Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Israel – ‘The Startup Nation’, Lessons for India

Posted in Current Affairs, Information Technology by Amit Paranjape on February 11, 2018

I recently returned from an interesting visit to Israel – the ‘Startup Nation’, as part of a delegation invited by the Israel government. The goal of the visit was to learn more about the Israeli startup and innovation ecosystem, and improve startups level contact between India and Israel. It is quite impressive to note the progress Israel has achieved since its creation in 1948. Its growth and innovation in a variety of sectors: agriculture, water management, defense, cyber security, information technology, semiconductors and others, provide great learning examples. During this short trip, we were able to visit startups, co-working spaces, maker-spaces, venture capitalists, incubators, universities, and supporting agencies. We also attended a couple of industry conferences (Cybertech 2018, Tel Aviv and 2018 OurCrowd Global Investor Summit, Jerusalem).

In the packed agenda, we didn’t get to see a lot of this country’s tourist attractions – but the brief tours of Haifa, Old City of Jaffa, and the historic city of Jerusalem were very interesting (I will write about this in a separate article). Suffice to say, Israel can be a great travel destination for the Indian tourist. This small country has a lot to offer: great history & culture, diverse nature, nightlife, good food, and a chance to meet with great people.

Israel is a small country, with an area of around 20,000 sq km (just a bit bigger than Pune District), and a population of 8.5 million (less than half of Mumbai). Faced with multiple geopolitical, climate and geographical challenges, it has made tremendous progress in building a world class innovation and startup ecosystem, over the past few decades. Today, Israel has over 7,000 startups, over 350 VC Funds, and over 300 corporate R&D centers. There were over 100 startup exits, worth $23 billion in 2017. This was a big jump from $10 billion in 2016 – largely driven by the huge acquisition of Mobileye (Computer Vision, Machine Learning Tech – for self-driving cars, other applications) by Intel for $15 billion, in August 2017.  The Mobileye exit is a great case-study and success-story for Israeli startups. Historically, U.S. has been the biggest market for Israeli tech startups and companies. Today, Israel has the 3rd largest number of NASDAQ listed companies (following U.S. and China).

What drives this startup and innovation miracle? In this article, I will attempt to highlight some key attributes and reasons. I will also summarize some lessons that could be learned and applied to the Indian ecosystem. For detailed reading on Israel’s startup ecosystem, I would recommend an excellent book: ‘Startup Nation’ by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (a bit old; published in 2011 – but still quite relevant).

There are three primary factors that have helped in laying the foundation of the Israeli startup and innovation ecosystem:

  1. Culture & Education (Scarcity of Natural Resources, Tough Environment, Military Service, Networking)
  2. Role of Government (Support for Universities, Incubators, Strategic Focus on R&D)
  3. VCs, Multi-National Corporations, and the Corporate Ecosystem

 

Culture

Israel has faced a tough environment (nature and geopolitics) since it was created in 1948. A large part of the country is desert, with very limited water resources. Israel has fought multiple wars with its neighbours over the past 70 years, and national security is a top priority. These necessities have driven the need to innovate in agriculture, water management and defense sectors, and has driven a culture of ‘problem solving’, with constrained resources. The culture promotes ‘Okay to Fail’ and a ‘Challenge Everything’ attitude.

Military service is mandatory in Israel after age 18. Students enter a three-year program and are trained in a variety of different skills. Depending on their capabilities and openings, they are assigned specific departments and roles. They learn military and other hard-skills in various tech and non-tech areas. They learn important soft-skills such as leadership, discipline and team-work. They also learn about tough decision making, especially in uncertain situations. They build great networks, which often last them a life-time, and are very useful during their startup/corporate life.

Israel is a small country, and is highly networked. A popular saying, we heard multiple times during our visit – “Everyone is connected to everyone else with a maximum ‘one degree of separation’”. These networks are critical in entrepreneurship to help recruit the right people, get the right early customers, raise funding, etc.

One example of the military service training and its direct connection to successful entrepreneurship and startups is the ‘8200 Unit’. We heard about this in multiple presentations during our visit. The ‘8200 Unit’ is one of Israel’s top military intelligence unit, involved with a variety of cyber-security, cyber warfare related initiatives. This unit usually ends up recruiting the top engineering and mathematics students during the military service. These recruits are trained by the top experts and work on challenging projects. The alumni of this unit later on end up studying at the top universities, working with the corporates and starting key startups (especially in the cyber-security, data analytics and related areas).

