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The Must Read Brilliant Reply CNR Rao Gave To Industrialist Narayana Murthy

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By Arati Nair:

The war of words between renowned IT industrialist, N.R. Narayana Murthy and celebrated scientist, Professor C.N.R. Rao is at a crucial juncture, exposing the lacunae in our innovation paradigm and industry’s contribution to the same, or lack thereof. With his barbed comments a few months back at the IISC convocation, Mr. Murthy had lamented the dearth of Indian scientific inventions, in the past sixty years, worth global acceptance. Though his opinion opened a Pandora’s Box among industrialists, innovators and the scientific community at large, an open verbal confrontation did not take place. However, the scientist in C.N.R. Rao did not take the veiled insult lightly. Now, in what is deemed a befitting reply to the jibe, he has highlighted the lacklustre role of industry in ensuring a competitive environment for innovation in India.


His article published in the journal Current Science was a strongly worded reply to Narayana Murthy’s claims in which he said- “It would not be entirely fair of me to ask Narayana Murthy to ask what the industry has done for the society other than making products and profit. It would be wonderful if Narayana Murthy and others collect a few billion dollars so that we can set up a university such as Stanford. I would be delighted to work full time to build such an institution without any remuneration.”

The price of innovation

In his controversial convocation address in July, Murthy credited western universities like MIT for having nurtured young minds to think out of the box. He extolled the virtues of scientific temperament, its diligent cultivation and the role of his own company, Infosys in devising the two revolutionary ideas for productivity of global corporations – the Global Delivery Model and the 24-hour workday- a modest pat on the back for himself, no doubt.

Mr. Murthy, like others of his ilk, failed to look beyond the smokescreen of westernized technical innovation. The long strides taken by developed countries are incomparable to the baby steps we have managed back home, but the lack of talent was never the cause. For a country plagued by poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, epidemics and climatic vagaries, the prerogative for groundbreaking inventions takes a backseat. The pseudo-socialist economic setup, partial to quick fix fiscal solutions, provides limited options for heavy public expenditure on science and research. In such situations, industrialists like Narayana Murthy can step in to bridge the monetary gap, taking a leaf out of the book of his contemporaries in the western world. While businessmen and industrialists contribute almost 40-45 percent of the funding for universities abroad, such symbiotic culture is yet to develop in India, where even the government’s share in research and development is a meagre 2 percent of the GDP.

Avant-garde trends at home

C.N.R. Rao has rightfully described the capitalist tendencies of Indian industrialists, whose sole contribution to public welfare has been the mandatory dues imposed as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). If only Mr. Murthy had chosen to broaden his perspective on innovation, he would have discovered a raging trend in small town India, with its dizzyingly innovative ideas. From an advanced investigation analysis and data recording system to electric vehicle manufacturer Ampere, the bylanes in India are teeming with fresh ideas at low cost without the aid of first world expertise. In fact, our indigenous technology is being adopted elsewhere while our skewed civic system leaves innovators hanging. A prime example of the same is India’s ‘Plastic Man’, who has invented a means to build durable and cost-effective roads using plastic. Sadly, his hard work is being used by the Netherlands while his nation turns a blind eye.

Ultimately, groundbreaking inventions have materialized in India over the past decades, sometimes in flashes, but are largely ignored as the industry that ought to absorb such ideas, has been risk-averse to invest in technologies that are not entirely profitable. Laurels such as the Nobel Prize may be few and far between, but our scientists all over the world are associated with path-breaking projects. Even Mr. Rao, who has worked diligently in the domain of superconductivity and carried out pioneering research that helped enrich the field, finds his work apparently unacknowledged without an approval from the West.

A difference of opinion that transforms the lackadaisical attitude of the government and the industry could benefit the weary research and development apparatus in India. However, a rhetorical blame game may not be in the best interests of the nation at large and the scientific strata in particular.

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  1. Avinesh Saini

    Well said CNR Rao. People like Murthy should never be invited to institutes like IISC.

    1. Farz

      What the …. ????
      You may not agree with his views but who are you to judge his worthiness of being invited to IISC.
      He spoke his mind and should be allowed to do so. The worst that has happened is that it triggered a debate which if nothing else forces us to introspect about our innovative potential and its realization.

