Valley of digital gods: Talk on India's tech trailblazers ignites young minds

Updated: Nov 16, 2019, 08:11 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Dr Shivaprasad Khened, director of the Centre, started by addressing the sticky point that Indians in technology in the USA were at times viewed "as those who undercut jobs and are lowly paid, and that is why they get the jobs at Silicon Valley."

R Ramanan, mission director of Atal Innovation Mission NITI Aayog and Professor Shivanand Kanavi
R Ramanan, mission director of Atal Innovation Mission NITI Aayog and Professor Shivanand Kanavi

There was not a single empty seat in the house, with students even sitting on the carpet, as it was houseful at a lecture — 'How Indians won the Silicon Valley' — at the Nehru Science Centre, Mahalaxmi on Friday morning.

Dr Shivaprasad Khened, director of the Centre, started by addressing the sticky point that Indians in technology in the USA were at times viewed "as those who undercut jobs and are lowly paid, and that is why they get the jobs at Silicon Valley."

As his rapt young audience listened, Dr Khened continued, "We see giants like Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram in the technology space. Some amongst you might turn out to be one of them."

By Satyam he meant Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Shivam stood for Shiv Nadar of HCL, the Information Technology behemoth and Sundaram was Sundar Pichai of Google.

Dream big

Khened's crisp introduction was followed by a motivational address by R Ramanan, mission director of Atal Innovation Mission NITI Aayog. Ramanan said, "A boy from a small town called Rameswaram dreamt big. He was Dr Abdul Kalam, missile man and one of the foremost scientists in the world."

He further said, "Sixty five per cent of India's population is under the age of 35, which is you all. There is tremendous energy in this country. It is time to transform this energy and make India the Silicon Valley of the world."

Speaking to the students, Ramanan said, "Live by the adage: dream big, like Dr Abdul Kalam said. Believe in yourself, like Swami Vivekanand said and finally, put a ding into the Universe in the words of Steve Jobs. This means to do something outside the realms of what you think is possible."

Indian imprint

After that rousing address, Professor Shivanand Kanavi said with a laugh that the catchy title of his address — 'How Indians Won the Silicon Valley' — was on the advice of a marketing whiz. Kanavi added, "Digital technology is not limited to the narrow view of IT. It is, in fact, much broader than that. Indian talent is sought after, and so many Indians have made such wonderful contributions. There have been students from municipal schools in Mumbai who have shaken up the world of technology."

Desi whirl

Kanavi, who has authored the book Sand to Silicon: The Amazing Story of Digital Technology, added, "Silicon Valley was a small strip in Northern California, but such has been its impact, that it has grown out of its defined geographical boundary."

His lecture was accompanied by a number of slides chronicling the humongous contributions of Indians to Silicon Valley. Names of the most outstanding Indians with a short bio-sketch followed as Kanavi showed one slide after another. It was a dazzling deep dive into the desi movers and shakers of the digital world.

An interesting mention was of Atiq Raza of Pakistan in the chip industry segment. Kanavi said, "He is a great friend of India. There is no Indo-Pak divide in technology." The trailblazers in Silicon Valley and beyond were a mix of vision, passion, belief, discipline and entrepreneurship. Those in the auditorium, young and old could not help but be moved that the digital technology torch is being held aloft by India, and its light looks to continue blazing across the Universe.

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