Home > Magazine > Around Town > Emory’s India Summit 2013 describes multitude of exciting projects


Emory’s India Summit 2013 describes multitude of exciting projects

By Suzanne Sen
April 2013
Emory’s India Summit 2013 describes multitude of exciting projects

Dr. Rafi Ahmed discusses challenges and opportunities for research between the U.S. and India.
(Photo: Suzanne Sen)

Acclaimed author Salman Rushdie and tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa were among distinguished speakers at the fourth annual India Summit, hosted by Emory University's Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Learning on Feb. 21-22, 2013. Topics included health (vaccines, mobile technology in health care), culture (literature and film, race and caste), business (Coca Cola, retail, financial inclusion), and technology (emerging/transformational technologies, entrepreneurship).

Here are choice nuggets from the two days. Details: videos are on our website.

Health—Rafi Ahmed:
• Infectious diseases continue to be a major cause of morbidity in India. Emory's Rafi Ahmed, introduced as one of the best medical researchers in the world, is working here and in New Delhi, changing the world of medicine. The Emory Vaccine Center works in basic science, programs, clinical trials, and policy.
• TB is a major killer, and HIV makes it much worse. Dengue, not in India when Dr. Ahmed was young, has been creeping up from South America and may reach the U.S. There are 500M cases/year in the world and 10-50k in India.
• Vaccines work well but are not used everywhere; India has 50-79% coverage compared to Pakistan and Bangladesh's 80-89%. Some states have 90% coverage, some 50%, so strong policies are needed on the federal level. Emory has initiated dialogue with the Indian government to provide guidance. India is, however, for the first time this year polio free. Publicity in regional languages and discussions are needed.
• There are very successful vaccine manufacturers in India, but without a strong research program. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between Karnataka and the state of Georgia bodes well for cooperation and development. There are also very rich people in India, and Bill Gates has encouraged the culture of philanthropy there; the Ambanis have invested, the Tatas, Azim Premji, and others are waking up. It is not a resource issue, but the will to do it.
• There is tremendous excitement about therapeutic vaccines: certain molecules can hold the immune system in check, and when the block is released, vaccines can help cases of hepatitis, HIV, and TB, and perhaps cancer.



Manoj Jain moderates a panel on mHealth (mobile health care). (Photo: Wilford Harewood)

mHealth—Manoj Jain:
• Manoj Jain, a national leader in healthcare quality improvement and an infectious disease physician who writes regularly for The Washington Post, discussed the potential of mobile technology. Just as vaccines have saved millions of lives, can mobile healthcare do the same?
• Problems are distance to care, cost, and the paucity of medical professionals for the poor; 1 billion mobile phone users have no healthcare, and their phones could help greatly. For example, patients can be connected to providers to encourage compliance (taking the meds)—these phones can be paid for by the healthcare system, and SMS messages can increase the odds of a woman delivering in a medical facility.
• However, confidentiality can be a problem when others have access to the phone. Furthermore, when women use phones, increasing feelings of safety and mobility, husbands and even local governments have seen this empowerment as a threat, and violence against women can increase; so messages are needed for men, mother-in-laws, and religious leaders to help them understand the need for women's health care.
• Madhu Deshmukh, director of special initiatives for mHealth at CARE USA, explained that mHealth can provide job aids (checklists, counseling, scheduling, tracking services) to volunteers and providers, increasing the quality of services and accountability.
• To the only semi-facetious question of whether there was an app to tell people, "You've had enough sugar, don't drink that!"—the answer was, it's not too farfetched: a wristband has been tested in Pakistan to monitor hemoglobin and risk factors for pregnant women!

Culture—Gyanendra Pandey:
• Gyanendra Pandey, Distinguished Professor of History at Emory, spoke on his book, A History of Prejudice: Race, Caste, and Difference in India and the United States.
• Apart from obvious "vernacular" prejudice, he defined "universal" prejudice as an idea of the way of being that is appropriate, civilized, modern. Those in the mainstream see themselves as the standard: men are not described as "different" but women are; similarly distinctions apply to foreign colonizers/the colonized, Hindus/Muslims or dalits, WASPs/everyone else, etc. Further, although people hold the ideal rags-to-riches fable, it is difficult because of this "difference" prejudice: dalits, blacks, native Americans feel it. In India there is constant conversation about corruption among dalits, much less about upper caste corruption—similarly little condemnation of murder of infant girls, and much talk of rapes being because of women doing wrong by not being covered (though it is not true: the majority of rapes are of well-covered women or little girls) or men doing wrong by being westernized or "other"(also not true: in villages every day). Women are in a contradictory situation, being told to work in call centers but not to be out at night. We fool ourselves that our women are treated as goddesses. The "different" can not win.
• The quota system has been important for democracy and for justice.
• Publications could refuse to carry skin bleaching ads.
• Resources and education may not be the answer: Gandhian campaigns and protests may be.



