India has been known as the land of cultural diversity for centuries. So when Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of the tech giant Apple, recently expressed during a global business summit held in New Delhi that Indians aren’t creative enough, it set off a furore on social media.
“The culture here is one of success based upon academic excellence, studying, learning, practising and having a good job and a great life. For upper India, not the lower. I see two India(s). That’s a lot like Singapore — study, work hard and you get an MBA. You will have a Mercedes, but where is the creativity? The creativity gets left out when your behaviour gets too predictable and structured, everyone is similar. Look at a small country like New Zealand — the writers, singers, athletes; it’s a whole different world,” Steve said.
While many would agree that our education system needs a bit of modification to suit the current world scenario, there is no doubt that India has been a creatively rich nation — culturally and scientifically — for centuries. Pointing out the same, well-known author Amish Tripathi says, “I think it’s a very silly statement to make. Perhaps he thinks that creativity is only making a product company a la the Silicon Valley companies.”
He adds, “We may not have been able to make companies like Facebook, Apple or YouTube, but Indian scientists have created spacecrafts such as Mangalyaan and Chandrayaan-1, at the cheapest cost possible which could not be achieved by many other nations.”
Besides technology, Amish adds that Indians have also achieved a great deal in literature, art, music and various other fields. “Steve’s statement only shows the extent of his knowledge about our society, history and culture,” he says.
In his talk, Steve also pointed out that Indians may not be able to make a company of the standard of Google, Facebook or Apple. “I am not an anthropologist and I don’t know the culture of India well enough. But I don’t see those big advances in tech companies. What is the biggest tech company here, Infosys maybe? I just don’t see that sort of thing coming out of Infosys and I have done keynotes for them three times,” Steve said.
While many Indians are risk-averse when it comes to their profession and like to follow the ‘tried and tested’ path, there are many who are also venturing into unconventional professions. “Whenever I am in an engineering college, I see students working on something creative. Then there’s Bangalore-based Team Indus, which is India’s first private aerospace startup. With the kind of limited raw material, support and finances, what everyone is doing is pretty amazing,” says Sorabh Pant, one of India’s most popular comedians. He also stresses that as the Indian economy is still developing, job-obsession is but obvious.
Resonating Sorabh’s thoughts, city-based artist Anjaneyulu Gundu adds that two nations cannot be compared on the basis of creativity. “Creativity is very subjective and can mean different things to different people. Hence, to make a general statement like this is not right,” he says, adding, “Most Indians belong to the middle-class backgrounds and have a hand-to-mouth existence. Hence, we look for a secure job so our families are fed, clothed and sheltered. I don’t think there is anything wrong in that.”
Ramesh Loganathan, Professor, Co-innovation and Head, Research Outreach at IIIT-Hyderabad, and interim Chief Innovation Officer of the State Innovation Cell opines that slowly, but steadily, things are changing even in the education sector.
“Almost every college and university has various theatre, drama, music, writing and other cultural societies to engage students who are interested in these things. Although most Indians want a good job, after the Start-up India campaign, there has been a tremendous growth in the number of young entrepreneurs. In fact, places like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune are hubs of innovative technologies,” he explains.