A Message to the Young Graduands

HE Hon’ble Governor of Gujarat, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, distinguished faculty, distinguished invitees, proud graduates, their equally proud parents, friends, ladies and gentlemen.

I deem it a great privilege to have been invited to deliver the convocation address of this great university, as it celebrates its diamond jubilee just as the state of  Gujarat celebrates its golden jubilee. A university that was established through the efforts of the likes of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and the iron man of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel has fulfilled the expectations of its legendary founders. It has uniquely positioned itself as a great centre for learning. I feel truly privileged to be here today.

On that remarkable day 1.1.11, that is just six days ago, we began the exciting Journey of the second decade of the twenty first century. And what a first decade we had!

In this decade, we saw a Tsunami, a natural disaster. Then we saw a manmade disaster, global economic meltdown. And down went giants like Lehman Brothers, Meryll Lynch, Bank of England, something that looked impossible at one time. Why did this happen? Because someone forgot Mahatma Gandhi’s eternal words `there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’.

We saw human innovation with its worst and best effect. We saw a destructive innovation, that used a commercial aircraft as a missile to bring down the World Trade Centre – the 9/11 event. That changed the world for ever. Followed the Irag war and the continuing human tragedy. And then came the election of Barack Obama, the first non-white President to occupy the White House. But then there was the creation of Facebook, the biggest social network with 600 million netizens. Facebook is virtually the third largest country of the world now! And then there was the emergence of Google, i-pod, i-pad and these astounding achievements of human creativity will continue to change our lives like never before.

And how did India fare in the first decade of the 21st Century? India’s economic growth continued unabated despite the global economic meltdown. World’s confidence in India’s emergence as an economic power grew. India’s image started changing from that of a third world country to a potentially the third most powerful country.

India and Indians continued to surprise the world. In the year 2000, India had around 2 million mobile phones. In the year 2010, it reached 700 million – a staggering 350 fold increase in ten years! Indian born Venki Ramakrishnan won a Nobel Prize in chemistry, Abhinav Bindra won India’s first ever Olympic gold medal. Ratan Tata produced Tata Nano, world’s cheapest car, which was a game changer for the global automotive industry. But Ratan Tata also became the biggest employer of British in Britain, because he acquired big British companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Corus, etc. Can you imagine an Indian doing this in Britain, which ruled India for 180 years! Chandrayan-I, an Indian mission to the moon made all Indians proud’ Chandrayan I detected for the first time water on the surface of the moon. And from up in the sky to the bottom of the sea. Reliance successfully found the gas two kilometers below the sea bed through its KG-D6 exploration, an incredible feat of extreme innovation. The production, distribution and utilization of this gas is bringing the country closer to energy security.

As we begin our journey in the second decade of this century, how should we prepare ourselves? And what could be the role of a University like Gujarat University in  preparing for it? I believe this University is specially blessed. It belongs to a state, which is one of the most progressive states in the country, with unusually enlightened and dynamic leadership, and proven record of accomplishing very ambitious development goals. The University itself has a great history and even a great future.

People say that twenty first century will be the century of knowledge. Some say that it will be the century of mind. Countries with the best minds will become global leaders. I believe it is not just so much the quality of mind but it is the quality of mindsets that is going to matter. The University will have to focus on creating not only the best minds but best mindsets.

The uniqueness of the Indian mind has been well accepted. It was the Indian mind which recognised the power of the fusion of mind, body and spirit. The products of Indian mind have influenced the events of the twentieth century. For example, we could not talk about digital economy if binary digits, comprising the numerals ‘zero’ and ‘one’ did not exist. But who invented zero? We all know that it was the Indian mind, which invented the concept of ‘shunya’ or the zero. So we Indians laid the foundation for the digital world.

Indian minds continue to dazzle the world. A few days ago, we had with us the Indian born Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan. He could not make it through the IIT entrance examination. He graduated in physics, worked in biology and got a Nobel prize in Chemistry. And we are proud that this mind of an incredible Indian was shaped in our university of Vadodara.

