Interviews (by Mashelkar)

Podium – Interview by Empowering Times

Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar has held the positions of Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), President of Indian National Science Academy, Chairman of National Innovation Foundation and President of Global Research Alliance. 47 universities around the world have bestowed honorary doctorates on him.

His sixty plus honours include the prestigious Lenovo Science Prize, the highest honour given by The World Academy of Science for his contributions to fundamental research as also JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award for his transformative leadership of CSIR’s 40 national laboratories, which has been also ranked among the top ten achievements of Indian science and technology in the 20th century.

He has been on the Board of Directors of several of India’s leading companies, which include Reliance, Hindustan Unilever, Tata Motors, Thermax, Piramal Enterprises, KPIT Technologies, etc.

He has been elected as Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Foreign Associate of US National Academy of Science and also US National Academy of Engineering, Associate Foreign Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Fellow of Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, Foreign Fellow of Australian Technological Science and Engineering Academy, Corresponding Member of Australian Academy of Sciences, Fellow of World Academy of Arts & Science, USA and Fellow of US National Academy of Inventors.

Dr Mashelkar brought awareness of the importance of intellectual property rights in academia, research laboratories and also industry. He got the wrong US patents given on turmeric and Basmati, which finally led traditional knowledge gaining its rightful place in the knowledge systems. He proposed and promoted the concept of Gandhian engineering, with a paradigm of ‘more from less for more’, effectively making high-technology work for the poor.

He was a member of Science Advisory Council to the successive Prime Ministers for over 30 years. He has received the Star of Asia Award at the hands of George Bush Sr., former President of USA. He has also received the Padma Shri, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan at the hands of the President of India.

ET:  Building institutions often requires visionary leadership. Could you share your insights on the qualities and skills that are essential for institution builders in the field of science and research?

RM:  The leadership of a scientific research institution requires a unique blend of scientific acumen, management skills, and a commitment to advancing knowledge and addressing pressing scientific challenges. Here are some qualities and skills that I feel a leader heading a scientific research institution must have.

First and foremost is being a visionary, having a grand vision. The ability to articulate a clear and inspiring vision for the institution’s research goals and long-term impact on the field is essential. The leader must be able to galvanise the institution for positive action, not just by words but by action. Communication skills are a part of it. The ability to convey complex scientific ideas, secure funding, and engage with various stakeholders, including researchers, funders, and policymakers can make all the difference.

Second is one’s own high personal standing. If one is a tall scientist oneself, that helps. It draws respect, admiration and acceptance from colleagues. The colleagues get the feeling that the leader has travelled the path oneself to reach great heights, so one knows what one is talking about. A deep understanding of the scientific domain and the ability to stay up-to-date with the latest developments and trends is very important.

Third is team building. The capacity to build and nurture a diverse, collaborative, and high-performing research team while fostering creativity and innovation is very important.

Fourth is risk-taking. The willingness to encourage, support innovative research ideas, and take calculated risks to push the boundaries of knowledge is important. In the same vein, there must be an astute ability to spot talent, especially when any honours or accolades have not been bestowed on him or her. Spotting the potential and laying a bet is not easy. But, having spotted the potential, helping the scientist to realise one’s potential is equally important.

Fifth is the commitment to ethical conduct in research. That includes promoting integrity, transparency, and responsible research practices so that the scientists don’t get swayed into some unethical practices due to the strong competitive pressures.

ET:  You have held leadership positions in various scientific and innovation institutions in India. Could you share some insights into the challenges you faced and the strategies you employed to transform these institutions into world-class entities?

RM:  During my leadership of the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), it transformed itself into an International Chemical Laboratory. It did the seemingly impossible – exporting knowledge from an Indian laboratory to leading multinational companies. This was a first in the Indian history. This NCL transformation is a case study in the Emerging Economy course at Harvard Business School.

NCL had secured zero US patents in its entire history. From that to becoming a leader in US patents in a span of just a decade was a remarkable story. Here is the story.

On 1 June 1989, I became the Director of NCL, which already had a high reputation in chemical research. The challenge was to convert NCL from a very good laboratory into a front-ranking world-class laboratory. In 1989, huge tariff barriers protected the Indian industry. The industry was in the sellers’ market. NCL scientists responded by essentially doing import substitution because that was what the Indian industry demanded. Context decides the content. It was clear to me that if NCL continued to operate in this context, the content of the NCL research agenda would be just copy, copy and copy. There was no way NCL could have changed the ‘national context’ in those pre-1991 days, which was all centred-on import substitution. I said NCL will change its ‘own context’ and will become the International Chemical Laboratory by shifting its role from just a seller of knowledge to the Indian industry to a seller of knowledge to the whole world, even to top multinational companies in the USA and Europe. The very statement that ‘National Chemical Laboratory’ will become an ‘International Chemical Laboratory’ created an incredible aspiration, which, to me, is always the biggest driver of change. However, here was the big challenge. Until 1989, i.e., in 39 years of its existence, NCL had not been able to secure even one single patent in the USA! How can a laboratory with such an abysmal record of US patenting even dream of being an exporter of its knowledge to the USA? It looked impossible.

I challenged the laboratory by saying that there is no limit to human imagination, no limit to human achievement, except the limits we put on ourselves. In the import substitution era, we had put limits on our thinking. I said let us unshackle ourselves. Think boldly. Think ahead. Let us lead and not follow. NCL was charged with a new ‘yes, we can’ spirit! NCL learnt to read patents, write patents, and break patents as it went into this tough game. When NCL licensed its hydro dewaxing technology patents to the multinational company, Akzo, in Europe in 1990, it was a historical event, since this was the first time a reverse transfer of technology from an Indian national laboratory to an advanced nation had taken place.

This was followed by the licensing of patents on an innovative process of engineering plastic to the US multinational giant, General Electric. This success created great awareness about the value and rewards of patenting amongst the NCL scientists. Within less than five years, NCL developed a big client list, which included the top few global leaders from around the world, from General Electric to DuPont and from Cargil to Polaroid. Moreover, there was no looking back even after I left as the Director. Soon after I left, two of Procter & Gamble’s products in the market were based on NCL patents that it had licensed!

Achieving all this required a big cultural change at and by NCL. We said no more ‘publish or perish’. The new driver was ‘patent, publish and prosper’. We said Indian ideas must generate wealth for our nation, not for other nations, as used to be the case then. We incentivised the scientists. On NCL’s Foundation Day, we started giving a silver medal and a cash prize for anyone who had succeeded in acquiring a US patent. Initially, there were barely a couple of medal winners. But the number kept on swelling as the awareness grew. Finally, the number became so large that NCL stopped giving this medal! After all, the purpose for which the initiative was started, was fulfilled.

The feeling of becoming an International Chemical Laboratory was heady. NCL raised its global ambitions. It started exploiting unchartered territories. A new aspiration that NCL should also be a global knowledge-based services provider emerged. In 1990, NCL saw a global bid for a World Bank consultancy contract for reforms of some leading Chinese chemical research institutions. NCL had never done a global bid before. But we said: let our past not be a burden on our future. We participated in the bid. NCL had to compete with the formidable Arthur D Little, Chem Systems and International Development Planners. NCL beat them and won the consultancy contract. Later on, NCL learnt from the Indian embassy in Beijing that it happened to be the first-ever consultancy offered from China to India. Interestingly, it had to come from a National Laboratory that had got into the good habit of making the impossible possible!

What were the hurdles that I faced? There were some fundamental mindset issues. We dealt with them by challenging ourselves. All these years, NCL was used to getting government grants, and no loans. NCL went out and got a World Bank loan. The good thing about the World Bank loan was that it had to be returned and not by the Government, but by NCL itself! How could it be returned, if NCL did not create surpluses or profits? That meant doing research as a business. That was not easy. When I created a new Business Development Group in NCL, I came under attack from some leading scientists. They said Mashelkar is bringing the word “business” to the organization. That is going to corrupt the minds of the scientists. But none of that happened. NCL grew its business both qualitatively and quantitatively, and so was the case with its scientific research output with some breakthroughs in science appearing in leading journals at the same time. NCL showed that high science and science-based business could indeed coexist. The rest is history.

