Skip to main content

Is "Venky" India's Nobel laureate?

Photo courtesy:

SUDDENLY, everyone is claiming "ownership" of (or affiliation to) the 2009 Chemistry Nobel laureate Venkatraman ("Venky") Ramakrishnan. The press in India. The town where he was born. The state where this town is located. The town in another state where he lived. The university, where he completed his undergraduation. The universities, where he made presentations ... the list goes on ...

Venky, however, left India some four decades ago and received significant education and a culture/environment (for such work) in the US and UK.

There are brilliant Indians like Venky. However, are there institutions/companies in India that can encourage/enable the Venky kind of world-impacting work? If not, is it alright to make claims such as we've seen since the announcement of the Chemistry Nobel prize? And, why were the claims made only after an Award was announced? Why did they not celebrate Venky's great work earlier? As Venky himself asks (reported in The Times of India, October 8, 2009), "None of you called me about my work even two days ago, right?"

Only when celebration of the WORK becomes part of the culture, celebration of a subsequent award becomes a natural and accepted thing to do.


  1. You missed the most hilarious bit...I have seen forwarded emails saying he is the third tamil IYER to win a Nobel prize!!! This is just so ridiculous!

    Venky himself answered some of your other questions. He said that Indians are too obsessed with Nobel and such western prizes. He also said India has good places to do research (and it appears he was not just being polite) but maybe not the kind of high cost high investment fundamental research which India cannot afford and for which there is no culture in India. Indian Scientists are doing good work in areas that impact India significantly (like M S Swaminathan in Agriculture) and we should try to encourage them with more funding and support.

    Even now for a layman like me, it is hard to understand the implications what Venky was researching, so I dont blame the press for not writing a story about it before he won the Nobel prize. Now, he has a chance to explain to the world the significance of his work so that people can understand his achievement. I dont see anything wrong with that.

  2. If the country's CULTURE instead has a focus on celebrating good work, claims to ownership/affiliation will not be perceived as "COMMERCIALLY" motivated.

  3. That the thing about us...We are overwhelmed when any thing remotely related to India gets recognized. Be it VS Naipaul(who said he is not Indiam, Bobby Jindal(no way an Indian) and now Venky. He no more an Indian citizen ...we should celebrate his achievement like other two. Why to be obsessed with something which is not yours and be humiliated by it. Obviously Venky is not so proud about his origin.

  4. Sequence of possible "events":

    1. India: Perhaps did not celebrate or recognize his WORK all these years

    2. Venky: Probably annoyed (to put it mildly) with that attitude

    3. India: Suddenly claims ownership/affiliation when someone ABROAD recognizes and gives an Award

    4: Venky: May have seen the sudden "love" from India as opportunistic or delayed

    5: India: Reacts by judging him as EQ-deficient and challenging him with "You will one day hunger for India" (The Times of India October 20, 2009 article "EQ versus IQ").

    If the above "events" are true, then you know what needs to change: CULTURE!

  5. @Ranjan: I dont think Venky said or did anything that indicated he is not proud about his origin. He, in fact, said Indians and Indian institutes are doing great work. I dont know how you came to your conclusion.

    @Pradeep: It is wrong to conclude Indian Culture is judging him as EQ- deficient just because a POLITICIAN Abhishek Singhvi wrote it...

    I also wont jump to judging Indian culture just because of what we read in the generally loud and sensationalist media. Indian culture has always encouraged education, science and learning and enquiry which is how we have created a large pool of educated talent in India which has built the IT industry for example.

  6. Thanks for your comments. And ... oh, we're not talking about picking up degrees (= education? = learning?) which certainly is part of the culture and is good ... we're talking about being DIFFERENT (challenging the Status quo) and being CELEBRATED for being different (regardless of the outcomes) :-)

  7. The idea of the "Power of NEW" blog and my own personal/career "mission" are to help IMPROVE things ... In other words, it's about making Change happen ... Change in terms of Thinking ... Attitudes ... Behaviors ... Methods ... Processes ... Values ... Unfortunately, I might not applaud the status quo (there are lots of people doing that already). In fact, I might "punish" people who love the Status quo (that should change). And making it all even "worse," my language could be politically incorrect at times (I did not grow up reading Peter Drucker ... I grew up reading Tom Peters!). But, I hope you see some value in all this ... someone, somewhere might CHANGE. Hope you would join me in this "movement"!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Explorer mentality Vs conqueror mentality

A fixation on competitors and on beating them is evidence of what Amazon's Jeff Bezos calls a conqueror mentality. In contrast, people waking up in the morning thinking how to innovate for the customer -- and having intense fun innovating -- is evidence of an explorer mentality.

The explorer mentality resulted in Amazon allowing negative reviews of its products. Reacting to this, a book publisher objected, saying "You make money when you sell things." But Bezos thought, "We don't make money when we sell things; we make money when we help customers make purchase decisions." So explorer mentality also demands a willingness to be misunderstood for long periods of time.

During his 16 years as CEO, Bezos' Amazon has delivered shareholder returns of 12,266% (industry-adjusted), and the company's value has grown by $111 billion. More in HBR Jan-Feb 2013.

M&A perspective: IT staffing Vs IT consulting

This report is a simple analysis by HT Capital -- a boutique investment banking firm in New York. It basically makes the point that being a staffing company (Vs consulting company) does not provide adequate returns to most investors, especially from an M&A perspective.

Peter Rozsa, co-author of the report, is a Senior Managing Director at HT Capital. He was also my "classmate" at a Columbia Business School executive education program. I have Peter's permission to make the report available here.

Click to download PDF report.

Leading Change Vs. "Leading" Status Quo

Change and Status quo can be as far apart from each other as a butterfly is from a caterpillar ...

Or ... as an is from a K-Mart ... Or ... as a BMW is from a Hyundai ... Or ... as laying a runway is from paving a cow path ... Or ... as a solution is from a product ... Or ... as experience is from service ... Or ... as customer success is from customer satisfaction ... Or ... as a distinct brand-you is from a me-too employee ...

Change can be triggered by innovation. Change can happen in corporate culture. And so on. There is a leader "behind" every Change. If you consider the corporate world, people like Lou Gerstner, Michael Dell, and Jack Welch may come to mind. Actually, there are scores of other lesser-known and unknown leaders that make change happen in their organizations.

Here's my question: What are some differences between those who lead change and those who "lead" the Status quo? Oh yes, we know about the staggering percentage of Change i…