August 1, 2017

Speaking at Indian School of Management & Entrepreneurship, in Mumbai

Thank you very much ma’m for all your kind words. It’s always a pleasure meeting you, but today has been, I think pleasure multiplied many times over. Ms Kapoor, Dean, Mr Shahani, all the faculty members and my young friends, students.

When Induji used to talk about it, and actually, Rana also talked about it, I could not imagine what they are trying to explain. And, I do agree now that unless you see it you won’t really be able to figure out when you talk of all the good things that you have been doing. Seeing is believing, very clearly. And, it’s been a very-very exciting journey through the ISME and the School of Design and Innovation, and truly, what you have created here is what this country needs, something very new, something which is very relevant to today’s times, something which connects the youth of today with the emerging world.

And, in that sense, as this government came-in in 2014, that has been the principal focus of our work – how can we make India more contemporary with the rest of the world. We have all gone through education. I remember what we studied in Commerce college or in law, or chartered accountancy. While it’s been great and very useful in my work, 30 years in the private sector, now 3 years in government.

But, clearly, the world has changed. The world has evolved into something very new, something very different. And, in this new age, unless India keeps pace with what’s happening worldwide, we will get left behind. We will get left behind very badly. And, therefore, as this government came in, we had two choices before us. One was a choice of quick fix solutions, which would have looked very good, which would have looked very-very exciting, which would have probably given us a lot of brownie points and lot of temporary happiness to the people of India. Or we had the choice of designing an innovative future for the country.

I will take an analogy from, let’s say, your own premises. This is a beautiful building. It’s an iconic building. I think it defined Lower Parel area and gave it an identity. Now you are, of course, adding to that identity with an innovation district or design district. But, just look back, today it’s a beautiful building. But, just look back in time before this was constructed. They must have had to dig really deep to make the foundation of this building, because it’s a 10-12 storey building, maybe more, I don’t know. 20-storey building, probably?

Now, a 20-storey building could not have had a small foundation, it must have been a very deep foundation. And, before they could make the foundation, they must have really dug into the ground and taken out a lot of muck, a lot of dirt. They must have had to dispose of that muck, so that it’s not… I don’t think there is any muck lying around here, right? So, somebody has disposed of that muck. Then they designed a very robust foundation and that foundation had to be such that it could take a tall building, it could be earthquake-resistant, it would not be porous so that water or anything else cannot seep into it. It has to be long-lasting, it has to be safe and secure for all of us to be standing here.

And, during this whole process – the designing of the foundation, the making of the foundation, it must have been a very messy affair all across. As the building came up, it must have been even messier, cement and steel and you walk carefully, you wear a helmet and what not. You duck if you see something suddenly popping out of a crevice in the wall or something. And then the building started getting complete, the finishing work and this is what you have here today.

The promoters of this project chose to make a beautiful feature for your school, but before that they put in years and years of effort to make this happen. Indu Shahani is what she is today, not out of the blue suddenly, she’s put in 30 years of pain and interacting with how many thousands of Piyush Goyals who must have really troubled her a lot. And, today she is giving back to your school. But, when she made this whole school, she went through the same pain – the designing of the various classrooms, the curriculum, the course, how she is going to select students, how she is going to make this school a success.

And, that’s the path that this government has taken. What we have tried to do is do a root cause analysis, see what this country needs most and work the country’s future through a very systematic long-term programme, which will impact India’s lives not in the short run, but in the long run, in a very big way, in a very significant way. And design, innovation, entrepreneurship, all of this truly defines in some sense what we also are planning or hoping for the future of India.

After all, in each of the things, you spoke about coal production, for example. We have moved from coal shortages to coal surplus barely in year and a half or two years. It’s not as if the country didn’t have coal, it’s not as if we have replaced all the workers in the coal mines or the management of the coal mines. Everything is exactly what it was. And, some people used to ask me even before I became a Minister on all the Arnab Goswami shows that why does government fail or why do companies fail, why the public sector undertakings are not doing well?

And I remember, in those old days I used to say, the problem before the country is only vision and leadership. And that’s the only thing that has changed after the new government came in. There’s a vision, a target, a goal before the nation, and there’s decisive bold leadership steering that change. And, within the year and a half or two if the country could move from shortage of coal to surplus coal, shortage of power to surplus power, renewable energy has taken a huge leg-up. If you look at any statistic, by the way, all the statistics were wrong Indu, pretty outdated statistics. So, you need to have a little more research effort going into the… but, nothing bad, they were all understated. So, it’s okay, if something was overstated I would have had to be worried.

But, today, it’s not 3.6% deficit. I have power coming out of my ears, so I love to see all the air conditioners working full-fledged because electricity is getting consumed, otherwise, we don’t have enough market for the electricity India produces today and Yes Bank may have an NPA or two because of that.