Education

For a country of just around 8 million people – Israel has 8 top ranked global universities and over 50 colleges. It has 12 Nobel Laureates. The country is among the top in the world in R&D spending (combined government and corporate) as a percentage of GDP at 4.3%. (For comparison – India spends less than 0.8%).

Israel is also benefitting from ‘brain gain’. Top Israeli PhD students who have studied in U.S. and other top global universities are moving back to their country, after gaining top academic research and corporate R&D experience.

On a related note, it is worthwhile to mention that Israel has started attracting a good number of Indian students in higher education (Now at about 1,000 – still significantly smaller than the number that goes to U.S…but rising).

The Israeli education system encourages a culture of risk taking and asking questions, right from the early years.

Government support for startups and innovation

The Israeli Government also plays an important role in the startup and innovation ecosystem, both directly and indirectly.

Directly, it supports many entrepreneurship programs, funds, and incubators (total of 19). The incubators provide the risk capital, facilities and mentoring. Many incubators are connected with the universities. This helps the university students with their startup ideas, and also enables access to professors and other experts for mentoring.

As mentioned earlier the government also plays an important role in funding the universities as well for various research projects.

Another indirect way in which government supports the startups is through funding strategic R&D projects in agri-tech, water management and defense. As discussed earlier, these are key priority areas, and availability of funds and pilot projects (government is the customer) also helps startups.

In 1993, the government helped start the Israeli VC industry, by backing the Yozma Fund. Tax reforms for the corporate sector have brought corporate tax down to 10%. In addition, the Israel Innovation Authority provides direct R&D funding for projects.

Role of corporate sector

Many large and medium sized tech multi-nationals have a strong presence in Israel. Over 320 R&D and Tech centers of multi-national companies are located here. These include Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, TI, Samsung, Oracle, SAP … (just to name a few). Around half of Israel’s tech workforce is employed by these multi-nationals. Many of them are based in Israel’s high-tech hub, Haifa. In fact, Haifa reminds you of Silicon Valley for multiple reasons. The city is located by the sea and has Israel’s most important harbour. Major part of the city is located on the hills next to the sea. Haifa is home to many tech companies and also one of Israel’s top engineering universities, Technion. The sea, the drive through the hills, the tech company campuses in close proximity, the university all remind you of the San Francisco Bay Area.

A good example is Intel (which has been here for over 30 years). They are doing world class high-end R&D here, comparable with the best in the world (e.g. Silicon Valley). The earlier mentioned book ‘Startup Nation’ has a great case-study on Intel Israel’s work on the power saving chips.

These large multi-national companies have invested in Israel due to two main reasons: 1. Availability of top science & engineering talent (from universities and startups). 2. ‘Brain Gain’ phenomenon.

People who have worked in these companies have excellent global exposure to not only the latest technology, but also to markets. Many hi-tech startups in Israel are founded by the alumni of these multi-national companies. Some of these startups also get good exits, with these multi-nationals buy them out. Following the exit, the entrepreneurs move onto newer startups, and also become VCs – thereby further continuing the cycle of further development.

Lessons for India

There are many lessons applicable to India, which can be learned from Israel’s startup and innovation ecosystem. Some of these lessons maybe more relevant than the ones from Silicon Valley. These lessons can be categorized across culture, education, role of government, and role of corporates.

But before we get into those, it is important to note that there is a widespread myth that most entrepreneurs and successful startup founders are fresh undergrads or college drop-outs. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are big exceptions, not the rule.

Experience is a key factor for successful high value IP (Intellectual Property) driven startups. The average age of startup founders in the Silicon Valley and Israel is closer to 40. A typical startup founder is someone who has completed higher education (MS/PhD) and worked further in research/development for some years. This experience is not only useful for gaining deeper domain knowledge, but to also gain a good network of potential co-founders, employees, pilot customers, partners and investors.

While it is important to teach entrepreneurship to undergraduate students and giving them opportunities to build on their ideas – it is unrealistic to expect many breakthrough startups to come out of undergraduate colleges.

Culture & Education

Culture is difficult to emulate. It’s a more fundamental thing. Yet there are some aspects of the culture that are common across the two India and Israel (e.g. ability to do more with less, with constrained resources). These abilities in India need to be encouraged and rewarded. Of course, there is a right way of doing things and doing a total ‘Jugaad’. Need a right balance.

Indian education system discourages asking questions and challenging the authority – quite opposite of the Israeli system. Changing this is a huge task.

