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Up the value chain[continued]

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There are more emerging successes. Bioinformatics is a new business field for Indian harvesters to mow into. This area has more to do with computers than labs. Indian are not doing badly with test-tubes either. In biotechnology India is marshalling its forces. The number of people working in the industry has grown to 8000 , up from 5000 a year ago; and most of them are scientists.

The new Indian rope trick:

Close by BPO is world class medical services available in India. There is a trickle of patients from the West --encouraged by Indian doctors they meet there, no doubt-- who are arriving in India for major surgeries. Apollo Hospitals is in talks with British health care authorities to formalise arrangement by which British patients will be routinely operated upon in India.

But an emerging convergence of communications, robotics and surgical skills holds an ominous portent for world corporations and economies. For, India it can mean leadership in a market where it holds all the cards. We are not there yet, but you can have a glimpse of the things to come:

Dr. Naresh Trehan was a successful young heart surgeon in Manhattan. By the 1980s he was grossing over a $1.5 million a year. He returned to India when he noticed that several of his patients were from India. In New Delhi, Trehan has created the Escorts Heart Foundation. All this by way of background.

Today Dr Trehan sits in a corner of the operating theatre in front of a high resolution screen and moves levers with calm deliberation. The patient is about ten feet away. A robot wired to Dr Trehan's console is poised over the patient. For every movement that Dr Trehan makes, one of robots many hands makes a micro movement. It all happens in real time over the wires. The precision and steadiness of robot combined with the surgeon's knowledge and decisiveness result in unfailing success. Dr Trehan has already done over 50 such surgeries.

Now imagine this. Ten years down the line communications will be so advanced and reliable that a robot 10,000 miles away in New York can move in real time to commands from an Indian Doctor in say, Nashik. Thousands of approved Indian surgeons will be operating on patients all over the world. Now, for surgeons, substitute cooks, teachers and general robot minders. Smart Indians --without moving a mile out of India-- will be nurses, baby sitters, security guards, machinists, assemblers and warehouse keepers.

Hey, you there: do you know a better rope trick?

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