“Connecting the U.S. And India through Technology, Entrepreneurship and Education,” the second annual India Conference, was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management earlier this month. Conference attendees included political, technology and education leaders from all parts of India who came together to speak about the challenges the country confronts as it expands its economic and political influence globally.
One of the speakers who drew the most attention was Nadir Godrej, whose position as a management director of Godrej Industries disguised a talent for long-verse prose. Godrej used this approach to deliver a wide-ranging presentation on everything from the value of the rupee to corruption to agriculture to political challenges facing the country today.
In a room full of heavy proponents of academics he drew strong agreement with his musings on India’s education system and how it can incorporate advancements in technology and online education for improvement. “This transformation of education will be the savings of the nation,” he recited.
After he delivered his speech, Godrej took questions from the audience. Answering a followup, he spoke in depth about his company’s commitment to research into alternative energy means, including solar energy and shale oil. He said that he hoped to emulate the U.S. efforts to extract shale gas, and thus bring about lower energy prices.
As he did in his prose presentation, he expressed a strong opinion about India’s continual need to improve its education system. He said his company is doing its part by committing to educate 1 million people in India. And he reiterated that the use of technology in education will be the factor that makes the biggest difference in advancement. “Technology can extend the power of teachers considerably,” he said. “The real challenge is going to be the balance between contact education and online education.”
In speaking at the MIT conference, in some ways, Godrej could be seen to be returning to his roots. He graduated from MIT prior to founding the Godrej Industries, a company that spreads its tendrils into many sectors of the economy, including consumer products, agriculture, and chemicals. In addition to his work in fostering the India-U.S. relations, Godrej has also credited with strengthening the links between his country and France. For his work on the Indo-French Technical Association and the Alliance Francaise Mumbai he has been honored with “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite” and “The National Order of the Legion of Honour” by the French government.