Deepika Bahri and Salman Rushdie. (Photo: Wilford Harewood)

Culture—Salman Rushdie:
• English professor Deepika Bahri again conversed with Emory's Distinguished Professor Rushdie, this time about his memoir Joseph Anton, which covered Rushdie in hiding during the fatwa.
• Thinking for oneself is not common: young Muslim men who first demonstrated against Rushdie and then read the Satanic Verses told him they didn't see what the fuss was about! Thinking for oneself is one's right, however, and it was Rushdie's right to tell his stories—and stories change as society evolves. Writers and journalists should not be attacked for writing, but are.
• No one has found the actual fatwa!—does it exist on paper? During years of protection by secret police, Rushdie was profoundly desirous of an everyday life. Though threat was high, risk during certain activities was lower, so he could go with police to the movies or opera—often unusual experiences for the police! His close friends formed "an iron circle around" him and did not leak his whereabouts during 12 dangerous years—remarkable for writers!
• Although the threat was dark, the book has humor.
• Does Bombay still "make his heart leap"? Something has changed in India: every week someone is targeted by this or that group, and authorities blame the victim (compare the "different" of Pandey's lecture). The risk of authoritarianism moving from state to central government is very real. Police attitude is horrifying. Public outrage is needed to propel serious change (cf. Pandey again). "I love India but I do not love what's happening there, and it's important to say so."
• If people see you more as an opinion than as an artist, it changes the way they see your work, so he's focusing on his work more.
• Why are Rahul Gandhi or other young politicians not making the rapes/treatment of women their cause? The anger should be much larger.
• Racist ideas do not disappear if you forbid them, but might become more powerful, so it is better to have free speech and know who thinks what.
• "How does newness enter the world?" "I go to the edge and push."

Culture—Film "The Wisdom Tree:
Director Sunil Shah, producer Renu Vora, and actor Patrick Alparone were present after the screening of the film (its first screening) on Thursday evening. In an intersection of ideas from quantum physics and New Age mysticism, the story is full of mystery: What is happening in space and time? Are we in many worlds or many possibilities at once? Patterns and music are used with story to imply these dimensions, and if it's not clear, well, chaos is part of reality. Since there was already a documentary What the Bleep Do We Know on the topic, Shah made his film as fiction. With such challenging ideas, with references from the Upanishads to Oppenheimer's electrons, it is not an easy-to-watch film. Seeing it again, one could watch for hidden tributes to various scientists, artists, and religious figures.



Coca-Cola presents the company's many initiatives in India. (Photo: Suzanne Sen)

Business—Coca Cola:
• Jeff Seabright, chief environmental officer at Coca-Cola, and D.V. Darshane, director of policy and governance for Coca-Cola's Global Quality, Safety, & Environment division, discussed the company's initiatives in India.
• After the scandals a decade ago in India of toxins in soft drinks and in the waste products of production, and groundwater depletion, as well as death squads and health problems in other parts of the world, Coca Cola has made a major effort to show changes towards sensitivity and environmentalism.
• With $2 billion of growth in India and $5 billion to come by 2020, the company is positioned to lead the packaged beverage revolution there. Ads focus on images of clarity, happiness, and wellness (the "benefits of hydration"), aiming for its products to be the "beverage of choice all day and every day." Ads are not directed to children less than 12 years old, but one of the company's programs focuses on helping schools with projects like water and sanitation, and another focuses on promoting sports like football (soccer). Women are helped to be entrepreneurs by using Coke's solar coolers for beverage sales, combined with energy for charging customers' phones and lanterns to attract customers after dark. No mention was made of sugar, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.
• Two things move the world: energy and water—Israel and Singapore are examples of careful use. Coke's trucks are switching to CNG and boilers to biomass. The water use ratio is being reduced (2 liters outside the bottle gives 1 liter in the bottle), water is recycled, and rain water is used. Project Unnati uses drip irrigation. Although the company pulls 300 Billion liters per year from the local system, it plans to give back all the water used per year by 2020.
• Coca-ColaIndia.com displays articles such as the Economic Times' "Cola Nation."

Business—Retail, Financial Inclusion:
Devendra Chawla, Rakesh Biyani and Sunil Biyani of Future Group, a successful retail empire in India;
K.V. Eapen, senior adviser at the World Bank, specializing in financial inclusion for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
Not reported, please see below for videos.