At the higher education level, a significant shift is required. India’s investment in R&D is very low across the board, and this also reflects in our funding of our higher education and research institutes. This needs to change. Of course, the efficiency and utilization of these funds also needs significant improvement.

We need to focus on improving our Masters and PhD level programs. We need quality, not quantity. We need to focus on relevant, market-ready IP creation. Today, our institutions like the IITs produce some of the best undergraduates in the world. However, the same cannot be said about our Masters and PhD students. Some of our best undergrads end up doing MS/PhDs outside India (mostly in U.S. and in Europe, Japan, and other countries). This is a key issue and needs immediate attention (will need a separate article to discuss this in detail). The Indian government is taking some steps in this direction (like the recently announced PhD scholarships), but a lot more needs to be done. We need to track and improve the number of IIT, IISER, IISc B.Tech/MS graduates, who do PhDs in India.

Since we don’t produce many world class PhDs, the multi-national R&D centers don’t recruit them here. This is one reason good students are not doing PhDs in India, since there are very few good corporate R&D job opportunities. This is partially a chicken and egg problem. The cycle can be broken by upgrading our research facilities and PhD programs and improving the supply.

In some aspects IITs and the new IISERs are comparable with the best in the world. But they need a long way to go, before we could count some of these in the top-50 global universities. The quality vs. quantity argument is valid here too. Yes, we need more institutes; but we also need sustained focus (and resources/funding) to get at least 1-2 of the old IITs to world class level.

To further improve the quality of PhD programs in India, we need more university to university collaborations. These need to move forward with concrete programs at the department levels – and not just stay at signing ‘MoUs’.

Role of Government

As discussed earlier, the government has to play a key role in improving higher education (Masters and PhD programs). In conjunction, it is also critical to improve our basic research & development capabilities. We need large investments and great execution (like ISRO). As mentioned earlier, our R&D spend as a percentage of GDP is way low at 0.8% (compared to 4.3% for Israel, and 2.5% for China).

Government also needs to fund creation of Incubators that provide funding, support and mentoring for deserving startups. Here again, quality is more important than quantity. As mentioned earlier, Israel has less than 20 incubators. We need more startups with good solid IP; not yet another ‘me-to’ incremental e-business innovation, that too copied from a U.S. startup idea. We need more startups in cyber-security, agri-tech, energy, AI, healthcare, biotech, advanced manufacturing, materials, etc. and less in e-commerce.

A good example of successful (yet low profile) incubator in India, which supports startups with high value IP, in the areas of biotech, materials, energy, is the Innovation Center at National Chemical Laboratory in Pune. We need more startups founded by PhDs and senior R&D professionals, who have created some new, non-trivial IP.

Third and important long term area for government support is exploring the ‘DARPA’ (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA model from U.S. Israel follows a similar model.

DARPA is a U.S. government agency that funds strategic projects in the area of defense and national security. A good portion of this funding is received by the private sector. DARPA provides strong program management and oversight (by its own program managers) on these projects, executed by the private sector. This ensures good execution and efficient usage of the R&D dollars. The Program Managers from DARPA are industry veterans and are experts in specific domain areas.

In U.S. and Israel, the offshoots of defense related spending on strategic projects (through DARPA and other agencies) has resulted in many dual use products and technologies. These technologies are later commercialized or built upon by established companies and even startups. In many respects such agencies provide a basic R&D foundation (much like state supported universities), and help the overall innovation and startup ecosystem.

In India, the DRDO model is mostly all government (public sector). We need to understand, evaluate (and adapt as required) the DARPA model for India as well (Note – a detailed discussion around DARPA and other similar approaches will need a separate article.)

Role of Corporates

Indian private sector companies in tech and other sectors also need a strategic product/IP vision. Today, along with the government, the private sector too contributes to a significantly lower R&D spend, compared to their international peers.

In the IT space, India has been largely focused on the Software Services. Some of these large companies are sitting on large cash piles. The IT Services market is ripe for disruption with cloud, automation and other structural shifts. Now is the time for these IT Services companies to start investing more in product R&D and IP creation. They can also allocate more funds for their venture capital arms, which can in turn drive funding of IP driven product startups.

