25 Feb

Indian reminders of life’s fundamentals

By Catriona McCarthy – Deputy Director, International Office


“Never stop thinking out of the box”. It’s a well known phrase but over the last few days in India, I’m reminded of why it’s so important. On Monday evening, an audience of some of India’s brightest minds at IIT Bombay witnessed LiFi firsthand – a technology invented by Edinburgh professor Harald Haas and which has the potential to transform how the world shares information, by using light to transfer data. Prof Harald Haas urged his audience to ‘never stop thinking out of the box’; wise words from a man whose pioneering technology could have a transformative global impact, particularly here in India where it has the capacity to help bridge the digital divide and empower many rural communities with improved internet connectivity.


Prof Haas at the centre of attention at IIT Bombay


I’m sure our brilliant student Hackathon team would very much agree on the importance of such invention and creativity. I had the pleasure of meeting them in Mumbai where, having spent just a few days at IIT Bombay, they seemed very much at home, tackling energy issues and creating new approaches in response to a range of big technological challenges facing India, in energy, transportation and water supply.


Edinburgh’s Hackathon team


It also got me thinking about some of the guests at the Make in India’s CNN business forum earlier this week. We heard from a stellar speaker line-up which included business heavyweights such as Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group and Anand G Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra group. These business leaders have helped lead huge change in India and like Prof Haas, their capacity not to ask ‘if’ but ‘how’ was critical.


The speakers, at various points, talked of their career challenges and how they faced questions where answers simply didn’t exist. Their response was to resist convention, challenge boundaries, create new solutions and think very much out of the box. Professor Haas would, I think, approve!