Friday, March 6, 2009

Kanwal Rekhi's talk

During the blogging spree during Techkriti'09, I had mentioned about the talk given by Kanwal Rekhi and also written about a few points that he had raised. I later realized that there was a lot that I had not written about and that was worth discussing. I am copying the relevant content from the earlier post and adding the new points that I now believe should have been mentioned earlier-on itself.

For the uninitiated, he is a very famous entrepreneur and was one of the people responsible for the rise of Silicon Valley. Complete bio can be read at - http://www.asianpacificfund.org/awards/bio_rekhi.shtml. He came across as a very on-the-face guy who was not afraid of speaking what he truly felt. There were quite a few things that I liked in his talk.

One great anecdote was about the image that Indians had in the 1960's in the US - it was of snake charmers and beggars. A prof called him and offered assistance since he came from a third world country. When Dr. Rekhi aced the test, the prof warned him against cheating. On the second test, the prof stood behind Dr. Rekhi and observed him throughout the test. When Dr. Rekhi aced the test again, the prof congratulated him - for excellent cheating skills.

Coming back to serious talk, he took Japan as an example and showed that it was not growing due to lack of entrepreneurial activities and due to the excessive discipline followed by the Japanese. He said that entrepreneurs were the creators of wealth. They were able to able to do because they were full of unrest and were the breakers of discipline. He then connected to India and said that India in the first 50 years could not progress because we had a wall around us. The competition is really good for growth. Talking about the differences between managers and entrepreneurs he said that the entrepreneurs were visionaries and thought about getting gains of 10x instead of 10%. They also had to be the generalists forming the link between the various departments. The final thing that he mentioned that recession was as good a time to venture out as any other time.

During the talk he had raised a lot of points about the Indian economy that I really found valid. He said that people in India will remain poor till the time the economy is agriculture driven. He did some simple math to prove his point. In the US, only 2% of the population survived on agriculture. Hence this 2% population earns from the food expense of the rest of the 98% other people. Hence a farmer would earn about 49 times the food expense of an individual. Come to India, 60% of the population is involved in agriculture. That effectively means that 60% of the population is going to earn from the food expense of the rest of the 40% of the people. That essentially would leave a farmer two-thirds time the food expense of an individual. The difference is mind boggling - 49 times v/s 0.67 times.

Another interesting thing that he mentioned was about the early leaders of free India who had studied at Oxford and other universities in UK. They believed that socialism was the way to go because that was they had learnt at college. But what they did not realize was that socialism was fine for England, not so much for India. England was getting money from its colonies and then only the issue of fair distribution of wealth was left - hence socialism. But in India, there was no wealth. What would socialism do in India? The wealth had to be created first before it could be distributed. Hence, according to him, in the post-1991 era India has progressed much more than it had in the previous 40 years.

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