Technology—Aakash and Aadhar:
• Narendra K. Sinha of India's National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology and Tarun Wadhwa of Hybrid Reality Institute discussed transformational technology.
• Every task is mammoth in India, given the population. Creating brick and mortar education means time and money, so new ideas are needed—hence the new Aakash 2 android tablet (now c$35, goal $10) combined with the Aadhar universal ID system. The government provided the funds. The aim is to connect the 30,000 colleges and over 680 universities, and later the high schools and middle schools. Apps will be available for science and engineering (vlab.co.in), school books on Aakash rather than paper. Universities buy tablets to issue for the semester or year to students who can't afford them.
• Quality education still requires teachers, and there is a 30% teacher shortage. Teachers need to be enthused to use these products and need continuing education, now lacking. Technology will be used to teach 15k teachers at once.
• Partnership is needed to get 1000 direct-to-home channels, with transponders to reach every home.
• China was more experienced in production, so was used, but now 5 companies in India are assembling.
• Aadhar will link student scholarships (220M students, 20% on scholarship) to bank accounts.
• The U.S. is struggling with privacy of data: within 100 miles of the border, personal digital materials may be searched; cloud access worries companies. "There are massive problems to be solved, and we're doing a very poor job of it." See Tarun's blog "Disruption and Democracy" at http://forbes.com/sites/tarunwadhwa/



Keynote speaker Vivek Wadhwa (center) thinks critically but optimistically as Professor Benn Konsynski speaks at the podium at the fourth annual India Summit, February 22, 2013. (Photo: Suzanne Sen)

Technology—How Can We Save the World?:
• Vivek Wadhwa delivered the keynote on technology at the Summit. In addition to being a tech entrepreneur, academic, and writer, he is vice president of academics and innovation at Singularity University, where he educates leaders on ways to use technology to confront challenges in human life and security.
• Unbelievable advances in technology are changing medicine: a $200 iPhone case can take free EKGs; automated robotic surgery is coming, and customized medicine based on our genes; The Quantified Self is a collection of tools, apps, and projects available for participation by pioneers. Now 80% of medicine is for treatment, but we need to use devices for prevention and detection, saving people and lowering medical bills.
• In engineering, robots will make manufacturing cheaper in the U.S. than China, bringing industry back to the U.S. Robotic cars will revolutionize cities, eliminating traffic jams, preventing accidents, making cars cheaper. The mouse will give way to user interface eyeglasses. Solar cost has come down 97% since 1974 and will become affordable soon. Aakash and Aadhar will lessen corruption in India. India-Pakistan water wars may be avoided by a couple of new inventions/procedures, e.g. Dean Kamen's Slingshot and Stirling generator, and "if Coke does their job right" (commenting on the previous presentation) every village could have energy and water, perhaps saving the world from WWIII.
• Immigration should be fixed now, for skilled labor first, then undocumented. When the economy heals, we will need immigrant population.
• More people will be coming online in India than anywhere else. Education and crowdsourcing of solutions to global problems will soar.
• Wadhwa himself enjoys a passive solar home and a Tesla car.

Website Bonus Feature

Emory's website:

Photo Gallery:

Emory University, India Summit, Published on Mar 15, 2013
February 21, 2013: 4 videos below, by title
February 22, 2013: 6 videos below, by title

Day 1
1. Entrepreneurship and Transformational Technology
Tarun Wadhwa & Narendra K. Sinha in conversation with Benn Konsynski, February 21, 2013

2. Joseph Anton and India
Salman Rushdie in conversation with Deepika Bahri, February 21, 2013

3. Partnership and Discovery
Rafi Ahmed, February 21, 2013

4. Race, Caste, and the Difference in India and the Unites States
Gyanendra Pandey, February 21, 2013

Day 2

1. Coca-Cola, Sustainability, and India
D.V. Darshan & Jeff Seabright, Moderated by Holli Semetko, February 22, 2013

2. Emerging Technologies
Vivek Wadhwa, February 22, 2013

3. Financial Inclusion
KV Eapen, Atisha Kumar & Jagdish Sheth, Moderated by Govind Hariharan, February 22, 2013

4. India's Retail Industry: A Perspective From Future Group
Rakesh Biyani, Sunil Biyani & Devendra Chawla, Moderated by Holli Semetko, February 22, 2013

5. Keynote Address
Ambassador Ajit Kumar, Introduction by Ambassador Marion V. Creekmore, February 22, 2013

6. mHealth
Madhu Deshmukh & Bill Philbrick, Moderated by Manoj Jain, February 22, 2013


Enjoyed reading Khabar magazine? Subscribe to Khabar and get a full digital copy of this Indian-American community magazine.

  • Add to Twitter
  • Add to Facebook
  • Add to Technorati
  • Add to Slashdot
  • Add to Stumbleupon
  • Add to Furl
  • Add to Blinklist
  • Add to Delicious
  • Add to Newsvine
  • Add to Reddit
  • Add to Digg
  • Add to Fark

Back to articles






OrangeLeaf_Website Banner Ad_One month.jpeg

Trophy Point webads small.jpg


Krishnan Co WebBanner.jpg


Embassy Bank_gif.gif