Nandan Nilekani confident
of changing India with ideas
By Madhusree Chatterjee
Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) Can ideas change a nation? Co-founder
of Indian software giant Infosys and author Nandan Nilekani
believes that they can, even if it takes a long time for them
to become embedded in the collective psyche of the country.
process of change has to start somewhere. Rome was not built
in a day.
will have to make it happen. They can start building on the
broad based concepts of democracy, information technology,
population or demography, globalisation, English and ideas.
No country in the world has all these six things together.
It is unique to India," Nilekani told IANS in an interview.
was in the national capital Monday for the launch of his book
"Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century", which
has been published by Penguin India. The book is the first
in the series of Penguin's "Allen Lane - The Imprint
of Ideas" releases in India. The imprint, launched in
1967, is named after the founder of the publishing house.
India" probes India's growth story over the last 60 years,
examines the central ideas that have shaped modern India and
offers perspectives on the past, present and the future.
writes about how India's early socialist policies, despite
the good intentions and idealism, stifled growth and weakened
book analyses how the country's overwhelmingly young population
has now become its greatest strength - and how IT is refashioning
not just India's businesses, but also its governance and everyday
does not stop at listing the ongoing processes of change,
but plunges deeper into the heart of Indian real polity to
debate about caste, politics, labour reforms, infrastructure,
environment, markets and higher education.
is all about ideas. Ideas happen not because of diktats, but
because society starts believing that the ideas are the best
instance, the idea of English in India began as a language
of outsourcing by the British - forging a collective linguistic
unity. But post-Independence, it became the language of imperialism.
The same language, however, came back in the globalised era
as the language of outsourcing," Nilekani explained.
and democracy also underwent similar notional changes. From
being mere ideas, they went on to become powerful tools of
transition and empowerment.
In the book, Nilekani presents his set of 18 ideas that are
divided into three broad groups - basic ideas, the ideas of
anticipation and contested ideas.
six basic ideas have given us six to eight percent growth
per annum, the ideas of anticipation - those which we have
agreed upon but have not implemented - will help sustain the
growth, and the contested ideas or new strategies will take
the growth story to the next level," Nilekani said.
book deals at length with primary and higher education - as
one of the four ideas that have yet to take off.
education in India is linked to economic reforms that Union
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is trying to set in motion.
Most people are now aware of the economic cost of education.
least 50 percent of the poor children in the slums are going
to private schools and people are shelling out substantial
amount of money for private education," Nilekani said,
adding that the government must improve its education delivery
to him, 90 percent of the country's population will become
literate by 2020.
will be exposed to the media and develop aspirations. If you
don't ride the wave of aspirations, you have may have problems
in the future," he warned.
Reforms, said Nilekani, were ultimately about access.
have to fundamentally provide millions of people access to
jobs, markets and education. Having half done reforms is almost
like having no reforms at all. The challenge for India is
to take the reforms to the next level without creating few
rich guys," he said.
prefers to describe his set of ideas as a 18-pronged safety
net. "And people will have to buy the safety net to change
the divisions of differences into unity of ideas."
want them to understand the complexities of India rather than
see it in silos.
must have a holistic outlook of the country based on its history,
evolution, the present and the future," said the technocrat-author,
who interviewed 126 experts from across the world to cull
out his ideas for India's future.
the book will definitely change the way people think,"