In reply to my email on my impressions of India on my recent visit, Anurag had written his thoughts on how there is little hope. In another personal message, he also felt that people from other countries – specially the Europeans and Australians – do not feel bad going to India because of the dirt, stray animals and other loud and dusty environment that the country has to offer. Raj, another friend, argued that some of his friends would like to go to India for just those reasons and that despite the mess, India does offer a “unique” culture!
For the benefit of everyone, I just wanted to bring out this debate and discussion out in the open.. because it would be great to get the feelings and thoughts of others as well in this…
Personally I feel, that if India wants it could do well in any area it wants. The thing is that we are so warped at most times. Its easy to create a Metro in a big American city like, say, Houston or New York (in 1920′s??) – with well under a million folks chugging along highways… but it is quite another to create something that complex in a city like Delhi .. where > 15 million people commute on anyting from a cycle to rickshaws to small box cars to Mercs to unruly buses without much disruption!! That it was created should be celebrated and learnt from in case of what is possible within that big and populated country!
Regarding the discussion on the bad services standards, it is not always so. I travel in the US almost every week in Continental Airlines (been a Elite member for last 5 years with Platinum status for last three years). Now, if Southwest is a bus service, Continental is probably the one with the best service standards of all the current airlines (I have tried ALL so I can convincingly say this!). In India, I travelled by Jet Airways. Believe me, that it was downright depressing to travel by Continental after flying Jet on four flights! The treatment and food I got there in the economy was better than what I get in the first class in Continental (which I usually get upgraded to anyways!). And this is not a jingoist claim.
As a country we were dealt a hand by history – and we have to pretty much live with it – at least for sometime! But we can create work arounds to take a place in the world that is our own. And I believe that more than anything we need the right attitudes. A generation back we were a country of wimps. Not anymore. The Youth today has a confidence that I haven’t ever seen in my growing up in the country.. and the energy is unmistakable! One of the IBM’s partner recently told me that the Average age of the group in the Global Delivery Center was 25 years - and these kids aint making sandals there but are involved in creating the future structure for SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) framework for Global IBM delivery!!! Do you remember what you were doing when you were 25?? And this is a group of one of the world’s biggest MNC in one of its most important divsions that it is almost betting its future on (IBM is no longer a hardware company .. but has morphed into a services company with India as its fulcrum!)!! Do we realize the significance of this?
Yesterday I was with this American guy from a major Consulting company. He said his son was in Hyderabad. Hyderabad? Doing what? “He is studying for a two year diploma at NIIT” he said “and his total expense for that course is $1500.. while his monthly living expenses are $400 including apartment, driver, car etc!” he said excitedly! This guy wanted his son to complete that course and then do some training in SAP and then come back to US to start working! This friend of ours had hit upon a secret that not many folks seem to understand – the Arbitrage of the Education and its Results! A kid from India – lets call him Aryan – with an Engineering degree and an MBA will, at the end of his education, be left with a debt of maximum -not more than Rs 10 lacs – if he studies in schools that require high fees! That’s less than USD 22,000! What do you think you would get in the US in that money? More importantly, what will be the debt of an American student – lets call him John – with similar credentials from the US? At least USD 150,000 – and I aint talking of the Ivy League schools! So, if both were businesses – Aryan Ltd. and John Inc. – who do you think will be more profitable in the end and who will have a greater chance of going bankrupt in times of a downturn? No brainer right?
As much as India is so very left behind in the Industrial revolution, we have more than made it in the Knowledge Revolution. I doubt it is important for us to “sell” India abroad. Now, the corporations outside – who are serious about their future need to “sell” themselves to India. Moreover, in my heart of hearts I sincerely believe that the “goods” of the Industrial Revolution will last only so long. We are running of out Oil and natural resources so quickly – without realizing – that it will be tough to survive with this infrastructure beyond 200 years from now. I am pretty convinced that my grandson – if not my son – will be witness to a catastrophe in the industrial world of unimaginable proportions. There is no way this entire monolith can survive that long! That is why it might be a Blessing in Disguise for India that it arrived at the party a little late. Just like it was good that India could not wire the entire country with phones – now we can use Cell Towers to the same job in a more efficient manner. In fact we can even send broadband from those towers wirelessly. Which is what the companies are doing.
To improve, India needs better attitudes. Its not about resources or land or population. Its all in the mind. Our minds have been played with for last many centuries. It will take time before we can get away from all that but it will happen. The simple reason why I believe it will happen is because India – no matter what the Europeans and Americans and our pseudo-seculars may argue – is a Civilization. America or Germany are countries. It takes heck of a lot of effort to create a civilization out of a country. A culture that can survive and sustain for 200 years cannot be assumed to be better than one that has been around for between 5000-10000 years!