I then led (1995-2006) the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) as its Director General. It had 40 national laboratories under its wing. Leading CSIR was not an easy task. Poor science-business linkages, bureaucracy, unionization (yes, believe me, among scientists had formed unions like factory workers form labour unions!), no ‘Team CSIR’ spirit, low budgets with low morale were preventing CSIR from reaching its truly high potential. When I assumed its leadership, from this state of affairs, CSIR was transformed into a user-focused performance-driven organization and became a model for publicly funded R&D organizations. In what follows, I will provide a personal account of the leadership challenges and the lessons learnt during these transformations.

I led (1995-2006) the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a 20,000 strong family of 40 laboratories for a record of eleven and half years. CSIR is the largest publicly funded industrial research and development chain of laboratories in the world. CSIR was born in 1942. Within the first year of my taking over, I visited each of the 40 CSIR laboratories, which were spread from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. I addressed over 20,000 members of the CSIR family.

I saw a big cultural divide between the CSIR institutions and the industry. The fact that science has to make an economic and social sense had not dawned on a large number of laboratories in CSIR, whereas demand for science from the Indian industry was sadly missing. CSIR laboratories worked on the basis of scientific novelties and perceived needs, whereas the business worked on the basis of attractiveness in the market and potential for profit. The products from CSIR institutions invariably came out as packages containing knowledge and information, whereas the business was looking for only finished goods and services, which were saleable.

The main challenge was to see that the industry viewed CSIR laboratories as idea generators, providers of new concepts and windows of knowledge on the rest of the world. I tried to persuade the Indian industry to assume the role of partners, who had the technical, financial and marketing strengths to take the ideas to the marketplace. I tried to convince the industry that it should not look at CSIR labs as supermarkets, where off-the-shelf technologies were sold, but in the true spirit of partnership, the Indian industry should willingly integrate CSIR R&D resources into their business strategy. I tried to create a climate of improved communication and understanding, faith in mutual growth and the development of healthy working relationships. But, to build this trust and confidence in the Indian industry, I had to show that CSIR itself was willing to change.

In January 1996, we prepared CSIR 2001: Vision & Strategy, a white paper, which was an announcement of CSIR’s will to change. It was an explicit agenda for CSIR with a detailed road map for attaining the true potential of CSIR. We defined a new product and a new process in CSIR. The new product was researched as a business. The new process was doing research in a business-like manner. We were enthused when the corporate world appreciated the vision paper. I remember Mr. Ratan Tata, in a private conversation with me, called it a unique corporate-like document from a publicly funded organization.

There was yet another challenge. CSIR had 40 laboratories and they had always behaved like 40 separate laboratories. The sense of belonging to a family of CSIR was missing. Amazingly, that alignment began to happen with the creation of the vision document for CSIR 2001. So following CSIR 2001, came NCL 2001, CMRI 2001, CFRI 2001; all individual laboratories aligned themselves to the vision of CSIR 2001. The CSIR labs were like disoriented magnetic needles placed on paper. It was like bringing a magnet near the paper, by which all these randomly placed needles started orienting and aligning by responding to the power of the CSIR 2001 vision!

My fulfilling moment was on 11 May 1998, when we had the CSIR Directors’ Conference in Bangalore. The theme of that conference was TEAM CSIR. I was deeply touched when in a charged closing ceremony, all the forty Directors spontaneously signed a Bangalore declaration saying, “India matters to us. It is our endeavour that we shall matter to India, more”. This was a perfect alignment of all the leaders to a common goal.

We made conscious efforts to ensure that the power was not centred in Delhi at the headquarters, it was where the action was. We thus empowered the Directors in the laboratories allowing them freedom in decision-making.

Autonomy goes with accountability. We built performance-based budgeting systems for the laboratories. Each laboratory was asked to develop a business plan, not just a research plan. We set targets not only on the external earnings but also on the new production to be catalysed in industry, new jobs to be created, etc. The tangible impact of CSIR on industry & society had to be assessed and measured not just for CSIR’s sake, but for the sake of the nation.

I kept on making a conscious effort to awaken the scientist in an entrepreneur and an entrepreneur in a scientist. If a scientist created wealth for the nation through the technologies developed by him, then we feel that he should also get a share of this wealth. So, we created incentive schemes for these scientists, both at the individual and institutional levels.

At an individual scientist level, we said the salary does not have to be equal to the income. In fact, the income can be much higher than the salary. We gave a handsome share to the scientists from the royalties and licensing fees that were earned. At the institutional level, we allowed the laboratories to build a corpus through the net surpluses that they generated by offering their knowledge products to the industry. The laboratories were allowed full freedom to use the surpluses in the way they wanted. This meant autonomy and freedom, but only to the performers, who generated surpluses. No surplus, no freedom!

We allowed our laboratories to set up commercial arms. CSIR scientists were allowed to be on the boards of directors of both public-sector and private-sector companies. Similarly, our Research Councils of all individual laboratories drew 50% of its members from the corporate world. This brought that much-needed corporate culture and thinking to the laboratories. We could see the visible difference that was brought about when Subroto Ganguly of IPCL chaired the Research Council of NCL or Jamshed Irani of (then) TISCO, chaired the Research Council of National Metallurgical Laboratory.

As a part of the global innovation strategy, several companies the world over were scouting for new ideas and patents. Taking advantage of this strategic shift, CSIR forged global partnerships. Thus Mobil & Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) joined hands to jointly develop and market the Mobil/IIP technologies worldwide. Stone & Webster of USA started implementing IIP’s technologies on Visbreaking. SmithKline Beacham joined hands with the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) in some exciting projects on drugs. Boeing partnered with National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) for some crucial fatigue research. NAL’s software supplied to Civil Aviation Authority in UK started determining the landing frequency of aircraft at Heathrow airport. NCL’s partnerships with giants such as General Electric, a company with an R&D budget higher than India’s R&D budget, were looked at as a model for external R&D alliances.

On 4 March 1995, I delivered the Thapar Memorial Lecture. Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was then the Finance Minister of India, chaired this lecture. It was titled “India’s Emergence as a Global R&D Platform: The Challenges and Opportunities”. No one had believed me then. But they believe it now. Today, over 1,500 companies from abroad have set up their R&D Centres in India, from Microsoft to Google, Samsung to Siemens, and Adobe to Amazon.

While CSIR was forging global corporate-level partnerships, not for a moment it forgot its basic charter in terms of doing what was good for India. CSIR created jobs for the poor in India. Central Institute of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) had a breakthrough in menthol mint, on which 70% of menthol production in India was based. More than 5 million man-days of jobs were created essentially for the poor. It also displaced China to the second position as an exporting nation.

CSIR’s breakthrough on the E-MAL, which is an anti-malaria drug for cerebral malaria was another breakthrough. This meant the supply of these affordable drugs not only to the Indians but to 48 countries in the world, many of them from sub-Saharan Africa.

Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) was the saviour of the Indian leather industry. CLRI brought back tanneries that were closed due to pollution by developing green technology. This saved several thousands of jobs for the underprivileged poor. CSIR demonstrated by action that India mattered to it, and it wanted to matter to India, more. This CSIR transformation in the nineties has been held as one of the top ten achievements of Indian science and technology in the 20th century in the book by India’s celebrated scientist, Jayant Narlikar titled as ‘Scientific Edge’. Business India has written a cover story on the CSIR transformation. It was the first time such a cover story on Indian science and technology appeared in any business magazine. The World Bank has used the CSIR transformation as a model for institutional transformation. In fact, I remember Jim Wolfensohn, the President of World Bank inviting me to come to Moscow and share the experience of CSIR transformation with a presentation to the Prime Minister of Russia so that Russian institutions could learn from the experience of CSIR transformation!

