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Navi Radjou: 'Made in India' for the 21st Century

Navi Radjou at Asia Society New York on Jan. 28, 2010.

Navi Radjou at Asia Society New York on Jan. 28, 2010.

What are the major roadblocks to up scaling innovations in India?

First things first, there is no shortage of innovation spirit! If you look at the missing ingredients, first is the absence of a regulatory framework that allows universities which have a lot of interesting intellectual property locked in their labs to share with the private sector. In US, they have something called the Bayh-Dole act, which enables US universities to transfer their technology to private sector. We don't have that in India.

Second, is the lack of venture capital at the early stage. Seed investment allows entrepreneurs to bootstrap their enterprise and that is missing in India.

Though we do see a change now. Individuals like Mr. Narayana Murthy, founder of India-based Infosys Technologies, has started his own venture capital fund which supports early entrepreneur firms. You will see more capital coming from this enlightened type of heroes helping grow the entrepreneurial companies.

Half of India's population is under the age of 25 years. How can Indian companies harness the entrepreneurial energy of India's nearly 650 million youth?

With half the population under 25 and a national workforce that is expected to account for 25 percent of the global workforce in 2020, India has a vast talent to tap into. However, you cannot just tap in to by focusing on skill development.

Getting the kids to dream requires a whole lot of vocational training.  A shift from producing talent to nurturing talent is required.  India has attempted to achieve economies of scale by producing as many students as possible using a rigidly defined curriculum that couldn't be tailored to accommodate students' individual needs. But now parents, educators, and even policy makers are pushing for a student-centric training program which is vital for reducing dropout rates in schools and building knowledge based economy.

How does one ignite the young Indian mind? You need to come up with a myth like putting a man on the moon. Inspire the kids to think big in the first place. This may sound a bit wishy-washy, but I think it's very important to have a sense of mission and purpose that is communicated to the youth of India. We need role models, visionaries, corporate leaders, and charismatic leaders.

Next: "Top-down is a bad idea."