Vikram Govindan

Monsanto Company/ Dr. Norman Borlaug Corporate Fellow

Olin Business School: Business Administration | MBA


Cohort 2006


Graduated 2008


Career: Lead Data Scientist | C&S Wholesale Grocers | Keene, New Hampshire, USA

Scholar Highlights

We Want to Break Free

India’s economic liberalization has led to explosive economic growth and unprecedented wealth creation. But we’re still a socially conservative nation. Marriages are forcibly “arranged,” public displays of affection are taboo and often punished, careers aren’t chosen but imposed, and teachers, parents and “elders” decide what’s good and what’s right. We—young India—need to break free. Free! I tell you…

Why do Indians struggle with so little success to win medals at the Olympics? Why does real innovation in science, technology, and business escape us? Why do we accept the decrepit state of our public, civic institutions? Why do Indians hesitate to talk about sex when our country is reeling from an AIDS epidemic? Because these activities are risky, and risk is a matter of choice. Most Indians are taught from an early age, that they must tread the safe and proven path of being a doctor or engineer, and not risk going into business for themselves or become musicians, athletes, or artists to make a living. India doesn’t produce risk takers because most Indian institutions, from the family unit to school and the university are socially conservative. At each stage, conformity is emphasized.

I’ve known students who were driven insane and even to suicide by an unforgiving system that mercilessly punishes failure—students who could have made a valuable contribution to the world, but were denied the opportunity because they didn’t have the right grades. Grades! You’re only as good as your grades in class, that’s what they teach you, right from kindergarten.

Did you know that South India is the suicide capital of the world? That’s right, so much pent up emotion and ambition and no way to let it out. Studies have shown that two out of three children in India are physically abused. Why? Kids don’t report the abuse because they don’t know that they can…they live in a society so used to following orders.

India needs social liberalization. This is a call for a privately funded grass roots organization that promotes liberal ideals, that places choice at the center of existence. An organization that funds students’ groups around the country, one that could go into schools and colleges and oppose the imposition of uniforms, oppose censorship on women’s attire, oppose censorship on internet use, oppose forced recitation of “national” songs.

This would be an organization that promotes bold career choices and policies that celebrate personal choice. An organization that instills in Indians the idea that their choice matters most, even if those choices run counter to so-called “Indian traditions and values.” An organization that encourages you to talk back!

Millions of Indians are oppressed, depressed, and abused because they’re locked into a system that places religion, tradition, social acceptance and appearance over the interests and aspirations of the individual. Many don’t know what they’re missing…

In a society where politicians increasingly move to the right to garner votes and the left is dominated by communists, a liberal capitalist alternative must be provided forthwith…

Economic liberalization is bound to bring social change, but we must accelerate that change. Movements like supported by billionaires like Soros are what India needs.

So…are there any donors out there?

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