Economic Times: What Young India Wants

ET young IndiaWhat young Indians want is no different from what their parents want: a free and democratic society in which anyone can achieve their potential and fulfil their dreams. They want a government that builds infrastructure, educates its people and provides safety and security. All Indians want what they are entitled to: good governance and opportunities.

The young, however, also want India to rise above caste, race and religion. They have grown up in an era in which the vestiges of caste and religion have begun to crumble, an era in which anything seems possible.

Yes, young Indians have higher aspirations than their parents had.

The good news is that can they can fulfil those aspirations. If they want to become entrepreneurs and follow in the footsteps of the Tatas and Birlas, it won’t take them decades or require unimaginable capital outlays. That’s because the cost of developing world-changing startups has dropped dramatically. With the exponential advances in technologies such as computing, storage, medicine and sensors, entrepreneurs can do what only governments and big research labs could do before: solve big problems.

Today’s tablets have the same processing power as the minicomputers that cost millions in the 1980s had. For storage, you once needed server farms. It was very expensive to start a technology company. Today it costs next to nothing — just some computer hardware, cloud computing and time and effort.

With the prices of tablets and smartphones dropping, India is likely to experience an internet boom — and its magnitude will be far greater than what the US experienced in the late ’90s. There are endless possibilities for Indians to write apps for solving problems and transacting commerce as well as for education and social good. They can solve problems — of business, government and society.

Indian entrepreneurs can take advantage of the advances in sensors. Sensors such as those in our smartphones cost tens of thousands of dollars a few years ago, but now these cost practically nothing. Entrepreneurs can build smartphone apps that act like medical assistants and detect diseases, and body sensors that monitor heart, brain and body activity. They can provide medical assistance in remote villages. They can build technologies to detect soil humidity and improve agriculture. They can monitor the environment and build smart cities.

Indian entrepreneurs can also participate in the genomics revolution. It cost over a billion dollars to sequence a full human genome a decade ago. It now costs $1,000. Genome data of hundreds of thousands of people are already available; soon this will be in the millions billions.

Anyone can now write computer code that compares one person’s DNA with another; learn what diseases people with similar genes have had; and analyse the correspondences between genomes and the effectiveness with which different medications or other interventions have treated a given disease.

There are also advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing. To exploit all of this, Indian entrepreneurs need access to knowledge, small amounts of capital, mentorship and networking. There is already an ocean of knowledge available on the internet — for free. You have more knowledge available today than what leading scientists, researchers and world leaders had 15 years ago — lectures by academics and scientists, science and technology journals, blogs.

Anyone can follow thought leaders on social media and learn from them. Capital is usually a limitation for many would-be entrepreneurs. But by pooling resources and persuading their parents to invest in them — rather than wasting money on ostentatious ceremonies — they can jump-start their dreams.

What youngsters need the most is mentorship and networking. This is where India’s grown-ups need to step up. Entrepreneurs who have been successful need to start mentoring the next generation. They need to start giving back to society. The young and the old need to start networking and helping one another. That is what Indians in Silicon Valley did and how they achieved extraordinary success. There is no reason why Indians in India can’t do the same.