Education is the Key to the Door of Opportunity

Hon’ble Chancellor, Mr. Simon McKeon
Madam President and
Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Margaret Gardner
Chief Scientist of Australia, Dr. Alan Finkel
Provost, and Senior Vice President Prof. Edwina Cornish
Pro-Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mohan Krishnamurthy
Deputy Vice Chancellor and Academic Vice President Prof. Frieder Seibel
Deans and associate deans
Proud graduands, their equally proud parents and family members
Distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen.
This is a special morning in my life. I feel privileged, honored, grateful, elated but also humble.
At the end of my address, I will say a few words about how exactly I feel. But that is later. My friends, you first – you are the stars of the morning.

My young friends, this is a very special morning in your life.
Your graduation marks a milestone in your life as you leave the portals of this great university to enter a world that is full of exciting opportunities.
I congratulate you warmly.
I urge you to take pride in how far you have come. Have faith in how far you can go. And I am confident that you will go far.
I must congratulate your parents and teachers for giving you the best gift of your life, education. And why do I say so?

Let me explain.

There was a discussion on what is possibly the most powerful equation that was ever developed by scientists.
Someone said that it was the Newton’s second law, giving the relationship between force (F), mass (m) and acceleration (a), namely, F = ma.
Someone else said that it is Einstein’s equation linking Energy (E) to mass (m) and the velocity of light (c), namely, E = mc2.
The others came out with some other suggestions.
Then they asked me as to what I thought.

I said neither Newton nor Einstein.  The most powerful equation is E = F.
I said E is Education and F is Future! This means education is equal to the future.
This equation is universal and eternal.
If there is no education, there is no future.  No future for the individual, no future for the nation.

Well, you will say you are a scientist.  And a scientist has to prove the equation that he proposes.  So what is the proof that E=F?

In my life, the proof came on 3rd October 2011.
American Academy of Arts & Science in USA honoured the elected fellows of the academy that day by admitting them in a formal function.
This academy, which was established in 1780 by Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, has 200 plus Nobel Laureates as its fellows.

Great personalities from Winston Churchill to Charles Darwin, from Einstein to Nelson Mandela, have been elected as its fellows.

Seven Indians form India have been elected as fellows so far. Interestingly, the 6th and the 7th fellow signed in the book of the academy on that day.

Do you know who was the 6th was 6th? It was Ratan Tata, the iconic leader of the oldest and the biggest Industrial enterprise in India.
Do you know who was the 7th? It was myself, Raghunath Mashelkar.

Interestingly, both of us signed on the same page one after the other.  To me this is the proof of the equation E=F. Why is this so?

Here is the answer.

I was born in a very poor family. Life was a big struggle when my mother brought me up in Mumbai under the most adverse conditions.
Two meals a day was a challenge. I studied under street lights. Walked barefoot till I was twelve.
I stood 11th among 1,35,000 students in the 1960 Secondary School Certificate Examination of the Maharashtra State Board.

But I decided not to study further, but work. My poor mother could not support my higher education.

But it was the scholarship of 60 Indian rupees per month, less than one US dollar per month, that Tata Trust gave me for six years. That helped me to do my higher studies.
In 1960, if somebody had said that fifty years down the line, the head of the family of Tatas who gave me that one dollar per month for my studies, and myself will sign in the same book of the American Academy of Arts and Science on the same page at the same time, I would not have believed it.

But this became possible because of the power of the equation E=F.

I got my future through education that the Tata scholarship made possible.

So my young friends, the very first message that I want to deliver is that education is the key to your future, which you have earned by working so hard.
It is up to you to use this key now to open so many doors of opportunity that will come your way.
So after getting access to education, the key to door of opportunity how did my own life and work shape up?

All my working life I did science. I also led science.
In all these years I have committed my life to three things — integration, innovation and inclusion.

Let me explain some of them.

The idea of integration comes to us in India from an ancient saying `Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam’.
Vasudha means the globe. Kutumb means family.
The world is one family. So the concept of `integration’ at a global level came to us so early.
This is old Indian wisdom. But the knowledge of the power of integration was given to me by my school teacher.

I remember going to a poor school in Mumbai.  But that poor school had rich teachers – rich in values and devotion.
I remember Principal Bhave, who taught us physics.
I remember his taking us out in to the sun to demonstrate as to how to find the focal length of a convex lens.
He took a piece of paper, moved the lens till the brightest spot emerged on the paper, and told us that the distance between the paper and the lens was the focal length.   But then he held the lens for some more time and the paper burnt.

For some reason, he turned to me and said “Mashelkar, if you can focus your energies like this and not diffuse them, you can burn anything in the world. You can achieve anything in the world”. That was a wow moment in my life.
I was so impressed with the power of science that I decided to become a scientist.
But that experiment gave me the philosophy of life too; ‘focus and you will achieve’.
So my friends, my next message to you – focus and you will achieve.

I saw new meanings in that simple experiment as I grew.
What is the property of sunrays? Sunrays are all parallel.
And what is the property of parallel lines? They never meet.
What does the convex lens do? It makes them meet.
So I learnt about `convex lens leadership’.
Division on the basis of caste, race, religion, language makes us run parallel.
Disputes arise. Wars are fought. Innocents lose their lives.
But `convex’ lens leadership makes them meet. Leadership which brings people together, nations together. Such leaders create the vision of `one nation’, `one world’ ….

