Monday, November 3, 2008

Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani

Nandan Nilekani, the co-chairman of Infosys Technologies and Thomas L. Friedman’s muse for The World is Flat (who also has a new book out called Hot, Flat and Crowded), is working on his own book titled Imagining India; his attempt, as he puts it, to address a gap in understanding India. Imagining India is published by Penguin in November.

Delivering the global leader lecture at Johns Hopkins University’s school of advanced international studies in June, Nilekani spoke of the six things that changed in the mindset of india:

1) Earlier, population was looked at as a burden and a lot of things that happened in the 1960s and ’70s—like family planning and sterilisation and the Emergency and so forth—were related to the belief that population was getting out of control and that it was actually a problem to have a large population. Today, we think of it as human capital. And, this has become even more critical because India is going to be the only young country in an ageing world and that really makes a huge difference.

2) Entrepreneurs are no longer viewed with suspicion but as icons of economic growth. Since 1991, there has been a huge expansion of enterprise, there is a far bigger role for the private sector and for industry. India today has the largest pool of entrepreneurial talent outside the United States. Indian entrepreneurs are not afraid of liberalisation any more. They are very confident and globally competitive and they are not only investing abroad, they are buying companies abroad.

3) English is no longer viewed as an imperial language that has to be jettisoned but as a language of aspiration that has to be really cultivated. All the political angst about English has disappeared largely because of the growth in the economy, the growth of outsourcing, the growth of jobs. More and more people, whether they are in villages or small towns, are realising that if they want to participate in the global economy and bring more income to their lives, they have to learn English. And the political system has accepted this because more and more states which had stopped teaching English are now going back to teaching English from class one.

4) The notion of democracy has undergone a major transformation from the time of india’s Independence. In the 1950s and ’60s, it was really a top-down idea. It was an idea of the leaders who had a certain vision of the kind of country they had to create, and it was given or gifted to all the people who may not have necessarily understood the value and import of what was happening. Today, it has gone on to become a bottom-up democracy where everybody understands their democratic rights. You see people taking charge and doing things without waiting for the state to do the job.

5) Technology has helped India leap-frog several decades from a very antiquated system to a very modern system. What people don’t realise is it has played as much a role in India’s internal development as it has in terms of the $50 billion in IT exports. The entire national elections of 2004 across were done digitally using electronic voting machines—there was no paper. Today, thanks to technology, India has the most modern stock markets in the world. The mobile phone has become accessible to everybody. It is touching every individual and we are seeing more and more applications, causing a quantum leap in productivity, fuelling economic growth.

6) India has adopted a progressive view of globalisation. Fundamentally the confidence that India has gained has made our worldview on globalisation far more positive. Our companies have become globally competitive and are willing to go out. More and more people are beginning to become far more comfortable with globalisation and they are realising the benefits of an open economy, of having their workers and their people all over the world, and of Indian companies exporting capital abroad.

Imagining India will be released in November, keep an eye out here for more information and features.


Grasshopper said...

The population perspective was new to me.

But why 'Imagining'India. He seems to be talking of what is, hardly of what can be.

Frank said...

Great Guy!
But I don,t think he can fix India!

Anonymous said...

A small, but interesting book, by Aronica and Ramdoo on globalization, "The World is Flat? A Critical Analysis of Thomas Friedman's New York Times Bestseller," which offers a counterperspective to Friedman's theory on globalization.

Interestingly enough, the book written about two years back, discusses in the following chapters,
"Debt and Financialization of America"
"America"s Former Middle Class"
"A Paradigm Shift for America" with prescriptions for the future

the debt ridden American society, deregulated financial institutions, mortgage crisis and other related issues, with clear pointers to the economic crisis gripping US today. For more information regarding the same, check this out:

This is a small book compared to the 600 page tome by Friedman, and aimed at the common man and students alike. As popular as the book may be, some reviewers assert that by what it leaves out, Friedman's book is dangerous. The authors point to the fact that there isn't a single table or data footnote in Friedman's entire book.

"Globalization is the greatest reorganization of the world since the Industrial Revolution," says Aronica.

You may want to see
and watch
for an interesting counterperspective on Friedman's
"The World is Flat".

Also a really interesting 6 min wake-up call: Shift Happens!

There is also a companion book listed: Extreme Competition: Innovation and the Great 21st Century Business Reformation

Anonymous said...

It is an interesting reading that outlines strengths of India while making observations on how things have evolved.
However many of the points appear to be views cut off from reality. Population can be a capital only if the economic divide disappears and the standard of living improves. India is still a country with poverty abound and Govt has a definite role to play

The corruption in political system shakes even the econfidence of educated masses and is root cause of many issues.

While IT has made strong contributions, it was interesting to see mention of decentralization from the author, who has run his company with a tight central control

lalita js said...

Written in simple English, the book gives a right perspective about India's recent past.One gets hopeful about the future, but the corrupt politicians, terrorism & loomimg recession do shake the faith somewhere.I hope & pray that Nandan's optimism comes out victorious.
Lalita Jagmohan Singh, Chandigarh.