Closing Comments

We need to progress in multiple areas simultaneously, if we want to build a good, high-value IP driven startup ecosystem. Israel provides some good learning examples. We needs to move to a ‘product’ and ‘solution’ mind-set. ‘Make in India’ should not just be about manufacturing, but also about IP creation, core R&D and import substitution in strategic areas. We need to improve startup to startup and university to university level contacts and close collaborations with Israel, U.S. and other countries. The Indo-Israel Joint Innovation Fund announced last year during PM Modi’s visit is a good start. The Indian market is important for Israeli startups, and joint IP development should be explored. Lastly, we need better alignment between defense driven R&D and funding with our universities, corporate R&D and startups.

(This article is also being republished on Swarajya https://swarajyamag.com/ )

Advertisements

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Current Landscape, and implications for India

Posted in Information Technology by Amit Paranjape on October 5, 2016

Few days back, I did a ‘tweet storm’ (twitter term for a series of tweets on a particular topic) on Artificial Intelligence (AI). I discussed the overall landscape and what AI means for India. This thread consists of 23 tweets (these tweets appear as a single thread on twitter…I have also numbered them as 1/n, 2/n, etc.). I have reproduced these tweets below in a single document. I guess, this is one way to convey a series of ‘micro-blogs’ into a ‘blog’! (Note: If you want to access the entire tweets thread on twitter, click this link: https://twitter.com/aparanjape/status/782186570585559041)

 

Please let me know your thoughts, comments on the points below.

_____________________

My ‘tweet storm’ (series of tweets) on ‘Artificial Intelligence’ … see thread below. #AI

 

Highly recommended primer (see video below) for anyone interested in Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning and Machine Learning. (1/n)

See this link: https://twitter.com/aparanjape/status/742326806666059777

In 2030, when personal digital assistants, driverless cars, intelligent robots are common, we will look back at 2016 as: ‘Year of AI’ (2/n)

#AI Many path-breaking developments in hardware, software are happening right now..important milestones are being achieved every month.(3/n)

#AI Google’s #AphaGo computer winning against the ‘Go’ world champion Lee Sedol .. IBM’s #Watson’s breakthroughs in cancer diagnostics (4/n)

#AI 2016 breakthroughs (cont.) Uber launching the first fleet of driver-less cabs in Pittsburgh… Automated script writing, etc. (5/n).

A key thing to note is how the top tech leaders: Google, FB, IBM, Amazon, MSFT are all prioritizing #AI as their top priority in 2016 (6/n)

These tech leaders are making big investments in their R&D, partnering with universities, buying startups related to #AI (7/n)

Here is an example: ‘Microsoft merges Bing, Cortana, and Research to make 5,000-strong #AI division’ http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/09/microsoft-merges-bing-cortana-and-research-to-make-5000-strong-ai-division/ … (8/n)

The tech leaders are also collaborating together in #AI, with respect to processes, data access (key driver) https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/28/facebook-amazon-google-ibm-and-microsoft-come-together-to-create-historic-partnership-on-ai/ … (9/n)

Some SV billionaires and VCs (including @elonmusk, @peterthiel…) have created a non-profit #AI research co: https://openai.com/blog/  (10/n)

Chinese tech leaders like Baidu are also making big investments in #AI (in China and in their SV labs) http://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2016/09/30/faster-artificial-intelligence-baidu-benchmarks-hardware-for-deep-learning/#62ebe2e27420 … (11/n)

Over the past many decades, DARPA has been a leader in strategic tech investments. #AI is a key priority: http://www.darpa.mil/program/explainable-artificial-intelligence … (12/n)

Many European companies are also prioritizing #AI investments (automotive, aerospace, healthcare, etc.). (13/n).

So, where is India in all this? The #AI wave is both a big threat (if we don’t do anything!) and an opportunity for India. (14/n).

Like in many tech races of the past, India is already well behind in the #AI race… but we can (and we should!) try to catch up. (15/n).

#AI can present a big threat to the traditional Indian IT Service Outsourcing model … A model that worked well for past 2 decades. (16/n)

Manufacturing and traditional services sector job growth is also at risk, with #AI driven automation. (17/n).

Like with any new tech disruption, #AI also brings in new opportunities… but in order to leverage these, we to have to move fast. (18/n)

India needs to set up a multi-year strategic program focused on #AI and robotics, which involves the govt and the private sector. (19/n).

This is a ‘moon-shot’ opportunity and needs a @ISRO like long-term program (look at @ISRO’s long term goals set in 60s/70s). #AI (20/n)

We need to invest in setting up world class #AI R&D labs (in our research institutions like the IITs, IISERs…or create new ones). (21/n).

We also need to create good long term incentive structures for the private sector to invest in their own #AI R&D initiatives. (22/n).

