If India is to shine now and in the future, people must have the freedom to decide and while governments can be in the business of monitoring, they should have no role in telling people what to do, said Mr. Ratan Naval Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons. “If India should shine let the people have the freedom to decide” Mr. Tata said in an interactive session with SRM University students here today.
“ As you go through life, many things you could not find in college, you will find it in your profession down the line” Tata told students stressing that there are many qualities that are sought after in young leaders but the bottom line must be one of making a difference. “Be honest in what you think & do and this goes for any profession”, the industrial and business magnate remarked.
Prior to the interactive session with students drawn from all Faculties of SRM University—Engineering and Technology, Science and Humanities, Medical and Dental Sciences, Health Sciences, Management and Law—Mr. Tata had meeting with the Founder Chancellor of SRM University, Dr. Paari Vendhar” where they discussed the challenges and opportunities of higher education in India.
Referring to the fact that so many young minds of India choose overseas destinations for higher studies, Mr. Tata observed that this would not be the case if educational institutions offered proper facilities and faculties. “Our country has the ability. We have to teach & inspire the students and have the right environment. We have the capabilities of becoming a major economic and educational power” he added.
During his session with the Founder Chancellor and later in private sessions, Mr. Tata had detailed discussions with the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Prabir Bagchi on a range of topics in education & research and development issues that included the importance of faculty sabbatical in industrial organizations, the constant interaction of the industry in formulation of the syllabus and curriculum, student internships in the industry and business, ways to attract and retain bright minds to teaching and research.
Lavishing praise on the state of the art facilities at SRM University and endorsing the institution’s plans for the future, Mr. Tata told young minds that along with team work, timing, plan and innovation, there has to be intuition for any program to succeed; but at the same time not every plan or venture is going to succeed. “Take everything as a learning exercise”, Mr. Tata advised the student community.
In an answer to a question on disabilities and providing basic facilities for people with physical disadvantages, Mr. Tata lamented that India still did not have a basic health care network and there is still a social stigma on disability. Mr. Tata argued that both the public and the private sectors need to go the distance in addressing the needs of the under privileged and specially challenged people.
“ Less attention has been given to mobility of physically-challenged people by vehicle manufacturers in India. We don’t even have a ramp in many pavements to address the needs of people on wheel-chairs”, the industrial pioneer said in appreciating the query posed by the student. “ A basic health care network is something we have to achieve for the future”, he added.
Asked about his parameters to support start-ups, Mr. Tata argued that while he is interested in the ideas of the young minds on projects, his support to any will also depend on not only viability but also in an assessment of “greed” of the entrepreneur. “I like investing in young companies, but money-alone and greed is not what I am for”, Mr. Tata said.
Mr. Tata engaged the students in a variety of questions including some light hearted queries of the inquisitive minds present on the occasion. On more than one instance the icon of the Indian industry was asked about start-ups and his support thus far to some of the India-oriented enterprises. “The ultimate satisfaction is not just philanthropy but also investing in young companies” Mr. Tata replied to a question going on to make the point that while he was indeed interested in the models and formulations presented, he was also looking for more. “There cannot be greed” he maintained.
“What does it take to be your lawyer” asked a young student from the School of Law “First of all, I hope I do not get into trouble that would require me to have a legal aide”, Mr. Tata said to laughter in the room. On a more serious note he added, “The requirements of a lawyer is not very different from that of other professions. You have to be sincere and honest”.
“ What is the best way of getting touch with you?” asked another student. “Of course by e-mail, if you can get that”, Mr. Tata replied to smiles and laughter with students knowing full well that he was not going to share his account all that easily.
“ Did you at any time feel that money could not help you?”asked another student. “ I don’t have much money and I certainly do not have any power” came a quick reply setting off laughter in the conference room again. On a more serious note Mr. Tata spoke of his time when he returned from the United States after studies and was placed on the Tata shop floor where he was one of the workers. “Initially I did not like this, but came to accept. Later on as I moved up in Tata Sons I could relate better with the workers and vice versa”, he said.
Accompanied by the Vice Chancellor Mr. Tata, at the end of the interactive session with students, went on a tour of SRM University. At one point he got out of his car and spent some time with students who wanted to show off their latest innovation in an unmanned aerial vehicle or a drone in modern parlance. Quite impressed with what he was seeing Mr. Tata watched the system take off and land.