    2. Avinesh Saini

      So, the premium institute for science education and research in India invites a capitalist who thinks that his employees, who he socioeconomically exploited, are doing more research than the research scholars because they write BOKs for every small thing that they learn while working. He
      goes ahead to castigate and humiliate all the researchers in front of their esteemed guides. So, that is okay with you?

      I know several researchers who toil really hard without any assurance of them ever landing a Phd. Do they deserve this from a man who is only after profit and filthy lucre? And please spare me all the philanthropy done by him.

    3. Koushik Varaghur

      IISc was built by the Tata way before Narayana Murthy started Infosys. So IISc and its scientists had the first opportunity to put India on the world map . India missed the electronics manufacturing opportunity (not because of IISc of course). If it was not for Narayana Murthy and the likes, India would have missed the software opportunity too. Then, no one would have been able to identify India with anything other than romantic mysticism. After several years of hard work, when Narayana Murthy points out something that is factual, it is unfair to call him names and insult him. Has he insulted the PhD grads in front of their guides? So what? The end result is still the same. IISc is yet to bring its worthy contributions to the world. Getting PhD is not the achievement. Its the only the beginning. Many thousand PhDs have come out of IISc for nothing. The cost of these PhDs could have been put to better use elsewhere. It was extremely apt to remind them that they need to make positive contributions to the society with their PhDs. CNR Rao is putting the blame on lack of industry funding is just a shame full argument. Innovations happening in rural India without any support is a lesson for IISc and Rao. IISc and Rao had more money at their disposal to use and prove something. Now accusing NRN of being capitalist shows such misunderstanding of the world around us. Wake up. Profit is not a sin! An organisation making Profit is the greatest contribution to the society by itself. Taxes are paid which is what funds the country and the types of IISc grants you get. If companies make losses and close down who will generate employment? Prof CNR Rao?

    4. krushnach Chandra

      you nailed it completely like the nail in the coffin people here dont understand get fooled by the false..bragging made by these hypocrites

    5. Avinesh Saini

      “If it was not for Narayana Murthy and the likes, India would have missed the software opportunity too. ”

      The software industry was already there before Infosys arrived on the scene. Murthy and hus pals just grabbed the opportunity. And the software industry is just service based. India had cheap educated manpower at it’s disposal. So, there was no way this opportunity was gooing to be missed, Murthy or not.

      “The end result is still the same. IISc is yet to bring its worthy contributions to the world. ”

      “The cost of these PhDs could have been put to better use elsewhere.”

      Sure. Politicians pocketing that money would have been so much better. Or people like Murthy getting permission to build more SEZs.

      That is what you and Murthy thinks.

      “Many thousand PhDs have come out of IISc for nothing. ”

      Can you please tell us what they are doing now? Wait, they are all esteemed professors in different institutes of repute in India and abraod and have several publications under ther belt.

      “Now accusing NRN of being capitalist shows such misunderstanding of the world around us. Wake up. Profit is not a sin!”

      Nobody is saying it is a sin. Buty let us not project as a great virtue either.

  2. krushnach Chandra

    may be the writer didn’t research about esteemed CNR Rao wrong doings in his research where he just copied a whole paragraph from other paper without even giving citation and later blamed his students for those “PLAGIARISM”.And we should not be talking about fund enough fund is being given to these national institute of reputes.But question is how they are carrying out research actually.I would be glad if you can write a story over that.

    1. Arati Nair

      Hi Krushnach,

      Yes, I know all about the plagiarism issue associated with CNR Rao. But his ethical credentials aren’t the issue here. Narayana Murthy raised an issue of relevance and Rao responded in the way he thought best. If an open debate can get us to reflect on the fallacies in our education system, then all the better. These two have provided an opening by talking of the significance of concerted efforts by all stakeholders to ensure a healthy research environment. Yes, funds may not be an issue at present, but expecting MIT standards for the allocated amounts is a tad delusional. Also, it is quite rich to only expect groundbreaking results without contributing in any way towards betterment of research facilities.

      P.S.: Will try to write a story on the topics you’ve mentioned sometime in the future.