How do we shape the minds of the young in India so that we create more such Venki Ramakrishnans, who will work in India and win Nobel Prizes? We require a new education system to shape our youth, since, this young India is going to play a crucial role in the development and upliftment of the nation. The youth represents the national strength, vitality and vigour. If properly moulded, the youth can become the champion of our culture, custodian of our national pride and a trustee of the freedom of the country. But the process of such moulding requires the right type of education right from childhood. And this system must be directed towards building an open and creative mind and a positive and forward looking mindset.

The Battle of Indian Mind vs Indian Mindset

There is a fundamental difference between the mind and the mind set. Mind represents the intellect, mind allows you to do smart observations, smart analysis, smart synthesis etc. but it is the mind set, which determines your attitude and your approach to life. In India, there is this huge battle between the Indian mind and the Indian mind set. The Indian mind is taking us into the 21st century, but the Indian mindset is pulling us back into the 14th, 15th, 16th century ……. you name it!

Let me illustrate this battle of Indian mind vs Indian mind set. Today, everybody talks about global village as a great idea but who talked about global village first ? Who said Vasudhaiv Kutumakam? It was an Indian mind. In Maharashtra, Dnyaneshwar is held very highly as a great saint philosopher. Around 700 years ago, he said ‘He Vishwachi Maze Ghar’ i.e this entire world is my home. So, our great minds talked about a global village long time ago. They were already 21st century minds a several centuries ago. But what is our own mind set in the 21st Century?

Some one asked me recently as to when one Japanese and one more Japanese come together, how many Japanese do they make? I said two. No, said my friend. They become eleven. They form such a great team. Then he asked me when one Indian and one Indian come together, how many Indians do they make?’ I said two. He said `you are wrong again. They make zero! The two Indians neutralize each other! They do not form a team. That is because of the Indian mind set. Indians are great solo players but they cannot do an orchestra!’

So, my basic premise is that our education system must be such that besides shaping the Indian minds, it should shape the Indian mind sets too. The challenge is not just to create more intelligent minds, more observant minds, more analytical minds, but also mind sets that are positive, that are constructive, forward looking and mutually reinforcing.

Otherwise what one creative Indian mind will create will be destroyed by another negative Indian mindset. Tata Nano was a global game changer. A great Indian mind created it. But the Singur mindset ensured that Nano could not be produced. It was the Sanand mindset in Gujarat here that made the production of Nano possible.

What we require are open minds and positive mindsets. They say parachute works best, when it is open. Mind is also like that. It works best, when it is open. That is why Mahatma Gandhi had said “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want, the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.” The message is simple. Keep the doors and windows open all the time.

Innovation, Compassion and Passion

What are the three attributes that I would like to see all of you imbibe? I would say these are three things that are connected with our body. One is innovation; this comes from our mind, our brain. The second is passion; passion in the belly. The third is compassion, compassion in the heart for fellow citizens, for the have nots, for the deprived.

Many nations, many societies, many individuals may be very passionate, they may be very innovative but if they have no compassion, then they are missing something. Compassion is particularly very important for this country for the simple reason that we have to create an ‘inclusive’ society, not an ‘exclusive’ society. We talk about 8%, 9% growth. It has to be innovation led inclusive growth that is achieved by passionate leaders.

We see a huge innovation, compassion and passion among many school children. Let me give some examples.

A Kerala school girl, Remya had incredible constraints. Her father was down with cancer. Her mother was perennially ill. She had to change three buses to go to the school. She had to come home, wash her clothes and do her studies. She created this pedal driven washing machine, so that she could read, while the clothes were being washed, while she pedaled away. The combination of constraints of time and resources and an aspiration to study created this rural washing machine. National Innovation Foundation gave her a national award. She was honoured at the hands of the President of India.

And then there is the story of Madhav Pathak from a Jabalpur School.

Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) set up CSIR Diamond Jubilee Invention Award for school children. The objectives of this was to spot creativity and innovativeness amongst children. Any Indian student enrolled in an Indian school below the age of 18 years could compete for this award.

