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E=mc2 - Speech delivered at the Anna University Convocation 14/12/2007 Mr. R. Seshasayee, CEO, Ashok Leyland



I am privileged to be here at this convocation function and I have great pleasure in offering my felicitations to the graduating students and my congratulations to all the parents and teachers, who have gathered here to share this moment of joy and pride.

I graduated forty years ago, in 1967, but I truly wish that I had graduated in 2007. By global consensus, the coming decade will belong to India and it is truly going to be exciting times for all of you. Exciting, because you are going to be creating this resurgent, new India. No, this is not a cliché. For once, this is true.

India will be amongst the youngest nations, with an average age less than 30, amidst an ageing world. And, it is this youthful spirit, the ‘can do’ attitude that will seek and capture the high grounds of global economy.

You represent this spirit. India has the potential to become the ‘knowledge capital’ in a world that is rapidly getting wired and opening unlimited access to an infinite storehouse of information, knowledge and intelligence.

You hold the access key to this intelligent world.

India’s genetic code has entrepreneurship embedded in it. Indians are born entrepreneurs. It is this spirit of enterprise, which will establish new businesses, provide new jobs and create more wealth.

You have, in you, this genetic code of entrepreneurship.

With a positive attitude, competitiveness anchored on entrepreneurship and knowledge, you have the tools to architect a vibrant India. If you have the will, you have the wherewithal to create a nation of excellence.

Let me present to you a new formula, E=mc2 -- new because there is nothing relative about it. It is the absolute formula, where ‘E’ stands for Excellence. And that is possible with ‘mc2’, where ‘m’ stands for mental attitude and ‘c’ stands for competitiveness, with a power of two: power of knowledge and power of enterprise.

First, excellence. It was Swami Vivekananda, who said excellence cannot come through effort. Excellence has to happen through passion. Sachin Tendulkar plays his inimitable innings, not because he is paid for it, but because he has undying passion for cricket. A R Rehman creates mesmerizing music, not because he has a deadline to catch, because he has undiluted passion for music. Excellent food comes from someone who loves cooking.

You have to believe passionately in yourself. You have to passionately believe in India. Only then, you, and through you, the country, can excel.

India is not the corrupt politicians, not the chaotic democracy, not the filthy streets, not the derelict system that we constantly complain about, as though we are not part of it. As Shah Rukh Khan reminds you in the television ad, you are never caught in a traffic jam. You are the traffic jam. We are a part of the problem. But we must also passionately believe that we are part of the solution.

A nation excels, because individuals excel. India excels in Chess, because one individual, Vishwanathan Anand, passionately loved chess and went on to inspire hundred others to excel.

Second, Excellence, that is ‘E’ in the equation, comes through mc2, where ‘m’ stands for mental attitude.

I often hear young people talk of having an ‘attitude’. I don’t know what exactly that means, but I love it. When our Prime Minister talks of putting a man on the moon, I sense that attitude.

When Tata Steel, which is a 6.9 billion dollar company, acquired Corus, an 18 billion dollar company in the UK, I see that attitude.

When Sreesanth, coming at the tail end in the Johannesburg match against South Africa, lifted a huge six off the ball from menacing Andrew Neil, and did a jig, holding his bat like a bandleader’s baton, I feel that attitude.

If you want to excel, you need that mental attitude, that ‘m’ in the equation that dismisses fears born out of self doubt; that breaks away from the shackles of self defeat, that stares into the eyes of the big bully and dares.

Third, let me come to the C2 in the equation. That’s ‘C’ for competitiveness, to the power of two. Competitiveness born out of the power of knowledge and the power of enterprise.

You excel only when you compete. You have the power to compete, because you hold the most competitive tool for the coming decade; that’s the power of knowledge.

The world has simply inexorably moved into a ‘knowledge economy’ because of the electronic chip and the internet. Robert Atkinson, in his book ‘The Future of American economy’, argues that the most successful nation in the world will be the one that can most productively leverage information and knowledge. And knowledge has become incredibly cheap and eminently accessible. You may not be able to afford a Mercedes Benz car or a holiday in Hawaii yet, but you can afford the best of knowledge in the world.

Sample this: In 1978 the price of Intel’s 8086 processor was about 1.2 cents per transistor and $480 per MIPS. By 2003, Itanium 2 processor cost 0.000002 cents per transistor and $2 per MIPS and prices continue to fall. Moore’s Law says that capacity per $ is doubling every 1.6 years.

In 1995, there were 45 million Internet users. Today there are 1.2 billion users.

In 1970, sending the Encyclopaedia Britannica from coast to coast in US was estimated to cost $187. Today the entire library of congress could move across US for just $40.

The world of knowledge opens to you at the click of a button. As Indian engineering graduates, you have an excellent competitive tool, but that’s not enough.

We need to leverage this knowledge to innovate and create new products and new services.

Creative knowledge has indeed become the fourth factor of production, besides land, labour and capital. What is more, it has been proved that the returns on creative capital are higher than those on physical or financial capital.

My exhortation to you is: Please acquire intensive knowledge on whatever subject that you feel passionate about. But let that knowledge not sit idle in your mind. Use that knowledge creatively to configure new products and new services.

In the next decade, India needs to dramatically increase its share of patents and intellectual property and thereby truly emerge as the knowledge capital of the world.

The second power on competitiveness, ‘C2’ is the power of enterprise. Enterprise creates jobs, creates wealth.

India was always a nation of entrepreneurs and businessmen, not just local, but global.

Three hundred years ago, India dominated global trade, with more than one third share. In the interim years, we lost our genes and became a nation of clerks, accountants and administrators, of course, with some notable exceptions.

We are rediscovering this spirit of enterprise. When every comparison with China puts India at a disadvantage, I was thrilled to come across a recent survey on global entrepreneurship, which said that India had 107 million entrepreneurs compared to 96 million in China. 18% of Indians in the 18 – 64 age groups in India are self employed.

With the liberalization of the economy, you can sense the power of what the Prime Minister refers to as ‘unleashing the animal spirit of the entrepreneur’. Indeed, the recent phenomenal growth in the Indian economy has been fuelled by Private Enterprise – in fact 60% of it. And, we have just begun our journey. We still account only for 2% of the worldwide IT business and only 5% of the textile business.

Yet, we are already becoming leaders in cellular phone, giving the lowest cost per unit of airtime, anywhere in the world. We are emerging as leaders in the most unexpected areas, like wind energy. I am absolutely optimistic that the explosion of entrepreneurship that we are witnessing in this country, will take India to the high table of Global economy.

Let me express my sincere view that even if 10% of you believe in the new age equation of E=mc2, strive with passion to excel in your chosen area of interest, build your own competitiveness through the power of creative knowledge and enterprise; and approach your life with positive attitude, you would create a million jobs.

May I conclude by quoting Margaret Mead, who said, "Never doubt if an individual can change the system; indeed it is the only way it has been done."

Thank you.

From India, Madras
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