Such government and private labs can attract/retain top Indian talent in #AI (that today, we are losing to U.S., Europe). (23/n)

Okay…I think I am going to pause here on this #AI tweet storm :)… Sorry for flooding your timeline! May continue again later though 🙂

#AI Was planning to write a blog-post about this …. but realized that I prefer @twitter and the tweet-storm method a lot more!

__________________________

A Visit To GE India’s John F. Welch Technology Center – Watching Innovation In Action

Posted in Current Affairs, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on September 6, 2015

I visited the John F. Welch Technology Center of GE in Bangalore this weekend. They were celebrating the center’s 15th anniversary with a ‘Tech Mela’. Solutions from the various business units at GE were showcased. I have admired GE as a company, and their previous legendary chairman Jack Welch (I would highly recommend reading Jack Welch’s books about his management philosophy). This visit was a good opportunity for me the get a better understanding of their work.

The center (also referred to as GE ITC: GE India Technology Center) has over 5,000 R&D professionals working across healthcare, aircraft engines, transportation, energy and other GE verticals. This is the largest multi-disciplinary R&D center of GE in the world and more than 50% of the employees here have Masters or PhD degrees.  The GE ITC is involved in supporting GE globally, as well as focusing on local/regional solutions for India and the emerging market.

Good discussion with Munesh Makhija (Head of GE, ITC)

Good discussion with Munesh Makhija (Head of GE, ITC)

I got a chance to interact with the head of GE ITC, Munesh Makhija (Managing Director, GE India Technology Centre Chief Technology Officer, GE South Asia). Here is a video of our interesting discussion (https://www.facebook.com/ge.tech.india/videos/vb.480156825343034/1075515979140446/?type=2&theater). It was good to hear about the overall focus and vision for the center, as well as their day to day activities and challenges. Hiring top talent is a challenge for every company and GE ITC is no different. Today, many top engineers want to work in software (and in startups), and this is a big hiring challenge. Along with their presence in Bangalore and Hyderabad, GE ITC is also trying to tap into the advanced manufacturing talent in Pune where they have a brand new state-of-the-art multi-modal manufacturing plant (inaugurated earlier this year). I suggested to Munesh that GE should seriously consider expanding their R&D activities in Pune. Pune is the biggest center for manufacturing in India and hosts many advanced manufacturing capabilities across large and SME companies, including a large talent pool.

Healthcare is one of the biggest groups at the GE ITC and is involved in developing solutions across imaging, maternal health, critical care, surgery and other areas. Solutions for the global market, as well as India/Emerging Market are developed here. We got an overview of these solutions from Shyam Rajan, CTO, GE Healthcare India.

A new latest PET/MRI scanner was on display (IMAGE). This scanner can simultaneously carry out the PET and MRI scans of a patient. A low-cost, award winning CT scanner was also showcased, specifically targeted for the developing markets, where cost and space are big issues.

PET/MRI scanner

PET/MRI scanner

Portable (Tablet) Ultrasound

Portable (Tablet) Ultrasound

Evolution of the Jet Engine

Evolution of the Jet Engine

GE Jet Engines

GE Jet Engines

Some of the other technology areas on display included:

Transportation – Diesel Locomotives, Fleet Management, Marine Engines

Energy – Oil & Gas, Wind Power

Gas Turbine Power Generation, Electricity Distribution, Smart Grids

Aircraft Engines
It is very interesting to note the diverse engineering and technology areas that GE is involved in. They are addressing the core problems in energy, transportation and healthcare. It was good visiting these various solution areas and learning more about the solutions and tech challenges involved. The kinds of problems being addressed include machine design, modeling & simulation, advanced materials, hi-tech manufacturing, data analytics, big-data, software programming, signal/image processing, structural design, electronics control systems, and many more.

I would have liked to see more of the aircraft engine technology on display. Unfortunately (I guess due to IP/competitive restrictions) couldn’t see a lot in this area.
I also got a chance to interact with Sukla Chandra General Manager, GE Global Research, Bangalore Director-Legal, Patents & Analytics Centre of Excellence. Patents are a big focus area for GE, and Sukla’s team is responsible for providing strategic IP support to GE Global Research and several other GE businesses. In addition the patents center, Sukla also co-leads the GE Women’s Network Initiatives for India.  The patents legacy of GE goes all the way back to the founder, Thomas Edison (who is credited with more than 1000 patents).