The Braille developed by Madhav Pathak from a Jabalpur school received the  first CSIR Diamond Jubilee Award. Madhav improved a conventional Braille slate to make writing easier for the blind. It was very tedious for a blind person to memorize more than 300 combinations, since reading and writing is done in the opposite way for a conventional Braille slate. Madhav’s innovation made it possible to read and write from left to right. This invention later received international prizes too. This innovation came out of the compassion that Madhav Patakh had for those, who did not have the power to see. Madhav’s creation was due to a real combination of innovation, compassion and passion.

When I look at all of you, I see an unbelievable potential. There must be millions of Remyas and Madhavs amongst us, just as there must be potential Venki Ramakrishnans. This potential can be fully unleashed if we all develop and harness these attributes of innovation, compassion and passion.

Talent, Technology & Tolerance

What are the three things on the basis of which we can carve out our future for us in the 21st century? They are three Ts– Talent, Technology and Tolerance. Talent – this is in evidence here in this hall. What India is going to leverage is this talent – the Indian talent. One looks at different countries, they grew because of different things at different points of time in their history. For example, for United States of America, it was roads and railways, for Britain, it was textiles, for Denmark, milk and milk products, for Sweden, it was timber and timber products, for Middle East, it was oil. And if you ask me what is the “oil” for India in the 21st century, I will say IT and when you would say oh! IT means Information Technology. No, I am sorry, IT means “Indian Talent”- all of you. That’s what is going to make the 21st century India’s century.

Technology is absolutely transformational. I am not just talking about what we did or can do in space, defense, atomic energy, etc. but technology which can make a difference in the lives of the people, at large technology that is inclusive, technology that can be made to work for the under privileged.

And the last is “tolerance”. What is tolerance? Tolerance for failure, tolerance for risk taking, tolerance for ambiguity Today we talk about Silicon Valley’s success with great admiration, but this success is not just because of the talent and technology that they have had but because of the tolerance that they have for failure. Venture capital flourished there, risk taking comes naturally there. Venture capital has assumed the meaning of “adventure” capital there.

Tolerance for ambiguity is very critical. Behind Microsoft, somewhere there is a romantic story about the tolerance for ambiguity. Bill Gates recently got an honorary doctorate from Harvard and he narrated an experience during a dinner cum discussion meeting in New Delhi to a small group a few years ago, where I was also present. He said that during his address, he declared himself as the most successful dropout from Harvard University. Then he said, in his early days, when the computer hardware manufacturing was started by a company in Albuquerque, he phoned them up and offered to supply them the software, half expecting that they would keep the phone down because he was just a student, who was calling. But they did not. They asked him to come after a month. Bill Gates says. ‘Thank God! They said come back after a month because I had not actually developed the software, when I had called them’. So, you can see a plenty of ambiguity here. It is in terms of what Bill Gates did because he offered the software, which he was yet to develop. But he had all the confidence in the world that he would develop it. And ambiguity in terms of the company in Albuquerane really accepting the offer by an unproven undergraduate student –  they did not keep the phone down because he was a student. The rest is history, the rest is Microsoft, the greatest software company, which made Bill Gates the richest man in the world. This reinforces that despite the talent and technology of Bill Gates it required the  tolerance of that company to take a risk on a promising youngster – and that was the key to success.


So let me sum up with my three key messages in this convocation address. First, develop an open mind and a positive mindset. Second, combine innovation, compassion and passion – and then you will do well for yourself and also do good to the society. Third, build a competitive India through a powerful combination of Talent, Technology and Tolerance.

My young friends, today is a momentous day in your life. You are now stepping into a world, which is full of challenges and astounding possibilities. You must aim to reach your potential and even exceed it. But this is possible, provided you aim high. Provided you promise to give your best, and not the second best, in everything that you do. Provided you dare to learn and learn to dare.

Let me end this convocation address by repeating what I always stress with young people. There is no limit to human achievement. There is no limit to human endurance. The only limits  are what we put on ourselves.

Do not compromise excellence at any cost. And remember that the ladder of excellence is limitless. Keep on climbing it relentlessly. Let us work to make the impossible possible. Let us work to give India the rightful place in the comity of nations, which is right up there at the top. Let us make the twenty first century an Indian Century.