu Dey On India's Development

Mumbai, Delhi, Patna

If you have been wondering whatever happened to yours truly, wonder no more. The last few days I have been in Mumbai, attending the Sun Technovate ’07 — “INDIA — the Next Big Idea.” Got a chance to see Scott McNealy, chairman and co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Scott and three others students at Stanford University, including our very own Vinod Khosla, started Sun. (SUN — Stanford University Network!)

Scott is a great speaker. It is very inspiring to hear someone talk about a truly great company but also about his vision and commitment to making a real difference in education. He spoke about curriki.org. All in all, that was the high point of the conference — or more accurately, a Sun sales event. It was held at the posh Grand Hyatt in Santa Cruz.

I should also mention that my colleague Rajesh Jain’s company – Novatium – was among the winners of the innovation award given by Sun. Rajesh made a great 2-minute plug for the Novatium network computer at the awards ceremony. I am personally thrilled to see Novatium’s success.

Moving on, I am on the road for the next week. Today I will go to Patna (via Delhi, as there is no direct flight from Mumbai) and then after a couple of days of giving gyan to the Aga Khan Foundation, return to spend a few days in Delhi. I am scheduled to be on a panel at the “Sustainable & Participative Initiative for Rural Infrastructure Technologies (SPIRIT 2007)” on the 24th in Delhi. I guess to regular readers of this blog it will not come as a surprise that I would basically stick to my position: forget developing rural areas, think about how rural populations can be developed.

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.

  • shiva

    The creation of SUN is one of those oddities of the modern economy. Like all modern high-tech startups it had a marketing lead and a technical lead – but opposed to the stereotype, here it was the Indian Easterner -Khosla – who sold the idea while the American Westerner -McNeally -developed the technical kernel of the company. Interesting isn’t it!?

  • sarat

    So you will be in my home town, Patna. My parents still live there except for the three months a year they are with us in Florida. I am a frequent visitor to Patna, and my 35 years in the US have made me appreciate my roots even more.

    I would be curious to hear your views on Bihar’s economic future. It is a significant Indian problem because of the sheer size of the state’s population – 80 million, I believe. The problem is regional rather than just Bihar’s, which makes it even more serious. Most people blame one man’s fifteen-year stranglehold on the state for its current poverty and a series of missed opportunities. The theory goes that just like India missed out on the industrial revolution due to the Raj, Bihar missed out on the fallout effects of an economically liberalized India of the Nineties due to a corrupt government. But how does that explain similar conditions in UP, which has not been similarly victimized? I suspect there is a confluence of larger forces, social and economic, that have devastated the entire “Hindi” belt, so to speak, and I am now throwing MP in the pot as well.

    How would your growth-through-urbanization model work in Bihar, UP and MP, a region I consider India’s India in terms of its economic status? Perhaps a post at IE on the topic?

    Hope you enjoyed your few days in Patna?

  • Guru_Gulab_Khatri

    Shiva, you are wrong on Mcnealy’s role at sun. he was not the technical lead.
    Andy Bechtolsheim, and Bill Joy were the primary HW/SW architects.

    IMNHO the sterotype of indian techies is mostly a creation of indians themselves.
    There is a gloating attitude .

  • Avnish

    Agree with Guru_Gulab_Khatri in that Indians do have this air of superiority about their technical prowess when they fail to realize that what they’re looking at is the cream of their crop (indeed the majority of the IIT alumnis end up in the West) compared to the average American population.

    Given that we’re picking this cream of the crop from our 1 billion people, one would think we’d see a lot more Indians win Turing Awards, Nobel prizes, ACM Awards, etc. I see Indians succeed in industries and perhaps manage big companies but not revolutionize anything in any significant way. What I mean by that is that they are good at understanding what it takes to succeed in a system and then execute the gameplan. While there is nothing wrong with that, I defy people to find me Indians of the calibre of Bill Joy, Steve Wozniak, von Neumann, etc. I don’t much see any IITians winning any ACM programming contests nor does our vaunted Math mind win the International Math Olympiad (or even show up in the top 10). Btw, these competitions are not random. You do see the same names featuring at the top repeatedly — usually Russia, China, other Eastern European nations, Japan, Israel, USA, etc.

    Let’s get off the high horse and deflate the egos.