Outliers 40: Why R A Mashelkar remains “dangerously optimistic”

Pankaj Mishra November 17, 2017 1 min

At 74, Raghunath Anant Mashelkar has spent decades in setting India’s innovation agenda across organizations including the National Innovation Foundation and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. Now, he’s the chairman of Reliance Industries’ innovation council.

As I sat down with Mashelkar for this week’s Outliers Podcast, I was fresh from the last episode about how India failed its homegrown hardware innovation such as Simputer. Mashelkar responded by saying that getting the government to become a customer for their products is indeed a challenge for smaller, disruptive startups.

“It’s interesting because exactly 48 hours ago I sent a paper to the policymakers, recommending to change the government procurement policies,” he tells me. “If only the government had ordered Simputer(s) as a buyer, things could be different.”

He is, in his own words, “dangerously optimistic”. So despite all the skepticism about whether Indian government will actually accept the mistakes and change, you feel inclined to believe him.

In this around 40-minutes-long podcast, we discuss everything from how Mashelkar manages critics and controversies to why he remains optimistic.