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MIT-India launches a new dialogue

Image: Caroline Fickett Knox

On Feb. 18, MIT-India will launch its iNDIA 2.0 event series with a discussion on India’s new government with S.P. Kothari, faculty director of MIT-India, deputy dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Gordon Y. Billard Professor of Accounting and Finance.

In celebration of MIT-India’s 15-year anniversary, Kothari has given a series of talks and written various articles on the subject of India’s future. Sanjay Sarma, dean of digital learning, invited Kothari to speak and suggested an MIT-India series focusing on the future of India. “A forum such as iNDIA 2.0 is intended to stimulate interest and potentially come up with solutions to challenges facing a nation that’s important in the world and important to MIT,” Kothari explains. The event, “What Should India do to Accelerate Economic Growth?” will be moderated by Sarma and hosted in the Tang Center at 5:30 p.m. in Room E51-335.

MIT has a longstanding interest in India. In the 1950s and '60s, the Institute was instrumental in the founding of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, and the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Over the last several decades, the flow of students and faculty from India has grown, and today MIT boasts a large population of faculty, students, and alumni of Indian origin. “The India-MIT bond serves as a natural reason for a dialogue aimed at generating ideas that might make a difference in India and in the world, which is MIT’s mission,” Kothari says. The rapid development in India of high-technology service industries, including information technology, pharmaceutical industries, and the manufacturing sector, have contributed to a transition from curiosity about the country to a view of India as a potential destination for internships, outsourcing, and employment.

Elections are often a time of change, and the establishment of a new government in India as a result of the May 2014 elections has created an opportunity to consider new directions for the nation. While independent India has historically been defined by democracy, social and economic institutions have embraced other principles, including some uniquely Indian ones. Economic forces, the rapid flow of information, and growing trade and labor mobility all have the potential to transform institutions in India and bring about further development. Whether and how this transformation can occur, and whether and how India integrates itself into the global society, are topics worthy of debate within the forum of iNDIA 2.0. “The individual is emerging on a grand scale in India — personally connected through her smartphone, able to confront societal issues such as corruption and crime, and willing to confront and vote in or out politicians on intellectual issues. India 2.0 is here, and we might as well accept and plan for it,” emphasizes Sarma.

As part of the iNDIA 2.0 dialogue, MIT-India will host a series of talks featuring MIT faculty, MIT alumni, and distinguished professionals from across various sectors, industries, and fields. The forum will include thought leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, and social-change makers from India and around the globe. As iNDIA 2.0 evolves, the goal is to engage Indians and Americans on the topics addressed by the series. “I am a big believer that conversations, once started, can take on a life of their own,” says Sarma, who co-chairs the iNDIA 2.0 committee. “MIT is in a unique position to initiate the memes.”

The committee to lead the forum includes the following members: Tuli Banerjee, senior director of Global Initiatives and lecturer in Global Studies and Languages; Anantha Chandrakasan, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering; Mala Ghosh, MIT-India program manager; Simon Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan; and Bish Sanyal, the Ford International Professor of Urban Development and Planning and director of the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies/Humphrey Fellows Program. Kothari and Sarma serve as co-chairs.

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