Not getting into the controversy about whether India had invented flying planes in ancient times, way before Wright brothers thought of the idea, it is worth acknowledging that they were the first to bring the invention of man-made flight to the market. Innovation is invention brought to market with a business model that is sustainable, technologically feasible, replicable and desired by the customers. Clearly, ancient Indians didn't succeed in doing so.
But that shouldn't limit modern India to only attracting western innovations under the campaign “Make in India” for the sole purpose of manufacturing in India. It is true that India needs to create more jobs to provide livelihood to millions without work and manufacturing could bring those jobs to India.
But as governor of Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan rightly pointed it out, why are we limited in our vision to simply imitating China? Shouldn’t we instead reincarnate ancient inventive India into modern times by being truly innovative? We should not overlook that China is struggling to create innovations that can truly add value to its now sluggish economy.
So far the story of modern India has been that of a back office-processing hub of the world. We do what we are told to do. Very few if any of our software companies have managed to create anything substantial above and beyond efficient operationalization of now-almost-commoditized BPO services.
It is time to not just focus on “Make in India” but “Make India Innovative” for our long-term economic vitality. We need to stop thinking that only born-geniuses can be creative and learn to use both sides of our brains. Creativity combined with rational, logical, and critical thinking is the need of today. Our educational institutes should teach our students how to be creative within the constraints of entrepreneurship. Our corporations should put processes and structure in place to enable innovation and creativity and still achieve business goals. We need to go beyond doing what we have been told to do, and Make in India that has also been Invented and Innovated in India.