Dr Manish Shah, Hon’ble President, Dr Dinesh Awasthi, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, Distinguished members of the Board of Governors, Distinguished Deans and faculty, proud graduands of the day, their equally proud parents, ladies and gentlemen.
I deem it a great privilege to deliver the very first Convocation Address of LJ University, a university with a difference as we call it.
I have so far given many convocation addresses around the world. But this is the first time in my life that I am giving the very first convocation address of any university. There is always a great pride and joy in being the first. So I want to thank the Hon’ble President and Vice Chancellor for giving me this special honour.
Just as this is the first convocation address of LJ University, I remember giving the hundredth convocation address of Banaras Hindu University.
And I remember the theme for that convocation address was a simple one. Dikshant does not mean Shikshant. In other words, the graduation today is not the end of learning, but beginning of learning, because lifelong learning is going to be the key to continued success, knowledge is expanding at such an exponential rate.
My young friends, 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 must also 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. Here E is Education and F is Future! Education is equal to the future.
This equation is universal and eternal.
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?
Well, I have witnessed the proof every day of my life but let me just single out one day, i.e. 30 March 2000. On that day one of the highest civilian honours in India, Padmabhushan, was bestowed on both Ratan Tata and me by late President K.R. Narayanan.
But how does it prove the equation E=F? Let me explain.
President Narayanan was born in a small village in Kerala; I was born in a small village in Goa. He walked several kilometres to get to school, much like I walked barefoot to a municipal school. He sometimes stood outside class and took notes on thelectures because his family didn’t have enough money for tuition. Due to extreme poverty, my widowed mother could not afford notebooks or shoes, and I remember many nights on which I studied under streetlights. He took his brother’s help to copy notebooks and books and return them, and I remember sitting on a footpath, borrowing books from a kind bookstall owner, quickly reading them and returning them.
And interestingly, both of us stared at the grim possibility of no access to higher education, no future due to our poverty. But both of us could do higher studies because of the timely & generous scholarship that was given by the house of Tatas.
So it was the case of President Narayanan, a former Tata scholar bestowing Padmabhushan on the Head of family of Tatas, Ratan Tata, as also me, another Tata scholar. That proves the equation E=F.
taking the first few steps in 1000 mile journey. It is important to identify the pathways to progress that can lift a university from good to great.
They are integration, innovation and inclusion and many a times interweaving of these. Let me explain each one of them.
Integration has multiple dimensions, including collaboration that the L J University identifies in its mission statement.
It is integration in the entire chain from learning to doing to delivering, it is integration across disciplines, it is integration across borders leading to internationalisation.
First, the challenge of integration from learning to delivering. In world class universities, education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship integrate seamlessly together. Education disseminates known knowledge. Research creates new knowledge. Innovation converts knowledge into wealth and social good. However, for innovation to move from mere ideas to actual impact in the society, we need entrepreneurship. L J University is doing the most remarkable job of this integration, especially with its industry partners, as I see.
The second is the integration across disciplines. Breakthroughs in research take place at the interface of disciplines. Advances are generally the sum total of numerous creative ideas and interdisciplinary co- operation. What we require is not just chemical or mechanical or computer engineers, but ‘solution engineers’, who are experts in such integration across disciplines.
The third is the integration within and across national boundaries. Our University must be sensitive to the needs and the aspirations of the people and society. The word ‘global’ University sets a benchmark of having a global outlook, not just local; integrating diversity of thoughts and cultures with an open mind with the inspiring motto of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam.
Looking into the future, the very character of Internationalisation will not only change dramatically but will also spread rapidly due to the phenomenal advances in Information & Communication Technology. Digitization, virtualization, mobilization and personalization are the four new megatrends. All these will lead to game changing cocreative, self-organizing, self-correcting, asynchronous, dynamic and open systems that will be borderless and globally distributed.
Innovation is a successful exploitation of a new idea into the market, industry, society. It comprises the journey from mind to market place, from ideas to impact.
I am very passionate about innovation. I remember receiving the JRD Corporate Leadership Award on 21 February 1999 at the hands of the then Hon’ble Vice President of India. I had then tried to lay an agenda on Indian innovation movement. I had ended by expressing a hope, which I quote below.
“Finally, 1999 should be the year, where we should launch a powerful national innovation movement to propel us into the next millennium. It is only through the process of innovation that knowledge can be converted into wealth and social good. Through this movement, every citizen, every constituent of India must become an innovator. The I in India, should not stand for imitation and inhibition, it must stand for innovation. The I in IIT must stand for innovation. The I in industry, the I in CSIR must stand for innovation. The I in every individual Indian must stand for innovation. It is only this innovative India that will signal to the rest of the world, that we are not a hesitant nation, unsure of our place in the new global order, but a confident one, that is raring to go and be a leader in the comity of nations”.
I am happy to see that again innovation features in L J University’s mission statement. The emphasis should be now on raising the bar on quality, aiming for breakthroughs in research, saying not just the first word in India but in the world.