How do I look back on my leadership? John Adams famously said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. I earnestly hope that when others judge my leadership, I will clear this acid test of leadership at least with passing marks, if not with flying colours.

ET:  You are known to have championed inclusive innovation. You also instituted the Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award for this purpose. Could you please share the context for creating this Award and what it seeks to promote, with a few examples.

RM:  I set up the Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award in 2011 in memory of my late mother. She brought me up facing all the odds that an extremely poor widowed uneducated mother moving to Mumbai with her only child – a six-year-old boy – would face. And this she did with courage and dignity.

When she passed away, we found all the money that I had given to her from time to time over the years, tucked away in her cupboard with a note that said – don’t forget our roots and use this money to honour those, who do science for the poor. To honour her wishes, I instituted this award twelve years ago. We reward breakthrough solutions for excluded members of society and especially for challenging problems of India. Let me give a few examples.

  • India is unfortunately known as the heart disease capital of the world. Heart attacks are difficult to detect and access to medical emergency care becomes a problem. Sanket makes it possible to monitor the heart condition anytime, anywhere. The high-tech 12-lead ECG recorder connects to a smartphone wirelessly and displays and records ECG graphs on a smartphone. The cost per scan is barely Rs 5.
  • 90% of women in the developing world do not have access to any mechanism for early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms are used conventionally for diagnosis which are expensive and painful. iBreastExam is a portable, radiation-free, and non-invasive device to detect early signs of breast cancer. It uses innovative sensor and material technology combined with software computing to accurately identify cancerous lesions and tumours, providing radiation-free, painless breast exams.
  • Globally, millions of women die preventable deaths every year due to pregnancy-related complications. In India, rural women are nearly 3 times more likely to die from complications during pregnancy or childbirth than those in more urban areas. SaveMom is a holistic IoT-based remote monitoring maternal healthcare solution which uses smart wearables, point of contact testing devices and a back-end software to monitor vitals of pregnant women and newborn children for over ~1,000 days at only Rs 1 per day. The solution also helps predict risk of pregnancy in the first trimester.
  • India has only 1.9 million hospital beds and 95,000 ICU beds and a ratio of 2:1000 nurses as against 3:1000 recommendation by WHO. Dozee offers continuous, contact-free remote monitoring for patients under critical care. It has an alert monitoring system – which reduces the workload of healthcare staff by 50% and also provides proactive care – all at about 1/10th the cost of conventional alternatives.
  • Oral cancer screening is usually conducted using a torch or mobile phone camera. It is difficult to locate the optimal site for a biopsy based on conventional oral examination, leading to multiple biopsies, increased expenditure, and false-negative reports. OralScan is an optical imaging multimodal device for the extremely affordable early detection of pre-cancerous lesions of the oral cavity. The device uses an optical system with custom-built software and algorithms for tissue analysis.

ET:  As you are aware, science in India has been largely funded by the government. However, from the earliest days private enterprise has also played a part (case in point being Tatas and the creation of the Indian Institute of Science). In your opinion what is the role of private bodies that seek to further independent cutting-edge scientific research in India? What role can they play and how can they be supported by private philanthropy and corporate CSR?

RM:  It is true that Tatas were pioneers in building institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, etc., which happen to be the very best even today. The private sector can do a lot by going beyond the standard ways of donations, scholarships, chairs, etc.

Here are some novel ways, in which the private sector can help scientific research and institutions, approaches that may not have been widely attempted before:

Private sector organizations can establish open innovation platforms where they collaborate with research institutions, universities, and startups to solve scientific challenges collectively. These collaborations can provide researchers access to industry expertise, data, and resources while allowing private companies to tap into cutting-edge research.

Private sector firms can invest in research infrastructure and offer it as a service to scientific institutions. This could include shared laboratories, advanced equipment, and high-performance computing resources, reducing the financial burden on research institutions and accelerating scientific discoveries.

Private companies can establish endowments dedicated to long-term scientific research. These endowments could provide consistent funding for fundamental research areas, allowing researchers to pursue projects with a longer time horizon and potentially groundbreaking outcomes.

Private investors can adopt an impact-linked investment model, where they provide funding to research institutions based on the potential societal impact of the research. Investments could be tied to achieving specific milestones or outcomes that benefit society, aligning financial returns with research impact.

These novel approaches demonstrate the private sector’s potential to provide innovative solutions and support for scientific research and institutions in ways that extend beyond traditional funding models. They foster collaboration, resource sharing, and long-term commitment to scientific advancement.

ET:  You have been called an ‘eternal optimist’ and with a professional innings of over six decades, and having groomed young talent over the years, how do you see the future of scientific endeavour in India? Do you see crucial breakthroughs emerging out of India that can solve Indian needs?

RM:  I have written and spoken extensively about this. I have often said that Indian talent is second to none. Indian genes express in Silicon Valley and create world-class breakthroughs. Why can’t they express in the Indus Valley and create breakthroughs? They can. Here is how.

The Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman famously said, ‘The difficulty with science is often not with the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones. A certain amount of irreverence is essential for creative pursuit in science.’

The first challenge before Indian science is that of building some irreverence. Our students are too reverent. Our existing hierarchical structures kill irreverence. Promoting irreverence means building a questioning attitude.

More often than not, in our systems, paper becomes more important than people. Bureaucracy overrides meritocracy. Decision-making time cycles are longer than the product life cycles. Therefore, the second grand challenge is that of creating an ‘innovation ecosystem’, in which questioning attitudes and healthy irreverence can grow.

The next big challenge is to create new mechanisms which out of the box will trigger thinking in Indian science. In the early nineties, when I was the Director of the National Chemical Laboratory, we tried to promote this by creating a small “kite flying fund”, where an out-of-the-box idea with even a one in one hundred chance of success of would be supported. Bold thinking was applauded, and failure was not punished. The result was remarkable ‘free thinking’ that gave us quite a few breakthroughs.

When I moved to the CSIR as Director-General in the mid-nineties, we created a “New Idea Fund” with a similar objective. Some interesting breakthrough research papers and patents came up. Later, we created the ‘New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative’ as India’s largest public-private partnership, where we took up some grand challenges. Indian Industry had operated in a quadrant, where the markets were established, and technology was known. NMITLI moved the Indian industry to the quadrant, where markets were non-existent, and technology was unknown. That was real risk-taking.

At a personal level, the Anjani Mashelkar Awards are given to only those, who create the next practice, not the best practice. The best practice is following the known. The next practice is creating the unknown. That requires breakthrough research.

There is huge learning from such programs and initiatives. And the biggest is that we require some fundamental changes. Here they are.

  • We must emphasise that failure is an inherent part of the research process and should not be stigmatized. Researchers should be encouraged to learn from failures and iterate on their ideas.
  • We must cultivate a culture within research institutions that values and rewards risk-taking. We must celebrate researchers, who embark on ambitious projects, even if they do not always yield immediate results. We must establish awards or honours for researchers who have taken risks and achieved significant breakthroughs.
  • We must encourage leaders and administrators in research institutions to champion risk-taking initiatives. The current science auditing systems in India are totally risk averse. That must change.
  • We must have dedicated research centres or institutes that focus on high-risk, high-reward projects. These centres can provide a safe space for experimentation and innovation.
  • Encouraging collaboration across disciplines is critical. Interdisciplinary teams often bring fresh perspectives and are more willing to explore unconventional ideas.
  • Finally, we will have to re-evaluate how success is measured in research. Instead of solely focusing on immediate outcomes, consider the potential long-term impact of a high-risk project.

If all this is done, Indian genes will create breakthroughs, not just in Silicon Valley, but also in our very own Indus Valley.

Reinventing India post COVID-19 with Speed, Scale and Sustainability

Dr. Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, National Research Professor, has been the Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Chairman of National Innovation Foundation, the President of Indian National Science Academy, Global Research Alliance and Institute of Chemical Engineers (UK). In recognition of his pioneering research contributions in polymer science & Engineering, he has been honoured as a Fellow of Royal Society, Foreign Fellow of US National Academy of Science as also Engineering.

