Thursday, February 19, 2009

Insights on India

One of the talks which really surprised and delighted me was this one by the co-founder of Infosys. Nandan Nilekani is the author of a book called Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century and he gave us a whirlwind tour of the ideas in that book. India is going through such transformation and he had a very thought-provoking take on that transformation. He discussed:
  • Ideas which have 'arrived', and are being implemented and acted upon
  • Ideas which are agreed upon by everyone but haven't been implemented yet
  • Ideas over which there is conflict and disagreement
  • Ideas in anticipation where there is agreement there is a problem but no consensus on solution

Ideas which have arrived

People, who were traditionally thought of as a burden, are now thought of as the engines of growth. India has a 'demographic dividend' for the next thirty years. As other countries are facing a worrisome aging of the population, resulting in tremendous burdens on social and health systems, India has an extremely young population, giving them a significant competitive edge.

Entrepreneurs, once thought of as villains in India, are now treated as role models.

Indians now see English as the language of aspiration, not the language of oppression.

Technology which was once seen as threatening is now seen as empowering. Mobile technology is a symbol of that technology to the masses. Eight million mobiles are being sold per month. 40% of these mobiles are recharged with less than 20 cents.

When Indians used to think of the rest of the world, they thought of imperialism; now they see globalization, a source of opportunity for India.

Ideas which are generally agreed upon and are being implemented

It's recognized that youngsters must have access to good public primary schools. Currently over half the students attend private schools.

The slogan in India used to be food and shelter for everyone. Now the slogans are around electricity, water and roads.

The cities are seen as the engines of growth in India. This is in ontrast to Ghandhi who focused on the villages.

India is now seen as one seamless market, with the infrastructure trying to catch up to this vision.

Ideas where there is still conflict
and disagreement

There are political, ideological conflicts about what politics will look like as India moves beyond the caste system.

There is still a conflict with labour about whether job protection is hampering job creation.

And there is disagreement about whether higher education should be controlled by the state or by private industry.

Ideas in anticipation

India has to avoid a health care crisis which simply substitutes the diseases of poverty for the diseases of the rich.

India has to work out a balance between pensions and entitlments.

India has to avoid environmental problems as it grows.

India has to drive its growth around a new energy model.

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