It is very important to convert invention to innovation. Towards this purpose, I am particularly happy to see the focus on NextGen entrepreneurship. I am especially happy to see the emephasis of deep tech start-ups, who will not just seek jobs but create jobs.
It is a matter of pride that thanks to our visionary Prime Minister’s bold initiatives like Startup-India, our nation has moved rapidly from a ‘starting-up’ nation to the fastest growing ‘start-up’ nation.
In 2016, we had 470 registered start-ups. That number exponentially rose to over 90,000 in 2022.
Till 2016, we used to produce, per year, only one unicorn, which means a one-billion-dollar market cap company. In 2021, we set a new record of producing almost one unicorn per week, 44 to be precise.
My own analysis showed that close to 50% of the unicorn start-ups have come from elite institutions like IITs and IIMs and the rest of them from tier 2 or tier 3 cities. This is a real democratisation of innovation. I hope that we will see a unicorn emerging from our L J university, and sooner rather than later.
India needs growth, but more importantly, it needs inclusive growth, where no Indian is left behind. This means education for all, as also research and innovation that creates products and services, that are affordable to all, and not just a privileged few
Research and innovation at our University must be made inclusive. Let me explain by giving example of such inclusive innovation. Rather than trying to become a billionaire, we must do innovation that brings a smile on a billion faces.
My mother Anjani Mashelkar brought me up against many odds that a poor, widowed and an uneducated woman will face. She asked me never to forget our humble beginnings and do science that helps the poor.
For carrying that message forward, I created Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award. The award recognises and awards game changing inclusive innovations that are all characterised by extreme affordability and high technology and can be scaled up sustainably with speed. The award honours those who create not just best practice but next practice.
Here are some examples of extreme inclusive innovation by five of the awardees out of the total thirteen over the past 12 years.
-iBreast is high-quality but simple breast cancer screening that avoids painful mammography. It is available for every woman, that too at the extremely affordable cost of $1 per scan. 2 million women around the world have been screened so far.
– Sanket is a pocket size portable high-tech ECG machine which can provide accurate reports immediately and that too at the cost of Rs 5 per test. This is being used in 12 countries now including in USA and Europe.
– SaveMom is a IoT based maternal healthcare solution, that uses a wearable and monitors pregnancies of poor rural women remotely for one rupee per day. Hundreds of women in India are adopting it.
– OralScan is an innovative optical device that detects oral cancer rapidly and accurately at Rs 250, as against biopsy that costs Rs 2500. Again it is very widely used now.
– Dozee is an IoT based remote monitoring system with 98.4% medical accuracy, which converts any bed into step up ICU bed in just 10 minutes, the costs being 10% of full-fledged ICU system. This has become a global product now.
As I always like to say, science must solve, technology must transform and innovation must impact. These five are brilliant examples of extreme inclusive innovations giving transformative affordable solutions that can save millions of poor lives.
Let me turn to an entirely different dimension of interweaving innovation and inclusion that our L J University can achieve. Professor Anil Gupta is my innovation guru. As you know, he is the father of grassroots innovation, which means innovation done by the people at grassroots level for the people. Prof Gupta has taught me that everyone is someone and minds on the margin are not marginal minds. I learnt a lot while working with him as President of National Innovation Foundation. Integration of such grassroots informal innovation and formal innovation in our L J University can create an exponential value.
Five Mashelkar Mantras
I am 81 years old now. At the end, I will tell you about five mantras that have helped me in my long journey of life. I hope the Mashelkar mantras will work for you too.
The first mantra is that the beginning of your own life is not in your hands, but where you end up is.So remember, your aspirations are your possibilities, and therefore, keep your aspirations always high. You can’t predict your future, when you are beginning your journey.
When I was studying Newton’s laws of motion in school, I did not realise that I will sign in the same book as Newton did, while getting inducted in a ceremonial process as a Fellow of Royal Society in London. And it is such an honour, since only 3 engineering scientists from India have received this honour in the last 363 years.I had not predicted that for sure.
Second, like instant coffee, there is no instant success. There is no substitute for hard work.
I have myself worked 24×7, week after week, month after month, year after year and will do so till I take my last breath.
You may be talented, but remember hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard enough. But work hard in silence. Let success make all the noise.
Third, purpose, perseverance and passion matters. Always too early to quit. Quitters are never winners and winners are never quitters. Interpret FAIL as your first attempt in learning. Your best Guru is your last mistake as long as you learn from it.
Fourth, be always a part of a solution, never part of a problem. If you can’t find the way, create your own new way. You will keep on knocking on the doors. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t open. Create your own doors.
Fifth, 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.
Be `limitless’ in terms of your imagination. So every day, when you wake up, no matter how old you are, say to yourself that my best is yet to come and today will be that day
My young friends, let me end by giving you my best wishes and choicest blessings for the journey ahead, where each one of you will not only reach your potential but exceed it.Each one of you will contribute to build new India of our dreams, which will be right at the top of the comity of nations.