India Can Compete thru’ Innovations

While going through the must-read stories in technology on Techmeme, I hardly find any from Indian companies. Why have Indian companies lagged in developing some real cutting edge technological products? With all India’s image as global IT major power, why the biggies are nowhere near US tech companies such as Google, Amazon, or Apple?

The big Indian companies have failed to focus on R&D and real new products that can make mark globally. Only few such as Tata Motors and M&M have some clear strategies and acquired some design centres and research companies in developed countries to overcome the drawbacks. In last few weeks, I came across some stories of innovations that are inspiring though very few in numbers.

Nanotech to treat cancer
: The IIT-B, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai and Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad have developed a nano-particle that could revolutionize treatment of retinoblastoma—a rare cancer of the retina, that mainly affects children under two years of age.

India’s answer to i-Pad: Hyderabad-based Notion Ink, a company of six IITans and an MBA graduates has developed the Adam tablet PC. The Adam tablet is the first device in the world to integrate two breakthrough power saving components – nVidia’s Tegra 2 chip and a PixelQi screen to achieve together twice the battery life and performance of the i-Pad. Adam’s 10-inch screen integrates many innovations. “The chip provides an edge over the i-Pad with its ability to play full high definition videos and Flash on the web browser. It can offer the performance of a computer with the power consumption of a cellphone.” s “It will offer everything from apps, books, video, audio, to magazines, newspapers and comics.”

India’s Kindle: Ahmedabad-based Vishal Mehta, a former employee of Amazon, has developed a product in India, which could challenge the hegemony of his former company’s Kindle in e-reading. Pi, as he calls the reading device, is lighter (180 gm) and thinner (10mm) than the i-phone.

However, Indian scientists in the fields of atomic energy, satellites, and missiles have developed many indigenous technologies without any external help and must be the benchmarks for the private sectors.

Fast Breeder Reactor: India’s first Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) for commercial nuclear energy generation FBR would be commissioned in 2011. The reactor, when commissioned, would become the second-largest commercial FBR in the world after Russia’s BN-600 reactor. India embarked on a three-pronged path and has succeeded: First, natural uranium will fuel PHWRs (Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors). The second stage involves using FBRs based on plutonium that will be extracted from the spent fuel of the first stage. Finally, the country’s vast thorium reserves will be used to generate electricity. A small sized 13 MWe Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) is already successfully operating in the country since 1985. As reported, the FBR technology, which forms the second stage of India’s nuclear energy programme, has potential to allow the country’s nuclear power generation capacity to grow over 300,000 MWe in the long term, without any additional uranium, as it uses the spent fuel from the already installed PHWRs.

Indian Missiles: The recently tested newer versions of India’s Agni III missiles could strike the northernmost tips of China. Indian director of the project claimed that its missile’s accuracy is better than China’s DF 21. However, Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong, a professor at the prestigious Chinese National Defence University, said India is still 10 to 15 years behind China in terms of missile technology. Without getting into controversy of the superiority with respect to China, the development is certainly a great morale booster for every Indian. India is set to test within a year an Agni-V nuclear- capable missile with a range of more than 5,000 kilometres.

India is having a large network of research laboratories and huge talent bank, mostly under government control. Unfortunately, the outcome from these laboratories have not been anywhere in proportion of the input of the resources. There is hardly any system to make the contributions of the scientists in these laboratories known to the people of the country.

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