What do we have today?

We see a lot of concave lens leadership.
Concave lens makes the parallel rays diverge further. Concave lens leadership divides, be it a society, a nation and even the world.
And we see its consequences everyday in our lives today.
Be it Syria, be it ISIS, or be it the general trend on the movement from globalization back to nationalism.

So my young friends, again my simple message to you is that become a `convex lens’ leader.
Bring in unity in `diversity’.

Bring a smile on the faces of 7 billion people, not just a few privileged ones as is the case today.

Let me turn to the challenges in your future! You will be leaving the portals of this great University and you are entering a world that is changing rapidly.
We talk of the arrival of Industry 4.0. Some have used the term 4th industrial revolution.

First industrial revolution mobilized the mechanization of production using steam power.

The second one introduced mass production using electrical power.

The third used electronics and IT to automate manufacturing.

The fourth revolution is the extreme digitization of manufacturing, powered by technology disruption arising out of exponential rise in computational power, data, connectivity, analytics, new forms of human-machine interaction and advances in transferring digital instructions to the physical world such as through advanced robotics and 3-D printing.

Digital disruption is obvious in our everyday life.
World’s largest taxi company Uber owns no taxis.
World’s largest accommodation provider Airbnb owns no hotels.
World’s most valuable retailer Alibaba has no inventory.
World’s largest phone companies Skype and WeChat own no telephone infrastructure.

Artificial Intelligence, advanced automation and robotics are creating new opportunities as well as new challenges.
Technology led jobless growth is on the cards with 57% of the current jobs in OECD countries predicted to vanish in 20 years. India (69%) and China (77%) are
even higher.

The new world is also a VUCA world.
VUCA means volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

It is clear that education and skills that brought us here will not take us there in the future. To deal with these challenges, Education 2.0 will have to be designed.
President Obama had famously said, `Education and innovation are going to be the currencies of the 21st century’.

I would go one step further and say that `education in innovation and innovation in education’ will be needed both to survive and succeed.

So what are the key skills and competencies that one will have to develop to deal with such a digitally disrupted VUCA world?

There is some consensus on the top few in some quarters.
These are ability to deal with complexity, critical thinking, creativity, cognitive flexibility, emotional intelligence and ability to co-create.
But my young friends, don’t worry.

There is a good news.

This is precisely what your great alma mater has equipped you with.
So you can enter this new world with full confidence.

At the end, if you were to ask me as to which learnings have helped me the most in my life, I would simply pick up five.

First, I have learnt that like instant coffee, there is no instant success.
One’s overnight success is always a result of everything that one has done through that moment.
If one really looks closely, most overnight successes took a long time, as Steve Jobs had famously said.
What I have found in my life is that there is no substitute to hard work for becoming successful.
I have myself worked 24×7, week after week, month after month, year after year and am continuing to do so in this fourth innings the last innings of my life.
And a golden rule has worked for me.
Work hard in silence. Let success make the noise.

Second is building an open mind.
James Dewar had said minds are like parachutes. They function only when they are open.
Minds are also like that. They also function when they are open.
Besides mind, it is a positive mindset that matters.
When someone tells you that it can’t be done, take it that it is more a reflection of his or her limitation, not yours.
It is that `yes I can’ spirit that will help you deliver a winning shot.

Third, it is wrong to wait for the opportunities to knock on your door.
If opportunity does not knock, build a door.
As my friend Alan Finkel said wisely recently in one of his numerous brilliant speeches, which I follow all the time by the way “chance comes to a prepared mind.  Be open to opportunity and don’t be detracted from seeing it in unconventional form”.

Fourth, the `I’ in each one of you individually must stand for innovation, and not inhibition or imitation.
Remember, innovator is one who sees what everyone else sees, but thinks of what none else thinks.
Indeed, if you master the art of visualizing the invisible, you can make even seemingly impossible, possible.

Fifth and final, there is no limit to human endurance, no limit to human achievement and no limit to human imagination, excepting the limits you put on your mind yourself.

So be `limitless’.

Remember, your aspirations are your possibilities. So keep the aspirations high.
Unless you dream big, you can’t achieve big things.

Finally, I wish to thank the University for honoring me with Degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

Yes, this is my 37th honorary doctorate, but believe me this is the most precious that one I have received.

I began as Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Professor in Monash in 2007.

This year, it is my 10th consecutive year in this position.  This decade long journey has been the most fascinating and rewarding in my life.
The love, the affection and the support that this great university has given me and my wife is something that we value and cherish immensely.
Each honor that one receives brings with it a responsibility.

I am now a proud alumnus of this University.
So it brings a special responsibility.
And what is it?
This university, and I say `my university’, has been climbing the limitless ladder of excellence.

And I have been a proud witness to this journey for over a decade now.
I feel none of us alumni in this hall can rest till our university reaches the highest peak, moving from the present position in top 50 in the world to top 10 or may be even top 5. And why not – I no limit to human imagination and achievement!

I end by promising you, that as a proud alumnus of the great university, I will give my every best to contribute my own bit to make this dream true.
And this I will do till my last breath.

Thank you.