Sharad M Marathe is President and CEO, Universal Technical Systems, Inc, USA.
The Rockford, Illinois-based company is engaged in the development of engineering / scientific software products and custom software. Marathe is the founder majority stockholder in this privately held corporation.
Marathe holds master's degrees in engineering and business administration. He was born and raised in India. He worked in various technical, managerial and senior executive level positions at a multinational firm in Wisconsin before starting UTS in 1984.
Sharad Marathe is also one of the founders of a company Pune Software Park Private Limited, formerly known as Software Technology Park Private Limited.
He, with help from Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, helped organise a three-day workshop on 'Leadership and change management' for the top bureaucrats of India in April last year.
Marathe was in India in January to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, where he addressed a seminar on 'Opportunities in defense and internal/homeland security R&D.' He spoke at length with Senior Editor Ramananda Sengupta.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would rate the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, and why?
Seven or eight, in the context of the kind of result one would expect from a first of its kind effort like this.
In an absolute sense I would give it a 5.
Still I feel it was worth doing and should be done again, after we learn about the successes and failures and come up with a plan based on that analysis. We must be completely honest in analyzing every little detail and address it for the future.
Otherwise we will get sidetracked in self congratulating and not improve our performance in the future. I have already done that regarding our session.
What would you have done differently if you were organising the event?
I am big on planning and discipline. We tried to do that in our session. Better planning and adhering to discipline would have improved the outcome of the overall conference quite a bit.
In fact, better planning would have improved quality, reduced cost and improved overall performance.
What do you think of this dual citizenship plan, and would you accept it? Why?
I think it would be a good idea. I am supportive of it. It will always have supporters and opponents, but overall it might be a good thing to do from India's view point. In my view the difference would be more emotional from the NRI/PIO perspective. But why not? Emotions do count.
Do you feel that dual citizenship should also include voting rights? Why?
That might be hard to achieve in the Indian system. Perhaps it may happen in the future if the initial effort is a success. Why not take things in steps?
What do you think are the three biggest stumbling blocks in relations between India and the US?
This is a complex question. I am not sure I have all the experience and wisdom to comment on it but I will give it my best shot. The answer is a long one, so be prepared!
Neither India nor the US has taken a long-term view of their mutual relationship. In this case, since US is a much bigger player on the world scene, India will need to take the first steps.
It should start by identifying the issues that would raise its profile on the US radar screen. When I say US I am referring to the government, the congress, the business community, the academics, the media and the society. All of these interests are interconnected.
India needs to prepare five- and ten-year strategies for engaging these constituencies and raising its profile in the US.
Doing so will be in India's interests - political, commercial as well as strategic.
Also India needs to establish its relationship with US and other nation on its bilateral merit and not be too concerned about the kind of relationship US has with other countries such as Pakistan, China, et cetera.
I think this is starting to happen but can probably be accelerated.
Continuously building bridges, then making these bridges wider and longer is the way to go. It builds confidence which then accelerates the growth in relationships.
For example, our session on 'Opportunities in defense and internal/homeland security R&D' was meant to do just that. There can be a lot of common interest since both countries are faced with common threats.
Increased trade, in a mutually beneficial manner, is one of the fastest ways to grow the relationships.
Also India should take coordinated steps within the government to grow its tourism business. India is a large 'tourism product.'
Coordinated policies among various ministries, proper marketing of this product and high quality, well trained work force which caters to tourists is critical to the growth of tourism business.
When international travelers visit India they tend to bond with it, especially if their experience is a positive one. That goes a long way because many of these people will in future look at India in a positive way.
Countries or companies do not make policies. It is the people working in these entities who make policies. Hence, we should identify and connect with the people who matter in both short as well as long-term perspectives.
What does your organisation do in India, and do you have any projects that involve the Indian security forces?
I have a software export unit which is based in Pune and might open one up in Delhi soon. We do not do any work with the Indian security forces.
Has the Indian defence establishment evinced interest in any of your projects or software?
Interest in our session was strong from internal security as well as defense groups. We involved them in the entire planning process going back nearly six months prior to the session.
Also, we worked with them in developing a report on the session. That report was presented to the deputy prime minister and other leaders of the government within four days after the conclusion of the session.
It was a unanimous report and all the co-chairs as well as key members of the panel participated in preparing it.
But the journey has just begun. We now need to earn the confidence of the key players by delivering concrete results in a short timeframe. I am convinced that can be done.
How long do you think India will take to achieve the kind of electronic connectively that the US has now? And what should the government do to speed this up?
I am not sure that India needs the same exact kind of connectivity as in US. As in case of STD / ISD booths what India needs a widespread access at affordable prices.
If we assume this as a need then I think India can get there in two to five years. What the government should do is simply not get in the way. It should let the private sector and the marketplace do what is required.
Do you think that the government of India can actually hope to replicate the huge investments coming in to China from overseas Chinese? Apart from the economic and political climate, are there any other reasons why are Indians overseas averse to investing in India?
The question is not so much whether NRIs will invest. It is a broader question. If making the investment makes sense then let the investment come from wherever - companies, funds, NRIs or non-NRIs.
We should continue to take steps which result in investing in India profitable and attractive. India is moving in the right direction but it needs to move faster and further.
We Indians by nature are a cautious and conservative. We are not very receptive to taking risks. On the other hand if we see a success then we tend to follow that path. That is why it is important to have several successes and to publicize those successes. Then let the people make their own decisions based on that information.
Having said all of this, once overseas Indians see that India is on the move they would join the parade and would not want to be left behind.
Suppose the government of Pakistan or Iran, or whoever expressed interest in software produced by you, and this software could theoretically be used against India could and would you respond positively?
If any country was hostile to India or the US, I would avoid doing anything that would tend to support the adversaries. Money cannot and should not be the only motivator in life.