Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Is India a country of losers ?

I just attended a very interesting presentation.

Even though India has over one billion people , we have won only one individual Olympic gold medal in the last 60 years. This is a matter of great shame for all of us. It is easy to blame the poor sports facilities; corrupt sports officials; and inadequate government funding for this sad state of affairs. However , all this griping and complaining is not going to win us any medals – only hard work and determination will. The good news is that Indians have a lot of this – and there are a lot of us !

A group of sportsmen, headed by Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone , are leveraging the expertise and good will of Indian businessmen to promote promising athletes, in order to increase their chances of winning an Olympic gold. This is a unique winning combination which has never been tried before.

What Geet had to say was very interesting. Even though he had had the idea for many years, he was never able to do anything constructive until he tapped into the acumen of two Indian businessmen, Shitin Desai and Rakesh Khanna. This combination has been able to leverage their combined sports expertise and financial strengths to create a winning team , which is now growing by leaps and bounds !

We all know that India is a poor country and a dramatic story brought home the point that the reason Indian athletes don’t win medals is because of a lack of resources. One of India’s best runners is Ms Tintu Luka, who trains at the P T Usha School. Because runner’s spikes are not easily available in India, they have to save these and use them sparingly. This means that during practice , they run barefoot; and use their shoes only during competitions !

While this is tragic, this also means that this is an easily fixable problem ! It just means that resources need to be channeled properly , so that they go towards improving the athletes’ performance , rather than in the pockets of sports officials. This is where the businessmen come in. Not only are they good at raising money, they are also good at making sure it gets utilized properly !

It is thanks to Indian entrepreneurial skills that the Indian equity market is booming and India is shining. India’s big bull, Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla , is fond of comparing India to a barefoot runner. He says – Look how far we have come inspite of our lack of resources ! Once we put on our running shoes, there will be no stopping India ! I am confident this will be true both for Indian industry, and for Indian sports. I hope that the synergy created by this team will help Indians to win many more Olympic gold medals in the years to come.

In fact , I think we need to start a Win the Nobel Quest as well ! Indian scientists and researchers are extremely talented - and lots of them go on to win Nobel prizes when they move to the US. There is such a dearth of basic facilities in India that clever students and researchers are forced to migrate to greener pastures.
This brain drain ends up being very expensive for us, because these talented scientists end up earning money and laurels for foreign governments , rather than their own country.

While commercial research labs in India are well funded and well-equipped, government facilities and basic science institutes are forced to operate on one tenth the budget of comparable US organizations . Under these circumstances , how can we possibly expect them to produce world class research. Sadly this is true even of national institutions which have a global reputation. My daughter did a summer internship at both MIT and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. While she felt that the students and researchers at both places were equally bright, she found the raw materials, chemicals and supplies which were needed to carry out hands on research were just not easily available at IISc. They were carefully hoarded; and students were not allowed to use these, because they were in such short supply. Thus , she was not allowed to run a gel on her own until the last day of her 6-week fellowship. In refreshing contrast, her MIT supervisor showed her how to run a gel on the first day - and then insisted she do so on her own in the future. Her philosophy was “ How will you learn until you make your own mistakes ? “

I think Indians have the brains and brawns needed to win both Olympic golds and Nobel prizes. We should stop thinking of ourselves as losers. There is plenty of money and opportunity in India. We need to learn from our businessmen , so that we can channel these funds and utilize them constructively !

1 comment:

  1. sunny7:36 AM

    The fake Jhunjhunwala blog recently did a spoof on the olympics program,hilarious!

    http://www.rakeshjhunjhunwala.in/2009/09/because-when-it-comes-to-lathi.html

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