Gururaj Desh (IITM) on India and Innovation
Gururaj Deshpande, an IIT Madras graduate, is an Indian American investor, best known for co-founding Sycamore Networks and the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT in the US. Three years ago, US President Barack Obama appointed him co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
What is your assessment of the startup ecosystem in India?
I’m excited. Sometimes in India people’s expectation goes out of hand. People think that they can create entrepreneurship by building infrastructure and incubators. It doesn’t happen. It happens only by people actively engaging in it. The best policy is, you let a lot of people play and not pick the winners and losers. It’s like having a cricket team with a lot of street cricket. Once you have big platforms, you have good people coming to it.
You’ve set up what you call a Social Innovation Sandbox to nurture social enterprise and innovation in the Hubli-Dharwad region. How is that going?
If impact is what you desire, you have to get connected to real problems. If you want social innovation to happen, you have to have a deep understanding of the problem itself and then to solve it. You need new ideas that needn’t be patentable and looking for huge competitive advantage. Relevance is the most important piece in social innovation. We have 10,000 college students in Hubli-Dharwad doing about 2,000 projects. You’re using society as a lab. Even if 3-4 % of them become entrepreneurs and employ 10 or 100 people, it’s a huge booster to the economy. When you bring execution excellence to the compassion of the non-profit , magic happens. Ratan Tata was a part of the Sandbox last year. I met him in Mumbai recently and he said he wants to do something similar. Ratan is motivated to solve huge problems . He thinks Akshaya Patra can scale from feeding 1.2 million to 100 million.
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(Sourced from the Times of India)