He has received 42 honorary doctorates from many Universities around the world apart from the 60+ awards won by him which include the prestigious TWAS-Lenovo Science Prize, Business Week (USA) award of `Stars of Asia’& JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Award. He is the member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister for over thirty years and has been honoured with India’s highest civilian award Padmashri, Padmabhushan and Padma Vibushan for his exemplary contributions for mankind

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‘India certainly has a big window of opportunity, provided ease of doing business is dramatically improved firmly’

Published on May 21, 2020 in BusinessLine

I think that all geographies have the potential to generate new business opportunities – it is not a zero-sum game

Scientist, innovator, thought leader of the manufacturing sector, national research professor, board member of a Fortune 500 company and recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian honour, Raghunath A Mashelkar wears many hats with ease.

In an exclusive interview with BusinessLine carried out over email and telephonic interaction, Mashelkar said that the post Covid-19 world would be a different world but China will continue to remain a manufacturing hub.
It is a reality, which cannot be wished away. It will be a China+1 world where global companies will spread their risks and set up their manufacturing in other geographies. In such a scenario, the Indian government and companies need to hit the gold vein and make the most of the forthcoming opportunities.

Excerpts of an interview

1. What kind of innovative technologies are required for speeding up the manufacturing process so that our companies add manpower, increase revenues and enhance exports in the post-Covid-19 world?

Dr. Mashelkar: Digital transformation of manufacturing operations is not an option but is an absolute necessity in the post-Covid-19 world. It will not only create a more flexible, agile, and responsive manufacturing environment but will also enable manufacturers to better respond to uncertainty, volatility, and risk.

In the short term, technologies that aid social distancing will be deployed at manufacturing plants. However, in a post-Covid-19 world in which workers have to keep their distance from each other, the trend towards automation will only accelerate; therefore the addition of manpower may reduce in the long term.

Some of the innovative technologies that need to be deployed are data analytics-led demand prediction and production planning, remote assisted assembly operations through Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and AI-based face tracking solutions to manage access control instead of biometrics.

IoT solutions can be of great help in energy management, and monitoring machines’ and workers’ health. Further, AI, IoT and data analytics will help in integrating customers, employees and vendors through digital platforms.

2. You are part of the Maharashtra Government’s task force for rejuvenating the state economy. What areas of Maharashtra’s economic activity need immediate attention?

Dr. Mashelkar: The Pune International Centre Expert Group under the visionary leadership of Economist Vijay Kelkar has acted as a think-tank for the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. It has given recommendations during the current crisis on a variety of economic building blocks. It ranges from the urgent issue of supporting and saving and then boosting the growth of MSMEs, to aggressively attracting foreign direct investments by wooing global majors, who will bring ancillaries and supply chains with them, to promoting investment flows and economic growth in specific sectors such as real estate. Some of these recommendations are urgent ‘here and now’ type, and some can be implemented in the medium term and some in the long term. I am delighted to say that the Chief Minister has set up a special task force to implement the recommendations so that ideas can lead to real impact without losing time.

3. In the post-Covid-19 world, which geographies globally will generate new business opportunities?

Dr. Mashelkar: The latest IMF growth projections on the world economy have predicted that China, India and ASEAN countries will see strong growth and business opportunities. However, I think that all geographies have the potential to generate new business opportunities – it is not a zero-sum game. As organisations respond, they will try to have a more diversified supply chain in the post-Covid-19 era, an opportunity for all economies. Growth may move closer or to countries that are neighbours. For inventory management, ‘Just in time’ will give way to ‘Just in Case’. Resilience will become more important than efficiency. The world will need new products and services. Businesses can avail this as a new opportunity. Health, sanitisation, distancing, protection, transportation, deliveries, surveillance, food security, and construction are some of the areas that will bring in new opportunities for the goods and services sector.

4. With the Chinese Government and their companies being viewed with great suspicion by the global business community, what can the Indian government do to attract global investments?

Dr. Mashelkar: The new business model will not be ‘no China’ but it will be ‘less China’.

In fact, it will be ‘China +1’.

Reportedly, Google is investing in Vietnam to produce its Pixel smartphone. Microsoft will produce its Surface tablet there. That means ensuring that alternative supply options are built too, not altogether abandoning China.

In that context, India certainly has a big window of opportunity, provided ease of doing business is dramatically improved by firmly and speedily dealing with the well-known challenges, which are linked to land availability, labour law and high cost of inputs. I strongly feel that the tech sector has a good future for attracting global investments into India.

Look at what has happened ― Jio Platform received FDI of over ₹67,000 crore from major payers like Facebook, Silver Lake, Vista Equity and General Atlantic in just four weeks, and that too when the Covid-19 pandemic was on the rampage and investments were at standstill in the rest of the world.

Why this surge in investments? Because Jio Platforms is a next-generation technology platform powered by leading technologies spanning cloud and edge computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, augmented and mixed reality and blockchain.

Just as in digital technology, we also have a huge opportunity in new biotechnology and advanced materials technologies.

5. You have strongly emphasised in your book ‘Reinventing India’ the critical importance of the trio of ‘Talent, Technology and Trust’. How relevant is it in the post-Covid-19 India?

Dr. Mashelkar: The three Ts are far more relevant now than ever before. Let me explain.

The Prime Minister just announced the ambitious launch of ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat, meaning a self-reliant India programme. This is both timely and laudable. However, for this aim to succeed, we require ‘Atmavishwas’, meaning trust and self-belief.

India’s greatest comparative advantage is a talent pool, but still talent, technology and trust must go together. Let me illustrate the point.

India desperately needed (and will need) large-scale testing during this pandemic, and even after this phase. For the Covid-19 testing kits, we were dependent on China. One million kits were imported and States governments started using the kits. But ICMR stopped the tests since the kits were faulty. On April 27, India cancelled an order that was already placed for half a million Chinese testing kits. My question is, can the Indian biotechnologist design, develop and deploy these kits in the country? The answer to this is a definite yes.

For instance, rising to the challenge, the Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (IGIB) a premier Institute of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has created an innovative test, which uses cutting-edge CRISPR technology for detection of the genomic sequence of the novel coronavirus.

It specifically recognises Covid-19 sequence in a sample with greater specificity than the state-of-the-art techniques. An innovative combination of CRISPR biology and paper-strip chemistry has to lead to the visible signal readout on a paper strip. Its main advantage is its affordability (₹500 only) and relative ease of use and non-dependency on expensive Q-PCR machines.

CSIR, IGIB and Tata Sons will bring it to the market within a month. The jury is out on whether we will have the ‘Atmavishwas’, the self-belief, for wide-scale use and promote this globally-competitive technology, not only in India but also export it abroad.

In early April, India announced that it will import second-hand ventilators from abroad and now comes the US announcement of the donation of ventilators to India.

Can’t India build them on their own? Yes, we can. Let me explain.

In April, Marico Innovation Foundation had set up a grand challenge ‘Innovate2beatCOVID’ with a cash prize of ₹2.5 crore, with me as the Chairman of the jury. The prize is going to some remarkable innovations in both PPEs and ventilators, both of which today are imported.

The innovations being awarded are designed to suit Indian conditions and some of them even have features which are ahead of the state-of-the-art technology.

Again some of the innovations can help create ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the space of PPEs and ventilators. But what is required is an aggressive and bold public procurement policy to support such innovations. I have described it in ‘The Path Ahead: Transformative Ideas for India’, a book edited by the CEO of NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant.

However, the implementation of all these transformative ideas will require ‘Atmavishwas’, the trust, the self-belief, the never-say-die spirit of ‘yes, we can’.


Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Interview – 22 May, 2018


1. Why is the Queen Elizabeth Prize (QE Prize) so important? How can it inspire the future generations?

Dr. Mashelkar: Nobel prizes in chemistry, physics, economics, literature, peace and physiology or medicine over the years have acknowledged the path breaking human achievements in these fields.

