Sunday, September 28, 2014

Learnings from India's Mission to Mars

September 23 was a red letter day for Indian diaspora as their completely homemade spaceship - Mangalyaan (in Sanskrit it means rocket for mars) reached mars orbit and sent their first pictures. There were several records broken

  • At $74million this was the cheapest mission to mars.

  • India became the first country in Asia to reach Mars

  • India became the first country to reach Mars in its first attempt

  • This was accomplished by young all Indian team

The debate is on about whether this is genius of Indian scientist or the benefit they got from general technology advancements all over the world. There are also some murmurs about whether this $74 million should have been spent in building basic infrastructure like toilets which is severely lacking in India.

For a practising consultant like me, there are three key learnings from this successful mission

1. Learn but don't let them tell you what you can't do: When the Indian team of scientist would have planned this mission under $100 million, I am sure the world would have written them off for making such an audacious attempt. The key was to stick to your belief, learn from others but not allow them to tell you what you can't do. You can leverage all the knowledge that the world has to offer but use it in a way that fits your mission and in a way that none has thought about it before.

2. Don't be fooled by looks : Perhaps the most enduring images of success of this mission was a few saree-clad typical Indian women hugging each other. They were the team behind the mission, in fact this team was flying the satellite. A successful scientist doesn't have to look like Angelina Jolie or Sandra Bullock. A traditional looking, silk-saree clad woman who wears jasmine flowers in her hair can do the job equally well. One should learn to value resources for what they have to offer than what they look like.

3. Allocate resources for leapfrogging : India measured by any macro-economic parameter is a poor country. Significant proportion of people are below poverty line, they may die of hunger and may not have access to potable water or may not have access to toilets. technically, India should resolve these challenges first before attempting to go to Mars. But leapfrogging has its own benefits. This success would have huge spin offs apart from direct revenue generation it would boost Indian confidence all over the world, it would inspire bright minds to take up careers at ISRO and other Indian research organizations. There would be several collateral technology developments from this mission. A small percentage of resources allocated to leap-frogging to cutting edge would have immense benefits. Despite current challenges on hand, organizations should always look at allocating small proportion of the resources and few bright minds to work at the cutting edge.

This mission is truly inspiring!!