But, it’s just the mindset. The limitations in our country were only in our mind, it’s not in our ability. It’s not as if we could not have done this earlier. It’s all of us in this room who have to determine and decide our future. Each one of you has a Bill Gates sitting within you or a Sorel sitting within you or Warren Buffett sitting within you. It’s in your desire to make a difference that will wrest your success that will define your future. And, clearly, the future is best done when you do it very systematically, as I said, you have to remove the cobwebs out of your mind, you have to open your mind to fresh air, design your own future, plan your own future what you are best cut out to be.

I mean, we have all seen 3 Idiots, right? We can’t literally put a round peg into a square hole, which is what 3 Idiots was all about. I mean, each one of us will have to define and determine what our future is, where we are best suited. And that’s the best beauty of this institute that we are standing here today. It allows you to design your own future, to innovate in your career, prepares you for entrepreneurship, prepares you to become managers of your destiny.

And, in that sense, the need of the hour as the country evolves, will be to redesign educational curriculums; will be to look at how we need to prepare the nation. Should we all necessarily have to go through a graduation and then become an unemployed graduate. With all the new artificial intelligence coming in, with all the new technologies overtaking us, faster than we can probably even imagine, I think the days of structured jobs in government or structured jobs in manufacturing, large conglomerates is changing. Particularly, with 3D manufacturing, I can’t for the life of me imagine whether we will have those large producing plants anymore in the world.

It won’t make sense, you will probably bring in a machine and the machine comes to your home – I mean, I am just letting my imagination run wild – but I can imagine one day a machine will  come home and ask me what kind of a car do you want to have. And I may say, look, I want a stretched limousine with this peg, this colour and what not have you, or maybe like the young man showed me on his simulation or the 3D projection on his, what’s that called? The virtual reality! And, through that I will be able to decide and design the car and 3D instruments or manufacturing will help create that car right there before my very eyes. And then in the middle of it, I can do an interior decoration – no but this colour is not matching with the sofas, the curtain is not matching with the sofas, so you changed it. Only this time around it may, probably, be done much faster than it used to be done earlier.

So, things are changing. Things are evolving faster than we can catch up, and with a billion plus people, with about 400-500 students at age groups which would be near about similar to the students in this institute. The country will have to really look for fresh ideas, new ideas, and in that sense, a model like ISDI or ISME has huge potential to multiply, to grow, to expand. And, to my mind, it will prepare you for a truly better future. Because, gone are the days where structured education could prepare everybody to face the challenges of life.

I think the day and age that we are living in today, frankly, probably beyond 8th standard, I don’t see any reason to have a very structured curriculum. You are taking students from 12th which is great by itself, but as I let my mind wander into the future, I think at the age of 12 or 13, once you cross the 8th standard, people are starting to think what they want to do,  where they want to be, what kind of a career they want to pursue. Some of the initiatives you showed me about bringing children from less privileged sections of society into your institute, grooming them, preparing them for a better future, helping them understand the virtue of education not to drop out of school. Some of the designs of your academic curricula that I saw today in terms of the board room where students interact, even in the midst of a board meeting or the ….. room where we saw different subjects could possibly be taught or different programmes could be taught and then integrated into one. All of these are truly innovative. I mean, I am myself thinking what I should be doing to try and re-educate myself, probably come back to school sometime.

You could actually create a programme for politicians. And, each one of us needs to re-engineer our skills. We need a continuous learning process. I have been going to management programmes before I became a Minister between 2011 and 2014, continuously, every summer I was at a different school, short programmes. It just rejuvenates you. It prepares you once again for the challenges of life. And, in that sense, frankly, I believe you are all privileged to be here, far better than going to a school or college with just education by route or preparing to get a rank as I must have done once upon a time.

Of course, I was working along with my education, so less time to prepare really. But, practical education, the way as I could see it here prepares you for life far better than any academic curriculum in the college or school. And I am a beneficiary of that personally. I started working when I was in about 11th standard, just towards the …. of my 11th standard when I was in Jai Hind, a sister college of HR. And I was planning to do engineering, by the way, same 3 Idiots story. Family full of engineers, you get good marks in 10th standard, so you take admission in Jai Hind, because it’s the best college in science, start preparing, go to Aggarwal Classes, if any of you remembers. So, I was a student at Aggarwal Classes, professor……, I don’t know where he is teaching maths. And, the typical routine, you all get into that run.

And, somewhere in January 1980, I remember my brother was then studying at MIT, and also an engineer, same route – IIT Kanpur, top there, go to MIT, the same standard story that we find in our lives, in our families. And, we discussed and we said we will do entrepreneurship; we will set up our own business. So, he said get out of engineering and get into commerce. And that’s how I actually switched in 12th Standard and went to HR from Jai Hind, from science to commerce and started working simultaneously to start a very small scale business, very-very small scale. And that learning, that practical, hands-on learning has held me in good stead right until today.

So, when we designed the GST framework, I know jolly well where are the loopholes where people are going to come and ask for bribes or what do we need to do to make sure that things get system-driven, or how transparency can help save people from being pressurised or harassed or terrorized also. So, practical experience, which all of you are benefiting from right in this institute, is going to really hold you in very-very good stead, it’s going to help you do well  in life.

I hope to see each one of you as entrepreneurs, maybe go and take a loan from a bank for the first time, learn how to prepare a bank loan application as I did sitting outside Union Bank of India on the stools there, taking the bank managers help what the hell does this mean, what do I have to do, how do I tally these numbers. And, it’s great to learn on the job and which is the opportunity, I think, in a large measure you are getting in this institute. So, you are privileged in that sense.

And, I am sure each one of you will make outstanding citizens of our country, each one of you will do us proud, just like the young girl Niroora, who designed the t-shirt which I had had the privilege of wearing on 21st June, only last month, barely a month ago in Vizag, Vishakhapatnam where I had gone for the International Yoga Day.  And I didn’t even know it comes out of the institute I am going to visit barely 40 days after that.

So, truly a privilege for me to be amongst all of you, lovely to meet all of you. I was told that you would like to ask me a few questions, grill me a little bit, à la what? Arnab Goswami or Rajdeep Sardesai? But, with Rajdeep style you won’t get me to acknowledge that Modi is bad, despite his best efforts he’s not been able to do that.

But, truly, it’s a great moment in history that India is experiencing. We are going through difficult times in the world economy. India is that shining star which is outperforming the world economy. We saw the lovely simulated stock exchange …………. and if at all that’s any barometer, it’s at an all time high. I wish I had invested in Yes Bank shares few years ago, probably, I could retire for the rest of my life. But I am happy doing what I am.

Actually, at some stage, money loses purpose in life. And, I am glad that you are taking your students into the villages, because until you get into the villages, until you see their life. Believe me, nobody likes to live in a slum, nobody is happy to be deprived of electricity, nobody is happy that his school doesn’t have good teachers or quality education, nobody is happy carrying his mother or his wife on his shoulder and walking 12 kilometres before he can get healthcare. Some of you may remember reading about what happened in Odisha barely a couple of months ago. Nobody is happy with all that. It’s circumstances that have maybe helped all of us board the train and some are left behind.

And, I am glad that this school is also preparing your for those challenges, because, ultimately, those challenges are our challenges. As the new honourable President said, if any of you heard his acceptance speech, last week or earlier this week that bringing about change or improving the lives of the people of India or making India a superpower, meeting the aspirations of a billion people cannot be the job merely of the government. We will all have to participate. It will have to be a people’s movement, every section of society, teachers, administrators, students, our parents, our friends; everybody will have to collaborate in this effort.

It’s like the beads in a necklace, one bead goes out, the necklace gets out of sync, or one crack in a wheel and the whole wheel is finished. And we are cogs in that wheel, we are all a part of that necklace. All these various, I saw the Make in India programme, you are working with the Skill India initiative, our Power For All effort to make sure that every child gets electricity, every home in the country gets electricity at affordable prices, our efforts to clean the environment, have a green India, the Swacch Bharat movement to make India clean – all of these may sound small, but each one has a deep meaning and without each one of these this necklace cannot be complete. And I am glad that in that beautiful necklace, the ISDI and ISME is also a bead which is helping to make that necklace complete.

Thank you.


Thank you so much sir, it really reinforces our faith into the new education that we have started, we have got a few questions. I think Sahiba, you have got a question.

Q:Sir, as a curious business student, I wanted to know what caused the shift from chartered accountancy and business to politics in your career?
A:Well, actually, I didn’t shift. I have been very much interested in public life right from childhood. Of course, I had the privilege of a environment in my family where there was a lot of politics, and my father and mother, both were very active in public life. My mother as a social worker mostly, and my father while he was working in a company would usually spend all his spare hours working for a political establishment. So, I had a lot of exposure in childhood. And, as I grew up, I realized that politics can impact lives or make a difference to society like no other field can. So, I can work for an NGO, I can do any amount of work in any other organisation and each one is important doing that work in each organisation. I am not at all taking away the credit from what work each one is doing. But, I realized that politics is that platform where with a stroke of a pen I can impact millions of lives.

So, that’s why I was always very keen on politics. At the same time, politics does not pay you in India. I mean, at the salary that I get as a Minister, I wouldn’t be able to live one day with the kind of lifestyle that I am used to since last 30 years. So, I believe genuinely that each one of us, and I wish each one of you becomes a politician, but I wish each one of you first makes enough legitimate money, works your way through your first few years, builds up a capital, so that then you can serve the nation through politics. Then that medium, if you have enough money to take care of your requirements, your family requirements, your children’s education, your home and car and all of that, then there can be no better medium than politics to impact lives.

For me, it’s like a mission today that unless every home gets electrified, gets electricity in their home at affordable prices, I actually sometimes get sleepless nights even trying to design the framework how I am going to make sure every home gets it. Literally, day and night that’s the one pursuit that has become my mission.



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