There was no such equivalent of Nobel prize in engineering. And that is surprising, since engineering has played such a transformative role over centuries. QE prize, for the first time, has set up an equivalent of a Nobel prize in engineering to recognise the ground breaking work of engineers that brings global benefit to humanity.

The life & work of QE prize winners will be an inspiration for young aspiring engineers. I experienced this myself. In my Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Lecture Series in Monash University last month I gave a lecture on `Future of Engineering and Engineering our Future’ ( There, I displayed the work and achievements of the last three years’ QE prize winners. I said that as NextGen engineers they must aspire to win this Nobel Prize equivalent in engineering. The excitement amongst the young students was palpable! I am sure the inspiration experienced in that lecture hall in Monash will start reverberating through the global young engineering community, as it sees more and more iconic QE prize winners in future.

2. Can you tell me about your initial interests in engineering – what inspired you to pursue the career?
Dr. Mashelkar: My science teacher Narhari Bhave in Union High School in Mumbai was in a way responsible for creating a trigger for my becoming an engineer.

One simple experiment in physics that he did, when I was just 13 year old, stands out in my memory. He took us out into the sun. He wanted to show us as to how to find the focal length of a convex lens. He held a convex lens in one hand, a piece of paper in other hand, and moved the lens up and down. When the brightest spot appeared on the paper, he said that the distance between the convex lens and the paper was the focal length. He held the paper for a while and the paper burnt. He said to me `If you focus like this, you can burn anything, you can achieve anything in the world’. That was an inspiring message for me- “Focus and you will achieve”.

But that simple experiment was followed by a challenge he gave us. Why should we use kerosene to do cooking? Can we not use sun’s energy for that purpose? I kept on thinking on how one could do it on a large scale. After all, you can’t have thousands of convex lenses to concentrate solar energy.

But more clarity emerged when my teacher demonstrated the process to make soap in our lab and followed it up by our visit to a Hindustan Lever factory in Mumbai. There we saw the manufacturing of thousands of soaps in an assembly line. I understood the power of engineering, making goods on a large scale for society, and also doing good for society. Engineering appeared as a noble profession to me. That inspired me. So at a very early age, I decided to become an engineer. The credit really goes to my high school teacher, Narhari Bhave!

3. The UK and India have recently set out a number of initiatives designed to help with the progression of technology and science, by sharing expertise. ( Why do you think it is important to share knowledge across borders?

Dr. Mashelkar: India & UK always had vibrant links in research but now these are getting extended to innovation also. Research converts money into knowledge. Innovation converts knowledge into money. And the way to do it is increasingly by innovative co-creation in a borderless world through partnership.

UK has been the second biggest science partner with India. UK has been always amongst the top few nations in science, whereas India is the fastest rising nation in term of science. UK is already a start-up nation, the Cambridge phenomenon took place 30 years ago. India is a ‘starting up’ nation. The Bangalore phenomenon has taken place only in the past 10 years. So the partnership between UK and India can be a win-win, not only for them both, but for the whole world.

I have a few suggestions on what can be done to make these links more inspiring and impactful.

First, we should create a Indo-UK young scientists network by picking up the brightest scientists in their early thirties from India and UK and funding joint projects. These early bonds will persevere for next five-six decades. And who knows they might jointly win a Nobel Prize or QE prize one day!

Second, inclusive innovation with `affordable excellence’ is what the world needs. While Indian scientists and engineers have an uncanny ability to think and design for extreme affordability, UK scientists dazzle in excellence. Joining hands for such affordable excellence projects, say in health, education, energy, food security and communication, could be a win-win.

Third, UK is already digital. India is on its way to becoming digital. For example, in mobile data transmission, India jumped from the 155th position two years ago to the first position six months ago. Therefore, there is a great scope for creating joint virtual centres of excellence and innovation, which can create enormous impact.

Fourth, India and UK should work on grand challenges that will not only be mutually beneficial, but bring benefits to the world. Take the specific challenge in our war on climate change. Who knows, a grand challenge set up to convert carbon dioxide by a disruptive photocatalytic technology at atmospheric temperature and pressure to synthetic fuels may lead to a great breakthrough! The Newton-Bhaba Fund is a great idea. We can now raise the bar by tuning it to really ambitious grand challenges.

4. Engineering is one of the most common career choices in India (studies indicate that India produces 1.5 million engineers every year from 4000 institutes). Why do you think this is and can it be problematic?

Ans. In the India of the fifties, the career choice was largely made by the parents. In a poverty-stricken India, parents would naturally choose a profession that provided the family with the highest income. And that profession used to be engineering back then.

In later generations, the choice was made by the young students themselves, who looked for big career opportunities. As Indian manufacturing industry grew in all sectors, demands for engineering graduates increased. As India grew as a software power, with offshoring growing exponentially, Y2K challenge appearing at the turn of the century, very large job opportunities came up and software engineering became the most sought after.

I remember that a couple of decades ago, one third of the Indian export was created by young IT and IT service engineers (who constituted only 0.06% of Indian population) with an average age of 26 years! That demand remains unabated. Now, every year, 300,000 engineers are hired by IT and IT services industry.

Something or someone catches the imagination of the young and makes them want to emulate. In early eighties, when engineers like Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani created Infosys as an IT start-up and went on to become billionaires, young people wanted to follow them by getting into engineering profession. When Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created a world record by making India the first ever nation to successfully launch the Mars Orbiter Mission in its very first attempt, and that too at one tenth of the US costs for their Mars Mission, young people got inspired by this engineering feat and everyone wanted to join ISRO! When Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, an engineer, became India’s president, respect for the profession shot sky high!

What is the downside? Engineering schools have mushroomed. India is producing an extraordinary number of engineers. But does the quantity match the quality? The answer is no. In fact only a fraction of engineers turn out to be job worthy or job ready. Many companies, therefore, make the graduates go through `finishing schools’. So number without a consistent all-round quality is a big challenge!

5. Can you tell me about your approach to engineering and how to most effectively use resources to benefit the maximum amount of people?

Ans. What engineering would be most crucial for the 21st century? According to me, it will be ‘Gandhian engineering’. I remember two of Gandhi’s tenets: “I would prize every invention of science made for the benefit of all” and “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed”. The first tenet refers to equity. The second tenet refers to sustainability.

Serving the needs of billions of `have nots’ means making products and services available not just at `low cost’ but at `ultra-low cost’. But the `have nots’ do have aspiration for the highest quality and performance. This means doing what looks impossible at first sight. Despite income inequality, create access equality. But what does that mean?

Let us ask some challenging questions:

– Can we make high speed 4G internet available at 10 cents per GB, and make all voice calls free of cost – that too in a large and diverse country like India?
– Can we make high-quality but simple breast cancer screening available to every woman, that too at the extremely affordable cost of $1 per scan?

– Can we make a portable, high-tech ECG machine which can provide extremely accurate reports immediately and that too at the cost of 8 cents a test?

– Can we make highest quality eye imaging device that is portable, non-invasive and costs 3 times less than conventional devices?

Amazingly, all this has been achieved in India, not only by using technological innovation but also non-technological innovation.

Industrial enterprises strive for getting `more from less for more’. That meant getting more (performance) from less (resource) for more (profit). But Gandhian Engineering has a different message. It means getting more (performance) from less (resource) for more (people), not just for more (profit).

MLM philosophy of Gandhian Engineering is spreading worldwide now.
The emerging economies like India are going for it, since they see that the rising income inequality will create social disharmony. They find that Gandhian Engineering is the only way to solve the problem.

But the MLM strategy is spreading worldwide. It began with C.K. Prahalad and I writing a paper `Innovation’s Holy Grail: More from Less for More’ in Harvard Business Review (July-August 2010). This was followed by World Economic Forum holding a special session on More from Less from More’ on 16 November 2010. The message continues to spread, as Fraunhofer, Germany had a special colloquium on `More from Less for More’ in Munich on 29 October 2016.

