Computer gold rush is almost over

Life was good for Indians in computers. The world opened up its doors to them, to manage the shortage of labor in their countries.

To maintain their lead over other countries, Indian professionals were rewarded handsomely. Any small idea, became worth billions.

In Japan when it became clear to Mitsubishi that I was upset with them, they thought of a game plan. I was working on Japanese word processor. Suddenly the idea came to me. It was a stupid idea thought over 30 seconds. But everybody was “impressed.” Ms. Inouye, wrote the basic idea over a piece of paper, and soon it was filed for patent, and I was awarded 1 manyen (10,000 yens) as a reward. My stupid idea was Japan’s competitive advantage.

In Silicon Valley similar thing were going on with much larger rewards. Everyone was thinking of the new idea that could be patented. In reward, billions of dollars and golden life for their families.

If it was too stupid, maybe just a few millions. I had an IIT Delhi graduate at my workplace. His previous company had failed, and essentially he was unemployed without any prospect of any job. His friend Sumer stepped in, hired him, and told the management that he had a brilliant idea. My CEO had some suspicions. One night he came to me and asked me about that stupid idea. It turned out that I had no interest in helping him. A honest answer would have been that it is a stupid idea. But why? He was paying me minimum wages and wanted me to help him. Wrong decision. I turned serious and praised Sanjay saying that he was a computer guy from IIT Delhi, must be correct. (I forgot to tell him, he probably knew that I was an IIT Bombay electrical guy and why I am paid minimal wages. There is a right time to tell.) The result was immediate. He, his protege, Sumer, and Sanjay, were grouped, a patent lawyer was hired, they had hours long meetings. A patent a filed. Am sure my CEO started dreaming of how would he spent the billions he would get from patents. The lawyer was happy too for earning his legal consulting fee. Sumer and Sanjay were happy too, a nice way to earn money.

As expected the company lost money and has to close down.

But majority of patents are like that. Americans have filed patents on almost everything and many Indians gained immensely.

My classmate Rakesh Mathur worked for a few hours on a project, the project was simple, anyone with a few hours could do it, but Amazon, was desperate, paid about 200 million dollars for the idea. In a normal economy it was worth a nice shirt from the appreciative boss. Now, he and his family are super-rich.

If you read about the rich guys in India, most had the silly idea worth pennies, but they patented it and some American company bought it, and now are billionaires.

China realized it. They started developing their technology. However, America was able to stop Huawei by using excuse of patents.

Patents have been granted for the silliest ideas. Rules are changing now. It had become extremely difficult to think of any idea which has not already patented, generally by an Indian engineer while having butter dosa. China has caused problems for Indians. Days of easy money is almost over. Now using a few buzz words like “cloud computing”, “AI” etc. will help continue for some more time.

It is becoming difficult for Indians to make exorbitant money. The game might be over in a couple of decades. Then what?

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