Why Indian Software & not Hardware

At an India – US Business Alliance, Santa Clara, US, I was invited to speak on “Future of Software in India”. That led me to think of history of software in India and I realised that India has always been good in software. Much before computers were invented. Software in a larger sense. Not just bits & bytes. Rather thoughts & insights. Creations of mind rather than creation of hand. India continues to excel in software as in literature, cinema, ads, designs, programming in any media and last but perhaps most important spiritualism.

If one would to guestimate the combined valuations of “wealth creation” by Osho, Chinmayanand, Sri Ravishankar, Mahesh Yogi, Krishnamurthy, et al; I wager, it would be manifold of the cumulative “software exports” from india.

Why India always exceled in mind work and performed poorly at hand work?

I think the reason is two fold. First the climate. Though India has all the seasons, by & large, the characteristic weather is “hot”. Focus on the genesis of Indian civilization. It originated by the banks of the rivers in highly fertile plains. It was easy to be agrarian. Throw the seed, rest & enjoy the fruits in time. By & large the weather was pleasant, hot & hotter. A cold harsh weather would have induced physical activity to generate ‘heat’.  To build shelters. To hunt for clothing. For our ancestors, the weather was conducive to relax under shade of a tree to muse & meditate.

Second reason, perhaps an offspring of the first, was & is the caste system. The highest status was accorded to the “mind” work and lowest to the “hand” work  and this continues till date. We are incilned to outsource manual work to an abundance of cheap labour. By & large, we aspire to be “Brahmins”. The learned. No dignity can be found in labour.

Contrast this with the way Japan, Korea & China harnessed labour to become manufacturers to the world.

As the posts in NextIndia forum are perhaps not much read, I shall stop here. Please treat this post as a discussion. Hope to hear from you.

4 Responses to “Why Indian Software & not Hardware”

  1. Bala says:

    You are right, the caste system may be the root cause for this. I am not here coming to debate about the merits of the caste system. However, I concur with you that because in caste hierarchy, it is knowledge which is considered supreme over power, commerce or material. In way it is true in the modern context too. When you talk about software, it is also interesting to note, India has strong culture of literature, both in North and South India. I am from South, for example, the famous Thirukural, the two line couplets written by Thiruvalluvar is source of wisdom on ethics, love and commerce / management. One who reads would certainly be surprised to note so much similarity between Thiruvalluvar’s observation on Management and the modern Management theory.

    Our Movie industry and advertisement industry have been always thriving as our Media industry, all of which are in way software industry. Also, if you notice, we do not develop dexterity , the skill to work with hands, in schools, compared asking our children to work on essays and maths problems. Rarely you will find even an qualified Mechanical Engineer changing the flat tyre of his car, instead of seeking assistance from a road side mechanic. We also lack the tool using tendency. How many of our house have a good quality tool box? Are n’t we search for a electrician or a plumber for changing even a tube light or fix a simple tap?. I am not sure, whether to continue with this same approach or teach our kids to learn the importance of using tools and become smart in hardware.

    Bala from Chennai

  2. Naveen says:

    Bala, thanks for your perusal & comment. I wish others at this forum would also participate especially the founders. Next India ought to be guided by our collective learnings…in this context I mean the India of future that shall be shaped by mindsets that need to be influenced today. Your expressed reaction on how to teach our kids is exactly the objective of what I wrote.

  3. vinay says:

    The caste system is a good reasoning behind it. Though the climate factor does not seem convincing. See the geographies, this won’t fit everywhere.

    Its about how our children are brought up, what sort of education is given to them and what values are imbibed in them. We need to change the education system totally, and i am not using totally loosely here. people should be compelled to think and not just follow or rote something.

    India has a strong legacy, no doubts, great thinkers. And the great names you mentioned can not support the software phenomenon. Because the kind of software business India does is that of support, the innovation , the “thought” is still missing. Check how many patents in software are filled by Indian as compared to US.

    The spiritual guys you mentioned where leaders who gave a world thought to follow and not followed something. Here i feel India is still not aligned with its strength of thinking. I won’t put the kind of software business we do in that category.Innovation is still missing, we still get amazed by facebook, twitter, windows 7 or Apple logos.

  4. Gautam Sinha says:

    The points made are quite good.

    While the climate and caste system certainly have a role to play, the biggest impediment has been infrastructure (power, roads, tax system, law and order, corruption) and capital required to take-off.

    A Rs 25k PC, can produce world class software and has done so in the past.

    Software industry has much lesser dependency on these infrastructure elements aq compared to a hardware based product.

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