Development Dialogue: 12 Contradictions of the Entrepreneurial Movement of India
Madanmohan Rao
CHASING INNOVATION: MAKING ENTREPRENEURIAL CITIZENS IN MODERN INDIA by Lilly Irani Princeton University Press, 2019, 286 pp., $99.95
December 2019, volume 43, No 12

Madanmohan Rao
CHASING INNOVATION: MAKING ENTREPRENEURIAL CITIZENS IN MODERN INDIA
By Lilly Irani Princeton University Press, 2019, pp. 286, $99.95

This compelling book discusses the ‘seductions, limits and contradictions’ of the entrepreneurial movement in India. Entrepreneurship is being shaped as a movement that embraces creative freedom, business value, and nation building. Examples and case studies are building up of how techies, designers, development specialists, and business professionals can create entrepreneurial ventures for socio-economic uplift.

Lilly Irani, an Iranian-American Communications Professor at the University of California, San Diego, has a background in computer science and design. She was also a Fulbright Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and spent nearly a decade as fieldworker for a Delhi design studio.

Lilly cautions that the social, economic, and political challenges in India may be too formidable to be solved merely by startup projects involving founders, venture capitalists, and global philanthropies. Innovation is being framed as desirable, but infrastructure building and maintenance, or the activities of craftspeople and labourers, are unfortunately not painted in the same light. Entrepreneurship and design should not be seen as a substitute for the hard grassroots work of progressive social change, or as a way for government and big business to pass the buck, or for middle-class professionals to turn their backs on the messy necessity of political movements.

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