Just before Christmas, Indian Express
published a fascinating investigation
into what has happened to the individuals who came top in India’s national school board exams between 1995 and 2015 (see also a good summary thread here
). The basic statistics are an interesting lens on recent (elite) Indian history: a plurality of the individuals work in tech (Google employs more than any other organisation); and none come from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds; and, most interestingly to me, more than half have moved abroad.
If the latter trend reverses, there could be a big impact. Indian tech talent has been one of the groups most affected by the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigration. While that likely had a negative effect
on the United States and probably on the individuals themselves, what I’ve seen in my day job
makes me think it had a positive impact on the domestic Indian startup ecosystem (though as we discussed in TiB 133
“brain drain” can have positive impacts). It’s unclear whether the Biden Administration will be able to fully reverse this, particularly in a world of more and more remote work.
Another big idea that comes through in the piece is the notion of ambitious individuals being drawn into a small set of “default paths”, which long time readers will know is an obsession of mine
. Of course, academic achievement is only one kind of talent, though - as we discussed in TiB 125 -
extreme academic performance is
associated with extreme outcomes, so it matters what these people choose to do with their lives. I continue to think that “editing” these default paths in favour of positive sum games (like starting companies…) is one of the most underrated sources of leverage in the world.