People from all walks of life here are into real estate investments in Seoul. In contrast, equity markets are deemed “very risky” sources of investment here, which

Will India be equal to the US in terms of technology by 2025?

It is worrisome to even see such a question, as it shows that we Indians are deluded and ignorant about our own country and world situations. The world has also pumped hot air into our backside, as some call Bangalore the Silicon Valley of the East blah blah.

Look at these lists and tell me what you see.

I have tried to triangulate data around intellectual property (patents filed), technology businesses and startups (esp in new-tech areas like AI, biotech, mobility etc), and academia (quality of technical universities).

  1. The broad-based Global Innovation Index 2019 ranked India at 52 out of 129 countries. The rank is improving, but nowhere close to the US (#3), UK (#5), China (#14).…
  2. In 2018, US filed 55,981 international patents and China filed 53,340. India filed 2,013, amongst its highest ever. India posts highest growth in patent applications in 2018
  3. Top 50 AI Companies in the world by Fortune: China has 3 companies, USA 41, Israel 3…India 0.

4. Old School Innovators—Fortune list of 100 Most Innovative Companies has Amazon and Facebook, but also Unilever, Starbucks, Visa and other such companies. India has 5 companies in the list—Hindustan Unilever, Bharti Airtel, Sun Pharma, L&T and Maruti Suzuki. Three of these have strong foreign heritage.

5. Fast Company’ 2018 Top 50 Innovative Companies had none from India, and even if you look at the top companies in sectors like Food, Transportation, Energy, Data Sciences, all priority areas for India, almost no companies show up. The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2018 | Fast Company

6. Lets move to education.

QS Top Universities does not report any Indian institute amongst Top 10 global engineering universities. China has Nanyang and Tsinghua, and National University of Singapore is in there—so 3 from Asia in Top 10. Top Engineering Schools in 2019

No Indian university was in Top 50 by These Are the Top 50 Best Engineering Schools in The World

Finally, Careers360, an Indian publication, had IIT-Delhi at No 44 as the top-ranked engineering school. Top 100 Engineering Colleges in World 2017

In Sciences, which are the foundation for Engineering, we are even more dismal!!

Now I disagree with many of these rankings and their methodologies, but sure when India doesnt show up anywhere or on any list, the general thesis must be true—that India is largely irrelevant to the global technology scenario.

Actually that’s unfair to say. Our greatest contribution to global technology is to export very driven and reasonably well-educated people to places where they can use their talents to develop practical technology and build companies that affect the world. And that global companies (and investors) set up research labs in India because we have bright people but poor managers and ecosystem to nurture innovation and convert it into real products and businesses.

Yes, we are great supporters, as companies and universities from America, China, Britain, Korea, Germany, Japan and other countries rely on our manpower but unfortunately, most of the technology developed by these people belongs to and commercialized by those nations, not India.

We like to fool ourselves and have an inflated sense of pride—why? Simply because we have 1.4 billion people and a stable political / economic / social environment.

Our governments are not focused on strengthening education, improving healthcare, and providing measures that truly spur innovation and creativity.

Instead of investing in deep tech startups, our entire startup ecosystem is funded and owned by American and Chinese investors, and mostly chase useless consumer technology ideas like one more logistics and food delivery app business. Where is the real innovation and technology?

So, sir, to summarize—India is falling farther behind in the tech game, not inching forward. I feel we have already lost the tech battles of the next 30 years—artificial intelligence, virtual reality, mobility, biotech, communications—in all these areas, we will be big consumers and users, spending trillions to buy these from other countries, but not innovators or developers. That is the sad truth and anyone in the tech industry or academia will admit it—but not in public, because the jingoism must go on!!

Added on 28-Oct:

Had some discussions recently with VCs and entrepreneurs on a trip to NY/SF. New insight. They said that in the US, big companies and the Government pay top dollar or even unreasonable amounts to buy new technologies, thus creating a customer base for startups and innovators. In India, on the other hand, both Govt and large companies tend to be very conservative and stingy customers. Therefore innovators don’t find a good market and have to compete in foreign markets which is naturally harder. This slows down the customer trials and feedback process, which in turn slows down innovation and product development, not to mention reduces investment in innovation as the route to market is harder.

This adds one more reason why India lags behind technologically. While US, China, Israel etc have active ecosystems, India doesn’t, and isn’t building one either, putting its tech sector at a further disadvantage.