    2. krushnach Chandra

      “expecting MIT standards”..this is a fallacy in itself how can you expect MIT standard if students are not trained when they are supposed to get theoretical and practical and honestly if Im an investor i would’;t put my money on a bunch douche-bag heading a lab and believe me I have been there and this great CNR rao came to that place couple of time he never speaks science what he does is blabber about politics and other crap stuff.

    3. Srinivas

      Shoot the messenger. Great

    4. krushnach Chandra

      Srinivas i didn;t get your point of view “Shoot the messenger. Great”

    5. Avinesh Saini

      You clearly have your prejudice against CNR Rao. And I have mine against Murthy. That is it. As for the plagiarism thing, it might be true. Doesn’t make Murthy a saint and doesn’t invalidate the points Rao has made.

    6. krushna

      it might be true …dude its true go through the nature blog about him,if you have any science background and you been to some so called established lab,u can see what they are doing with the money

  3. Jose K Joseph

    Out primary education is in shambles. It is no education. Learn
    languages without listening , speaking.(by reading & writing only)
    No scope for thinking, reasoning.
    Look at the foundation first and then about the building.

  4. Nandini

    Dear Prof.CNR Rao Sir,

    You are the only one who can reply to western followers like Mr.Narayana Murthy. It is very much true that indian industries ignores any innovation citing profit. Many innovations have taken backseat even in their own R&Ds. Indian Industries do not even invest 0.01% of their profit to develop R&D. Most of the R&D labs is to test the final products coming out of production. DSIR certificate many times is name sake. Many of them want free analytical services from IIT labs using connections. Mr.Narayana Murthy himself can commercialise the many indian innovative products why they do not do it.?? for them only WEST IS BEST.

    1. Koushik Varaghur

      How many times has anyone from IISc has approached any industry in India with a real idea or a funding proposal and it got rejected? This would make an interesting proof for this blame game.

  5. Ganesh

    Nice article Arati. I think NRN helped stoke the debate and the rejoinders hopefully spur some action. Corporate investment in ‘Pure science’ and ‘Fundamental Research’ is vital for the paradigm to be changed. So is necessary investment in K-12 towards a learning model that fosters thinking and exploration. A societal bias towards thinking, design and exploration has to be created. Today technology allows for easy collaboration between research institutions and the rest. One of our greatest successes has been ‘Space Exploration’; Wouldn’t it wonderful if school children and also corporates could participate in say the Mars mission or other such missions even if in a symbolic way? NASA engineers a number of such initiatives. Research institutions cannot be insular and isolated from the world. They have architect conduits of interaction and symbiotic growth with Corporates, Educational institutions, Government and Society at large.

    1. krushna

      I already told the author of this post to make a story about the great CNR Rao who blatantly copy research paper

    2. Avinesh Saini

      Since you are the one who knows all the facts, why not go ahead and publish the story yourself?

    3. Avinesh Saini

      So, here is the story. There is no way to prove Rao was responsible, though, he should have been more cautious and vigilant. In all probability, he had no time to devote to the paper in question, which is not desirable. But for a person as busy as him, it is hardly a crime.

      You clearly have a beef with Rao and I am okay with it. All I am asking is not to put Murthy on some pedestal.

    4. krushna

      you are missing the important fact that our universities dont teach or train us in a such a way as they west does.We just go to the class and the teacher blabber in the exam we just puke.We get good grades a phd and back to academics this vicious cycle continues.No out put

  6. SP

    Software Industry originated in India due to efforts and foresight of F C Kohli, founder of TCS. Even today TCS is the largest and most credible supplier of IT Services. From the beginning they have served Indian market, in particular Govt of India projects. Infosys simply had better PR and became darling of stock market. Its leaders were also media-savvy and had public persona. When it comes to nuts and bolts it is TCS all the way.

  7. NagarajaM

    we have seen Indians outside India coming out with colors, conditions favourable to skills and talent. we took wrong step in supporting beyond need those socially skewed, that too ridiculously. Even today if Govt. can support talent, irrespective of caste, color, creed, India can shine in all spheres. our sending a sattelite to Mars is the best example of our potential.

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