But there is more serious interest. I was invited by the European Commission to do a strategy paper titled “Organising Inclusive Innovation for Accelerated Inclusive Growth” and later I was invited to give a talk on ‘Innovation under Adversity’ in Innovation 2014 conference organised by European Union in Brussels. Gandhian Engineering figured prominently here. Several discussions later, EU is beginning to realise that quality, sustainability and affordability together are going to be the key to EU’s competitive advantage, not just the first two on which EU had focused so far. So EU is bringing in policy changes to see how frugal innovation based on Gandhian Engineering principles can be used to create a strategic advantage.

Big enterprises like GE, Siemens, Unilever, etc. are changing their strategies to create products belonging to the `affordable excellence’ category by using MLM strategies. A classical case is GE’s affordable $ 600 portable ECG machine (MACTM i).

Top academics of the world are getting involved too. For instance, Harvard University researchers have created an inexpensive detector, just costing US$ 25 that can be used by health care workers in the world’s poorest areas to monitor diabetes, detect malaria, discover environmental pollutants, and perform tests that are done by machines that cost thousands of dollars.

Gandhian Engineering is all about creating a more equitable society. It is all about designing a sustainable future for the mankind. Therefore, I feel personally happy that Gandhian Engineering has caught the fancy of the world.

6. Can you divulge details on the current global skills gap in engineering (we have global data which shows a clear undersupply) and what this means for economic development

Dr. Mashelkar: Yes, indeed. A skills gap exists both in terms of quantity & quality, although the distribution is very uneven. For instance, the shortage in terms of numbers for advanced economies is larger than that for emerging economies, like India or China. Why this skill gap? Besides the obvious reasons of inability to attract students for the engineering stream, in the developed world, there are others too.

First, the rate of change itself is accelerating! Engineers created exponential technologies (IOT, Robotics, AI, AR, VR, Blockchain ….). But exponential technologies themselves are rapidly changing the nature of work and jobs for engineers, thereby creating a skill gap.

Second, the context itself is changing. Today we talk about Science 2.0, Education 3.0, Society 3.0 and Industry 4.0. The next generation of engineers have to be skilled to get fully aligned with these changes.

Third is the issue of dramatic paradigm shifts. Data is new oil now. AI is new electricity now. Business model innovations (like Uber) are leading to Transport as a Service (TAAS) disruption, which is affecting traditional industries in which engineers worked (e.g. auto industry, auto value chains (from repair and maintenance shops to car financing), trucking, shipping, etc.).

In my own profession, chemical engineering, we have moved our engineering from micro to meso to macro. Thus the range of length scales that we deal with range from nanometres (nano materials) to micron (microfluidics) to millimetres (granular materials) to meters (chemical reactors) to kilometres (atmosphere, oil resources).

To deal with all this we need to create next-gen engineers. They have to be solution engineers (who use trans-disciplinary thinking, since the distinction between engineering disciplines is vanishing), whole-brain engineers (will require both left and right brain, since human empathy will be as important as engineering) and holistic engineers (moving from simple to complicated to complex problems, which involve environment, economics, regulations, society ….).

Continuing this issue of the list of new skills requirement at the top of the list we will have complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, co-working, cognitive flexibility, and all these coupled with emotional intelligence.

What we have considered so far is the `why’ and `what’ part of the skill deficit. The `how’ part of creating the skills and competencies of it is equally important.

The engineering educational institutions will have to move from compliance to innovation and from collecting dots to connecting dots. The students’ paradigm shifts will involve moving from memorising to processing, from completing to creating, from answering to asking, from isolation to collaboration and from marching to reflecting.

The teachers will have to shift from being teacher-centred to student-driven, from telling to listening, from presenting to facilitating, from being content experts to process experts and from mass production to mass customisation.

7. What are your views for those considering a career in engineering?

Dr. Mashelkar: First and foremost, they must understand that engineering is a great bridge between science & society. So they should consider themselves as not the conventional brick and mortar bridge builders, but builders of a science-society bridge that will decide the future of humanity.

Why the future of humanity? Take just one example. The threat of climate change is real, and does not discriminate – it will affect all of us severely. It threatens the very continuity of life on our planet. We need innovation that will save the world, and engineers will have the gigantic task of doing it. So they can be the leaders in saving the world.

Finally, what should be their motivation? The inspiring inscription on the Lamme Medal of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, USA says it all. It says “The engineer views hopefully the hitherto unattainable”. So they, as young engineers will not only be able to `view’ the unattainable but also `achieve’ the seemingly unattainable. What can be more exciting than that?

8. What are your career highlights to date?

Dr. Mashelkar: First, I broke convention by setting a small personal example of reversal of brain drain. I left attractive academic positions in US and UK and returned to India at an early age of 33 in response to the clarion call given by the then Prime Minister to reverse brain drain. Then, under very adverse and resource-starved conditions, I established India’s first ever polymer science and engineering department in National Chemical Laboratory, which later attained international acclaim.

Second, despite severe resource constraints, I was able to do quality research, mainly in engineering analysis of rheologically complex fluids, polymer reaction engineering and analysis, synthesis and novel applications of stimuli responsive polymers. This research earned me high accolades such as FRS, Fellowships of US National Academy of Science as well as Engineering, and even honorary doctorate from 39 Universities around the world. So I showed that it was not the `power of budgets’ but the `power of ideas’ that matter.

Third, I am proud to say that the idea of Gandhian Engineering in terms of `More from Less for More’ that I proposed ten years ago has spread around globally.

Fourth is about not only my doing science, but leading science, and making transformative changes. When I took over as Director of India’s National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) in 1989 I took up the challenge of converting it into an `International Chemical Laboratory’. We moved from import substitution to creating globally competitive technologies and international patenting. NCL began licensing its patents even to leading companies in Europe & U.S., becoming the first Indian laboratory to do such a `reverse transfer of technology’.

This leadership continued with my being appointed as the youngest Director General of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), which is one of world’s largest research & technology organisation with 40 National laboratories. I conceived & successfully led the process of transformation of CSIR. This has been heralded by some as being one of the ten most significant achievements of Indian science and technology in the twentieth century.

The fifth highlight makes me particularly proud as an engineer. I was just 39 years old when one of the toughest responsibilities was given to me by Government of India. I was appointed the Technical Assessor for the One Man Inquiry Commission that investigated world’s worst industrial disaster, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy that killed 3,787 people on 2 December 1982 and maimed thousands for life. Although there was a pressure to get foreign consultancy/advice, I said there was no need for that. Using our own strong indigenous capacity of complex engineering analysis, advanced modelling and simulation, I led the entire team that unravelled the cause of the accident.

Finally, the proudest moment of my career so far.

The day was 17 July 1998. On that day, a boy, who struggled to get his education due to extreme poverty, who studied under street lights and who walked kilometres on barefoot to his school, got inducted as Fellow of Royal Society and had the honour of signing in the same book in which Newton and Einstein had signed. That boy was me! That was the proudest moment of my life.

MIT Interview with Dr R A Mashelkar – Shruti Namjoshi

In Conversation
With Dr. Raghunath A Mashelkar-National Research Professor and President- National Teachers’ Congress-2019


Dr. Mashelkar: India will have to move from `right to education’ to `right education’ to `right way of education’ in view of the great disruption that digital exponential technology is going to create. So we need teachers, who will be able to use right way of education to provide right education.

First on right education. A recent report by U.S. Department of Labour said that almost two thirds of the senior school going children will be doing jobs that do not exist today. So how does our education system prepare our students for jobs that don’t exist today? That requires visionary thinking.
No matter what disruptions take place with newly emerging technologies that can’t be predicted today, there will be five skills that will have an evergreen value.

First, dealing with complexity. Second, critical thinking. Third, creativity. Fourth, emotional intelligence. Fifth ability of co-working, co-creation, and that too with both men and machine together. The right education system for new India should be geared to that. So again, we need teachers, who will be able to prepare students with these five skills.