Top GE Inventors - includes Thomas Edison (1000+ patents

Top GE Inventors – includes Thomas Edison (1000+ patents

As part of the Tech Mela Event, GE released an info-graphic on their work in India (good summary): http://www.slideshare.net/GE_India/ge-reiterates-its-commitment-to-design-make-in-india-52449008

Germany sets new solar power record

Posted in Current Affairs, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on May 27, 2012

Germany is the world leader in Solar Power.

Solar Farm in Germany (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

Came across this interesting article from Reuters about Germany’s Solar Power Record: “Germany sets new solar power record, institute says”

This Friday and Saturday, when sunlight was quite good, Germany generated 22 GW (1 GW or Giga Watt = 1,000 Mega Watt) of solar power for a few hours in the afternoon! That is nearly 50% of its power requirements (note requirements on weekends are less, since factories and offices are closed). Still this is quite a milestone!  For comparison, the biggest power consuming state in India, Maharashtra consumes about 15 GW of power.

Came across quite a few interesting data points from the article:

– Germany generates about 4% of its total electricity needs annually via solar power.

– Total renewable energy generation is 20% of its total needs.

– Total installed capacity of Solar Power in Germany is nearly half of the installed capacity in the whole world.

– Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

– Germany has a total installed solar power capacity of 24 GW

– From the article: “Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents per kw/h.”

– But the solar power costs might come down as photo-voltaics become cheaper each year.

Do read the full article here and also visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany for more details.

Some quick implications for India

India has lot more hours and months of sun as compared to Germany. Cost of photo-voltaics is coming down, making solar power more competitive. Solar power seems a lot more attractive renewable energy option, as compared to wind. Gujarat has taken the lead in installing solar power. Maharashtra, Karnataka and other states are also setting up solar fields, but the progress is slow.

India needs more policy focus and better execution to make solar power a successful reality.

Currently, China is the world’s major exporter of photo-voltaic cells. India needs to expand production of photo-voltaics. Similarly, other new related areas such as concentrated photo-voltaics (CPV) should also explored.

It is worth noting that Solar Power (or for that matter, any renewable energy source) is not a panacea for energy requirements… at least definitely not in the coming decade. Even in Germany today, Solar Power contributes single digit percentages annually of the total energy requirements. Thus, India will still need to expand its electricity production from conventional and nuclear power sources. Still, in an energy starved India, 10% renewable solar power in a decade, with no dependence on foreign fuel, would be a great step.

Incentives for Preserving and ‘Recreating’ Heritage Architecture In New Buildings

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Pune by Amit Paranjape on May 16, 2012

It is really sad to see the crazy expansion of concrete, steel and glass in Pune, with completely haphazard architecture standards. It is the same state in all major cities in India. In many cases, there is an attempt to emulate foreign architecture concepts that don’t blend in here very well. This extends to those ridiculous sounding names in English (and French, Italian, Spanish)!

I think it is the responsibility of local civic authorities (as is done in many cities, in the developed world), to enforce some kind of consistency standards in architecture of buildings, landscapes and ideally, even the names!

Just as there are green building requirements and certification standards, civic authorities need to enforce such standards for basic architecture. There have been many discussions on this topic, but doubt if any Indian city has done any progress in this area. I am going to take this requirement one step further. Not only should basic architecture standards be enforced, but heritage architecture should be provided with incentives (I am not asking for enforcement here… but some positive reinforcement).

For example, if a building (or more specifically, a private bungalow) tries to use the old Pune ‘Wada’ type architecture, or the early 20th century ‘Stone’ construction, they should be offered some benefits. We have to encourage new development that respects, preserves and recreates our heritage.

Similar small token incentives should be given to using local and Indian names. Instead of the often horrible (supposedly ‘aspirational’) sounding western names that we see everywhere today, we should encourage the use of local/regional names. Pune was the city of gardens (‘Baugs’) during the Peshwe Era. We had great gardens such as Hirabaug, Sarasbaug, Tulshibaug, and many others. Today, it would be great to see some apartment complexes named as ‘XYZ-Baug’.

In addition to local authorities (like PMC) providing incentives; NGOs and other organizations who are working in the area of heritage preservation (e.g. Janwani in Pune) should also institute prizes and awards for buildings that go out of their way to preserve and replicate the heritage.

Would like to hear the readers thoughts on this topic. Has something like this been done effectively in any Indian city? Note, I agree that ‘incentives’ are a small step, amongst many others to preserve our rich (but poorly maintained and fast dwindling) heritage.

%d bloggers like this: