Pune, June 1983: My father’s excited voice boomed throughout the house. He had just received a call from a relative in Mumbai informing him that I had cleared the Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination (IIT JEE) on my first attempt. My father was both excited and relieved at the same time. Mere weeks before, he was late in dropping me at the IIT JEE exam center. I arrived fifteen minutes after the exams had begun and could have easily been disqualified for arriving late. In a tough national competition where a few marks can determine whether you make it into the IITs or not, fifteen minutes meant a lot. The delay had been gnawing at him until he heard the good news. For a middle-class family like ours, it seemed to me like I had won the lottery.
Ever since joining IIT Kharagpur, I have been an active volunteer. I was voted the Best Secretary in Radhakrishna (RK) Hall, my dorm for four years at Kharagpur. In my final year I was also elected President of RK Hall. As part of my journey, I worked in Eicher Goodearth (India) and then got my MBA at Indiana University (IU). At IU, in the first year I was the Treasurer of the Indian Students Association and in the second year I was its Vice President and initiated a first of its kind “Discover India” program. Thereafter, I was an executive in several Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley-based corporations such as Applied Materials, FMC Corporation and Lam Research, and co-founder and CEO of two start-ups. Throughout this time, I was volunteering for the IIT alumni network. I became the President of the IIT Foundation and was part of the founding team of the Pan IIT alumni movement in the USA. In 2006, I quit my job as Senior Director, Corporate Strategic Planning at Lam Research to pursue my passion for higher education. I spent around six years as an administrator at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. For personal reasons, I resigned from my role at UC San Diego and returned to Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley, June 2014: I decided to write a book about India: the future of the nation, its 1.3 billion people, and its higher education system. Except for my volunteering, nothing in my past would have warned my family or friends (or even me!) about this adventure.
Why did I write this book?
I wrote it for one reason — my love for India, which goes back to my childhood years. My father was an officer in the Indian Army. Thus, I grew up around the country and mostly lived in army cantonments. There was a visible and perpetual display of love for country. Since childhood, I was imbibed with a sense of patriotism. As a student in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools, we used to periodically sing songs about bringing back the glory of India’s Golden Age and Takshashila and Nalanda. At IIT Kharagpur we were reminded daily of our duty to the nation. Thus, my love for India, consciously and sub-consciously, is part of my DNA. It is who I am.
Growing up, it was also evident to me that we were part of a middle-class family and we had to stand on our own feet. Getting a good education was the only means to get anywhere in life. Looking back, I can say with certainty that I am who I am because of my education, especially higher education.
As I look at India’s higher education system, I am deeply concerned about the challenges and excited by the opportunities to make an impact. In the next 35-50 years, India must educate and prepare 700 million to 1.3 billion young men and women for their lives and careers. The challenges and opportunities are immense. India’s higher education system is already struggling. In fact, by all accounts and all key metrics it is in crisis. We need fresh thinking, comprehensive reforms, and a sense of urgency to transform the system. There is a lot written about India, but hardly anything about its higher education system and how deeply it affects our individual and collective future.
This topic was so important to me that I spent over 16 months working full-time writing this book, no strings attached. I fervently hope that this book sparks conversations and actions to create positive change in India’s higher education system as soon as possible.
I have written this book for the educated youth, the professionals, and those who deeply care about India in India and around the world. I sincerely hope that you will read this book and understand the challenges and opportunities facing us. I believe that the first step toward solving a problem is to acknowledge it. I also write with hope. India was once called a “Golden Bird.” While history can be quite contentious, I hope we can agree that building a Golden India is not just a dream but a vision we can rally around and collectively bring to reality.
I am really excited what some leaders and readers are saying about my book. The book has received rave reviews from industry titans, entrepreneurs, president-emeritus, University of California, faculty members at MIT, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, young professionals and students.
(note: This article includes excerpt from Building Golden India. The author and publisher of Building Golden India have granted Indiaspora the rights to publish the copyrighted materials.)