To my mind, this is what future ready higher education is going to be.

Q. How do you suppose a ‘change’ can be reinforced? How do various session Themes & Sub-Themes Address these?

Dr. Mashelkar: It is not just the change but the rate of rate of change that is going to matter.

I recommend few shifts that are required in our education system.
Coming to your question, the various Themes and Sub Themes should touch upon these ‘shifts’ during the course of discussions.

The 10 Major Shifts for Students

1. Completing to Creating (Previously the only objective of the student was to complete the homework given, now it’s more about creating something new.)

2. From Passive to Active Learning. (Passive is what happens when there’s a one way communication and rest of the class listens and takes notes, active is an interactive classroom)

3. Consuming to Producing (Presently, students are consumers of knowledge resource created for decades, they have now to participate in producing it)

4. Memorizing to Processing (Previously it was all about merely memorizing and just reproducing – now it is about processing for deep learning and not just storing.)

5. Replicating to Creation (The previous culture of `copy everything that you see or can’ has to be replaced by creation of new ideas, concepts, knowledge)

6. Isolation to Collaboration (students were all working individually – now they should be co-working with a team)

7. Marching to Reflecting: (Rather than being one to follow without thinking as when the army marches, one now needs to think and reflect)

8. From Rigid to Fluid (Rigid curricula and structures to open, flexible and dynamic ones)

9. Dependent to Autonomous. (From being dependent on top hierarchical authority to having distributed power)

10. From Answering to Asking (Teachers would ask and students would answer – now the process will have to be reversed as students will know more, thanks to easy, affordable access to knowledge)

The 10 Major Shifts for Teachers

For Teachers, some of the major shifts that are already occurring world over are –

1. Teacher Centric to Student Centric (From teachers deciding and dictating what’s good for the students, irrespective of student needs to tailoring to individual student needs)

2. Telling to Listening (In digital world, students will come to class already prepared, so no use teaching them what they have already learned, teachers will have to listen and learn)

3. Mass production to Mass customization: (One size fits all approach in terms of content and delivery to customizing learning modules for each student according to his capacity)

4. Linear to Multiple Streams of Education (single degrees in narrow specification to multiplicity and diverse disciplines)

5. From being a Presenter to being a Facilitator (Teachers going from mere presenters of knowledge to being facilitators of interactive learning among knowledge rich students)

6. From Compliance to Divergence (Rather than compliance with fixated processes and structures, need based dynamic divergence processes)

7. Scarcity to Abundance (knowledge restricted previously to books in library with limited access to now full access on a smartphone in one’s pocket)

8. From being Content Experts to Process Experts (content freely available, the process of delivering the content will be critical)

9. From collecting the dots to connecting the dots (Rather than students just being taught to collect information, now they will have to be able connect even seemingly different facts and figures)

10. Instructor to conductor (Rather than just giving education as instruction, teacher will play a role of a conductor of an orchestra, where students will be co-working and co-creating).

Q. Some of the Speakers at NTC 2019 are referring to IR 4.0, Education 2.0, and Science 2.0, how are these integral to the ‘Change’ we are referring?

Dr. Mashelkar: My recent book which is going to be launched on the day our conference, i.e. 4 January, speaks of ‘Leapfrogging to Pole-vaulting’. We cannot Pole-vault given the complexities, but we can certainly Leapfrog, therefore the theme is presently restricted to leap frogging.

This is the link we discuss during the session on ‘Future Ready Right Education: Right Way of Higher Education’ to which I have made an early reference. So I don’t have to go to a Library anymore, the entire library is accessible to me in the mobile in one’s pocket. There is no need for me to work 9 to 5, I can work 24 X 7 and plan my day to shift my lifestyle.

We have moved from Education 1.0 (Gurukul System, one-to-one learning with monopoly of few) to Education 2.0 (Assembly Line learning suited to Industrial Era, one teacher and 100 students) to Education 3.0 (Computerization era and the present digital disruption).

Incidentally education 3.0 will have a different `right way of education’. Our current ways will have to change dramatically to the third paradigm of education, where information memorisation and brute force recall will be made irrelevant. From `brain as storage’ to `brain as an intelligent processor’ will become the norm. Rich formatted content, flipped classrooms, and research material from the best faculty on a subject will be available for free. On demand tutoring, P2P learning, personalised and generative course structure and sequencing to meet the individual needs will be the order of the day.

So Education cannot be considered in Isolation. We have to look at Education 3.0. Industry 4.0, Science 2.0 and beyond all in a connected realm.

Q. What are the Methods? How far do Faculty Development Programs help?

Dr. Mashelkar: The challenge will be for the old teachers to transform their old ways of teaching and adapt to new changes. You cannot devalue or disregard their experience. No. You cannot replace people overnight. That’s not the solution. But how do you make them active participants and leaders of this process transformation.

Therefore, when we speak of leapfrogging, the methodology itself requires Innovation. The mindsets have to change. Students will adapt fast. Teachers have to change to match or exceed their speed. Will carrot and stick approach work or does it require self-motivation and self-discipline? I would prefer the latter. What should be the metrics of measuring performance of the teachers in this digital era-that needs to change? Paranter like teacher to student rates will loose a meaning because one digital teacher can teach a million students!

What we require is “Education in Innovation and Innovation in Education”. That’s the need of the hour. Teachers will have to constantly think of what Innovations can one bring in one’s teaching. Process of `Best Practices’ has to be moved to `Next Practices’.

*The interview is written and reproduced by Ms. Shruti Namjoshi-Sr. Corporate Communications Manager-MITWPU based on insights received during NTC Conveners Meeting with Hon’ble Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar.

In conversation with RAM – Parimal Chaudhari

The towering scientist stands tall – literally and figuratively- whose dedication to Science is legendary; the person who gave India the new Panchsheel (Child –centered education; Woman-centered family; Human-centered development; Knowledge-centered society and Innovation centered India) declares unequivocally -“Science per se is the quest of truth. And it embraces all the truth it sees”

Does that mean all Science is value-neutral? “Pretty much” quips Dr. Raghunath. A. Mashelkar (making his name abbreviate as RAM) and declares that the ways of creating Science are above board, rational and open to be whetted or tested by anyone. The Padmashri, Padmabhushan and Padmavibhushan recipient believes that the problem of ethics and morality, however, lies with the people who practice it, he adds, by chaffing away the ‘doings’ from the ‘doer’

And perhaps for the very same reasons, he refrains from making any blanket judgments about India in totality, especially on the topic of ethics. India, he declares, is a land of mixed blessings holding in its fold islands of excellence as well as cesspools. “On just about every parameter of corporate life, one can find enough data to praise it or condemn it – and the topic of ethics is no exception”

Mashelkar, who has graced his presence in the past and continues to do so, on the Boards of various top ranking corporate companies in India, finds the vicissitudes in the issue relating to governance in Indian corporate world reflecting the people they represent. Diversity and complexity being the hallmark in Indians in every way, the issue of Business Ethics is no different. “We have a long way to go in Business Ethic or even personal ethics for that matter” he contends.

The probable causes of this he purports are numerous. “Partly it is based on the way we are brought up” he says, “The idea of loyalty itself has various shades and meaning to an average Indian. It pans from family, to village, town, city, state and so on. And at every position, a person’s loyalty is subjected to a test to a point where a person is likely to lose his orientation of what exactly he stands for!” Adding further to this societal expectation, is the obeisance expected to the dictum Father knowest the best. One cannot question the given in the rigidity of hierarchical structures around it, which all contribute to stall individual pace of personal growth. The legacy of such a process comes in the way of overall progress since the society survives and sustains on shared meaning of these values. In Mashelkar’s opinion these dual expectations have made it difficult for an individual to survive merely off the strength of one’s own value system.

