We are lagging behind so far on so many fronts that the only way we can catch-up and excel is by leapfrogging. Our best home-grown example is in telecom where millions of Indians have directly leapfrogged to 3G mobile communication, skipping landlines & 2G altogether.
How can we leapfrog in other fields?
By cultivating a new kind of talent. A talent which is becoming increasingly critical in today’s fast-changing world. A talent which can perform an important missionary role in the no-mans land vacated by our politicians, businessmen, scientists & bureaucrats. A talent which can fill in the gaps and enable leapfrogging.
We need top-notch world-beating regulators. And we sorely lack them.
In the past, the regulatory role was to constrain and limit the exploitative tendencies of unscrupulous businessmen and technocrats. Politicians and bureaucrats acted as quasi-regulators. But now, the role is being redefined world-over. Regulators can become change agents & social enablers. They can be visionaries who look into the future of business & technology and figure out actionable policies which improve lives now. They must ensure safety, but at the same time can also speed-up progress and development. Politicians are too busy politicking. Bureaucrats are too busy pushing files. Scientists are too busy doing science & creating technology. Businessmen are too busy chasing profits. The public are too busy with their lives. Who can bring them all together? An independent regulator can.
Lets consider a few plausible disruptions in the next 10 years. Disruptive innovations which have the potential to dramatically change our lives. Innovations which provide the biggest leapfrogging opportunities for India.
- Energy storage.
- Electric vehicles.
- Self-driving cars
- Solar energy
The above areas, in isolation and in any combination, have the potential to disrupt almost all industries. They show the biggest potential to change what we consume, how we live, how we move, how we work and so on, not in the distant future, but within the next 20 years.
Can we leapfrog in these areas? Yes. We could potentially leapfrog directly into a future where clean energy is available on tap & is dirt cheap, cars are not owned but just used, our cities are less congested and polluted, and so on…
But who is working on these areas? Not the ministers who announce a policy today, are transferred to another department next month and lose their job in the next election. Not the businessmen who are busy making quarterly profits & are willing to invest in R&D only if it promises easy and quick profits. Not the bureaucrats whose loyalties are typically tied to the ruling politicians. Not the scientists who hesitate to step outside their labs and into the real world. Not the planning bodies, intellectuals, policy wonks, think tanks, pen pushers….
We need top-notch world-beating independent regulators with a missionary zeal to leapfrog in different fields.
Regulators who are willing to constantly benchmark themselves with countries like US, Japan, China, Singapore & Norway, which are already powering ahead. Regulators who are paranoid of being left behind and are willing to risk & experiment, even as they ensure safety & protection.
Do the likes of our National Solar Mission, National Electric Mobility Mission Plan etc. make the cut?