I have been feeling this for quite some time: India’s star in the world is on the ascendant. Its a mix of various things taken together which makes me feel like this.
The construction activity that I see all around – roads, bridges, buildings. And the quality of this new construction is now becoming on par with the best in the world, not the makeshift stuff we used to do a decade or more ago. Gurgaon, Whitefields, Lower Parel, Bandra Kurla Complex…places and neighbourhoods are changing.
India is in the news. Indians are in the news. India a key part of the recent Business Week cover story on outsourcing. The recent IIT-50 bash in the US. Kalpana Chawla on the Columbia shuttle (sad). Sarin taking over as CEO of Vodaphone. The growing business and profits of tech companies like Infosys and Wipro. Tisco exporting steel to China. Times of India becoming the largest selling English newspaper in the world. Reliance Infocomm offering the world’s lowest telecom rates.
Life becoming faster. This struck me recently when I took the train from Pune to Mumbai. For all my life, the journey time for the 192-km distance used to be 3 hours and 10-25 minutes. And the trains used to be packed. Now, the trains are running a bit empty. And the journey time has reduced to under 3 hours by Shatabdi. The reason? The world-class 6-lane expressway between the two cities has shrunk road time, and that has got in extremely comfortable bus services which do the journey in 3 hours. People are also preferring to just take their own cars. Nice to see the railways reacting to competition by reducing travel time.
A mix of geographical, economic and social factors is putting India in the limelight. The doom and gloom being felt in many parts of the world (slowdown, job losses, war fears) doesn’t seem to be resonating in India. It is business as usual. In fact, there’s a sense of positive energy.
Perhaps, China must have been like this in the 1990s (and continues to be). But India has always moved slower. Now, thanks to a mix of circumstances, technology, opportunities and a few good Ministers (people like Arun Shourie), there is a feeling that life tomorrow will definitely be better, that India can yet claim its rightful place in the world.
Unlike China, India is WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get). The openness, transparency and democratic principles embedded in the people make India still go a little slower than China. But I can’t help feeling that this is a more solid growth. The dragon might have raced ahead, but the elephant has finally started moving, much to the relief and delight of the rest of the world. The dragon invokes fear, the elephant is an epitome of friendliness.
A start has been made, and this is just the beginning. But for the first time in my life, I sense that India is slowly getting its act together, determined to not just not miss the bus once again, but to leapfrog.