“But all that is changing” he says with robust optimism that pervades Mashelkar’s persona making him very hopeful for a better India at a rapid pace from 2020 onwards. And the reasons for the optimism are the several observations he makes about the Indian society over the past two decades. Thirty years ago, he contends, the impact could not have been as profound or stirring. “Thanks to the Media”, says Mashelkar, “that has made the bottoms-up deluge of all facts and aspects of public life accessible to the electorate. A common man can watch the everyday drama in the social life each evening in his own home.” Each moment of public life is thereby become accountable to the common man.

Mashelkar joins the contemporary visionaries in resting his sanguinity in the youth of India. He cites several instances from his interaction with the young, the able, the aspiring, the dreaming young men and women that form the 55% of our populous land. Of these interactions, what etches out as being the most significant one was the time he spent with slum children on his 70th birthday. What amazed him most was how conscious and articulate these little children were about the two major concerns that are undoubtedly the bane of Indian public life: degrading ecological environment and corruption. The degree of self-reliance they expressed to cure themselves of these evils was heartening to Mashelkar. “This readiness was unusual and I am certain that a modern India will be much different from its preceding years” he adds with justifiable confidence.

However, when one turns to the issues of governing the country, here too, Mashelkar finds the good and the worse work in tandem. Among the issues that hearten him the most of crossing the major milestone in public accountability by passing the Act of Right to Information. This, in his opinion, has made voluntary or involuntary ‘accountability’ a right of citizens especially when outcomes of any actions undertaken affect them. The other commendable phenomenon occurring along with it is Corporate Governance which has become like an all-pervasive movement in modern India.

Being the Director of almost 40 science establishments in India and having created India’s first ever Polymer Science and Engineering Department at NCL, Pune, Mashelkar has indubitably led Science in India. He unequivocally has an upfront and close view of the workings of these institutes. “Science and Truth always go together, for, Science is in the quest of Truth” asserts Mashelkar, “though, the ones who practice Science do not automatically become truthful”, he adds cautiously.

Mashelkar nevertheless accentuates unconditionally that by and large the institutes of Science in India are a cut above the rest in matters of governance and their standards are comparable to the best in the world. Though there have been instances of deviation at times, he claims, these are exceptions and certainly not a rule; irrespective of the fact that these are Research or Defense or Science or Space research Organizations.

Better still, Mashelkar contends, is the private corporate sector in India that has set a bench mark for Corporate Governance to a Nation that increasingly continues to become a nation of entrepreneurs. Those of whom who win Mashelkar’s indubitable admiration are Ratan Tata, whose company Board Mashelkar graces; and Narayan and Sudha Murthy – although these sets of people belong to a completely different genre of wealth creators, “who practice more of it rather than preach in matters of business ethics” says Mashelkar.

It is the Indian Government and its governance, or rather, the lack of it, which drives a wedge in Mashelkar’s optimism for a better India. “I worry less about budget deficit than the Trust deficit that has been ushered by the successive governments.” says Mashelkar, “This trust deficit is palpable between society and government; between industry and government and this entire deficit is affecting Science in India” laments Mashelkar. “People are losing faith at all levels since who you know has become more important than what you know” he adds.

Where next?

Mashelkar points out to the trajectory of history of businesses and the transits that have occurred thus far. The first wave banked upon the Physical-capital (land, money, building); the second wave banked on Knowledge-capital (information and technology and the skill sets) and the present one will bank on Ethical-capital adding on to earlier two. The trend of ranking of global corporates carried out by the likes of The Ethisphere Institute that ranks businesses not by their capital worth but by their ethical worth is writing on the wall for aspiring entrepreneurs anywhere in the world. Ethical capital, in Mashelkar’s opinion, will be the conscience-keeper of the businesses the world over.

In order that such capital thrives in India, Mashelkar categorically underlines his favorite penchant: education in Innovation and innovation in Education. Ethics, for him, is not just about good behavior towards people alone; it is the regard for planet, people, prosperity to all (not just a few).

Mashelkar, himself a recipient of honorary doctorates bestowed by a whopping thirty four universities, is a dedicated professor who finds a huge following at the courses he offers each summer at various universities abroad. He believes that the Academia can contribute greatly in imparting education on the subject. He believes, along with engineering and technology content, if the subjects like Logic, Ethics, Social philosophy and Economics were to be bought center-stage (having being banished from the engineering and technological courses in universities in the 70s), the young minds can be shaped to keep aware of these concerns that affect so many. In the race for specialization the awareness for these subjects has been the worst casualty, he contends.

The actual imparting of these subjects is of course, another matter. Mashelkar contends that the methodology ought to include real case studies, carry contemporary relevance , replete with examples and application on issues of ethics and be woven seamlessly into the grid of what engineering, science and technology can do and ought to do. He observes, ‘extra-ordinary stories of ordinary people coming from neighboring environment’ make greatest impact on young minds and have the potential for emulation.

Once a student trained in this environment moves into the real working space of Science, Mashelkar, who has been the President of Indian National Science Academy and been the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research for over a decade, believes, Science Institutions can help better ethical environment for Science in India.

Institutes like Indian National Science Academy (which he has presided on ); Indian Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (which he has presided for eleven years) and others such can choose to lay thrust and create pressure on ethical matter in Science through their own activities. When he compares the efforts taken by the UK based Royal Academy of Engineering (of which he is a Fellow); Royal Society of London (of which he is a Fellow) or the US based US National Academy of Science (of which he is a Foreign Associate) and US National Academy of Engineering (of which he is a Foreign Associate), efforts in Indian Institutions pale into insignificance.

Though at NCL (National Chemical Laboratories) Pune, there is no formal training, mentoring or counseling program undertaken for these subjects, Mashelkar informs that this is done more on informal lines by discussing and scrutinizing methodologies of practicing Science: the process of experimentation, publishing and sharing of these experiments, at each stage ensuring that facts and truth is not overlooked or sacrificed. “The very fact that NCL has provided the best of leadership for several science institutes in India is a testimony to how NCL has been a crucible to create ethical leadership in world of Science in India” informs Mashelkar.

Government and Judiciary

Mashelkar thinks that greater momentum for greater ethical environment in democracy can be fostered well by its famed four pillars: Executive (Government), Legislature (Parliament & State Assemblies, etc); Judiciary (Supreme Court, High Court & Other Judicial centers) and Media (Newspaper, Internet, Blogs & whatever which expresses people’s aspirations). Amongst these,he asserts, media needs to focus more on becoming a ‘responsible’ media,, while accomplishing its own job.

Through Mashelkar’s experience of chairing twelve high powered committees in India established to examine a variety of issues including higher education, national fuel policy, the drug regulatory system, and the agriculture research system, he is of the firm opinion that India does not need more rules to govern Science. All it needs is better rules. The better rules can only be arrived at by processing the existing rules through the filter of review, renewal and sunset. “When rules get out of context, relevance and is clearly outdated, we forget to send these into the sunset” quips Mashelkar.

And as for serving justice, Mashelkar says, “Only if the Judiciary ensures that justice is swift, severe and sure, the administration will regain the Trust deficit it presently faces”

Mashelkar strongly argues in the favor of creating an environment of responsible science and technology. He believes that if India wishes to be the flag-bearer of producing more from less for more people, and not just for more profit (another of his penchants), technology is the best help one can have. But every new Technology is bound to throw up new challenges when it comes to ethics. This is intensified even more when any of Recombinant DNA technologies happen to be at the core of the debate. And in India, he adds, we have two extreme responses to it: preventive (too scared to apply) or permissive (mindless application of it). Mashelkar is of the opinion that our approach should be that of being promotional (active fostering for technology because without which, humanity cannot address its own increasing needs) and precautionary (scientific validation of all things that can go wrong with the technology and making sure that these are prevented at all costs).

It is at this very juncture that the practitioners of Science of tomorrow, sums up Mashelkar, who will have to don new hats with new set of responsibilities. The scientists of tomorrow that India needs ought to have a global perspective, be careful of what unintended impacts their scientific contribution are likely to make, be a truthful practitioners of their craft and be humane leader of their flock.