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Interview

“There is more geekiness in Asia, and in India in particular!” Angela Saini, author, Geek Nation

Madanmohan Rao
25th Apr 2013
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Angela Saini is a science journalist who has written for the BBC, the Economist, New Scientist, Science, and Wired. She was named European Young Science Writer of the Year in 2009. She is the author of the book “Geek Nation: How Indian Science is Taking Over the World” (see my book review). Angela joins us in this exclusive interview on the startup scene in the UK and India, the rise of geek media, and India’s unique global edge in geekiness!


Angela

YS: How was your book received? What were some of the unusual responses and reactions you got?Angela: It went down really well, especially in India. I was sent a lot of lovely messages from readers, but the strangest reaction at the beginning was that a couple of journalists seemed surprised to be reading a non-fiction science book by a woman. It took a thick skin to shrug off some of the sexism!

YS: You interviewed Indian startups like TringMe in your book. What are your findings and impressions of India’s startup scene?

Angela: I was impressed by the scene in Bangalore. It felt a lot like Silicon Valley, if smaller. The greatest opportunity for start-ups in India seems to be the growing middle-class market. It's incredibly lucrative and there is a real chance for people to get in at an early stage and build something big. TringMe was promising, and I'm sure there are many other exciting start-ups today.

YS: How would you compare and contrast the innovation ecosystems of the US and UK?

Angela: London has its own tech village, known as Silicon Roundabout, which has many exciting young companies. And Cambridge has a long-established cluster of electronics and biotech firms. But there is nothing quite like Google that has been born in Britain. There seems to be a slight nervousness here amongst entrepreneurs -- people seem less willing to take risks, especially when compared to the US.

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YS: Who are some of the entrepreneurs you admire today?

Angela: There are a lot of young people to admire. The founders of Facebook and Twitter are modern legends, of course. But what I would love to see is someone shaking up the media industry, making good-quality journalism profitable. At the moment, in that arena, the best example so far seems to be VICE magazine.

YS: What kinds of connections are emerging between scientists and entrepreneurs in the UK and India?

Angela: UK universities are opening campuses across India, which is fantastic for students, because there is such high demand for university places. And there are far more research collaborations between Indian and UK scientists than there used to be.

YS: How would you compare the science movement in China to India?

Angela: I really don't know enough about science on the ground in China to give you a qualified opinion on that. But when you look at the statistics alone, then China seems to be surging ahead in terms of research publications and PhDs. It's certainly an exciting time for science in China. India's growth is slower, but strong.

YS: Would you say that geekiness is an Indian strength or an overall Asian trait?

Angela: Geekiness is a universal thing, but you do seem to see it more in Asia, and in India in particular. It's a stereotype, I suppose, but one with truth to it.

YS: What role does the media play in covering geek culture?

Angela: There are thousands of websites and magazines now devoted to geek culture - not just science, but also comics, gaming and technology. We geeks are pretty well represented!

YS: What is your current field of research?

Angela: I've spent the last year at MIT in Boston looking a science in East Asia (particularly in Japan), and also the way that science and engineering have shaped and built our environment.

YS: What is your next book going to be about?

Angela: That is something I'm not even sure about yet!

YS: What is your parting message to the scientists and entrepreneurs in our audience?

Angela: Stay geeky!

Follow YourStory.in’s research director Madanmohan Rao

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