Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Imagining India is launched in Delhi

Amid critical acclaim and interest, last night saw the launch of Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century, by Nandan Nilekani (near left), at the ITC Maurya, Delhi, in front of a packed audience that included Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

Mike Bryan (far left), CEO & President, Penguin Books India, spoke about the lasting impression Imagining India had left on him, and explained how apt it was that Nandan's book should be the first title in India to be published under Penguin's non-fiction imprint Allen Lane - a stable of 'some of the greatest minds from across the world' that includes Amartya Sen, Thomas Friedman, Joseph Stiglitz and Richard Dawkins. Mike then invited the 'founding father of Penguin India', David Davidar, on stage to introduce Nandan Nilekani.

David Davidar (left), currently President of Penguin Canada, revealed that Imagining India offers: 'several kinds of wisdom that no other non-fiction book on India is able to do.'

An all-encompassing book, Imagining India effectively examines the problems, prospects and chances of achieving superpower status, he said, before inviting the highly respected author, Nandan Nilekani (below), to impart his knowledge and theories on India to the expectant audience.

"It is all about ideas. Ideas happen not because of diktats, but because society starts believing that the ideas are the best for them".

"For instance, the idea of English in India began as a language of outsourcing by the British - forging a collective linguistic unity. But post-Independence, it became the language of imperialism. The same language, however, came back in the globalised era as the language of outsourcing," Nilekani explained.

Technology in India has undergone a similar transition, he revealed. Whereas it first appeared as an intimidating force that people were reluctant to embrace, now it is being utilised as a tool of empowerment. However, the key to harnessing the potential of India's technological strength is by providing access to all; looking throughout India as a totality, a 'unity of aspirations', Nandan said.

Nandan (left) claimed that India is the only country in the world to possess the following six attributes that he felt would be critical to its success: population, democracy, technology, globalisation, English and ideas. This puts India at a unique global advantage, he proposed, so long as these factors are managed effectively.

In what was quickly becoming a fascinating speech about India and its future prospects, as well as offering a tantalising glimpse of the content of Imagining India, Nandan postulated that it is the speed of movement towards a single market that has determined the growth of different industries in India. Whilst the services sector now functions on a national level, manufacturing exists on a state level and agriculture remains on a provincial level, he explained.

In Imagining India, Nandan presents his set of 18 ideas that are divided into three broad groups - concepts that are already in place, contested ideas, and ideas to anticipate.

Focusing on what he saw as future initiatives, Nandan drew attention to improvements in health patterns, pension schemes (to which he paid tribute to Finance Minister P Chidambaram (above right)) and environmental issues including a post-carbon economy. One of the most difficult challenges would be to break the link between carbon emission and income growth, he prophesised.

The key to successful evolution of ideas, Nandan concluded, was to embrace and understand the history of India, then look towards the future by connecting the dots between all social aspects that influence this great country, and crucially, provide access to all.

Mike Bryan then hosted a Q+A session with the audience putting their questions to Nandan, the most significant concerning his view on the differing attitudes to emerge over the last 20 years in India, to which he replied: "More than ever people are taking charge of their lives now...a collective spirit has been unleashed." Imagining India indeed.

Watch highlights from the book launch here:

Visit the official Imagining India website here:
Guy Fowles
Online Marketing

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