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TECH TALK: Letter to a 2005 Baby: 10 Big Ideas (Part 3)

June 22nd, 2005 · No Comments

Dear Abhishek,

4. The Rise of India and China

Building on Tom Friedmans flat world theme, the next pointer I want you to keep in mind is the rise of India and China. During the 1990s, China became the workshop for the world. Today, Made in China permeates a huge array of products sold globally. The past decade has seen the rise of India as a back-office to the world. Even though this services revolution has impacted only a small number in India, what it has done is given the country a new confidence by placing it squarely in the middle of many global value chains.

With successive governments who kept the liberalisation of the Indian economy happening in fits and starts, India has now become a happening business destination. CEOs of global companies are now visiting India to explore opportunities here. Investments are coming in across the board. There is a still a lot of work to do on all fronts from infrastructure to education but the process has started and cannot now be reversed.

In school, I remember having a choice in the ninth standard of choosing between Marathi and French as the third language (after English and Hindi). I chose Marathi even though I knew it would be, as my friends called it, less-scoring. Opting for Marathi (and not opting for French) was in my mind a decision to focus on my country after all, I expected to live in Maharashtra state. Also, the hot country that time was not France, but America. And English took care of that. My one recommendation for you will be to learn Chinese as you grow up. China and India will be the new power centres and engines. You cannot ignore China as a market and as an opportunity for whatever you do. It will be good for you to learn the language early in your life.

In your lifetime, these two countries along with other emerging markets like Brazil and Russia are where the opportunities will be. These countries have little legacy and a great desire to catch up for the lost years. Both India and China were great civilizations once upon a time. For different reasons, they suffered decline through the centuries China looked inward and shut itself out from the outside world, while India was colonised. Now, both are using their strengths to power ahead and take their people forward. You have to be a part of this onward march. These billions of the world need to be given the same opportunity that you have, with technology and innovation being an integral part of the development process.

It would be good to keep these words from the Economist (Mar 3, 2005) in mind:

The more interesting and important question is whether India can compete withor at least emulateChina in labour-intensive manufacturing for export. There is no other way that Indian economic growth can be raised consistently to match that achieved in China in the past two decadesIndia needs to raise its growth rate not as part of some artificial race with China, but for its own sake. Because of its population profile, not to do so would bring a big rise in unemployment, with all the misery that implies. The obstacles are certainly daunting, and include some political reform.

How the two countries cope with these and other social tensions will in part determine whether they can maintain or (for India) raise their present high rates of growth. China does not have the safety valve of regular competitive elections, but nor are there signs of an imminent explosion. India’s political structure has shown itself well able to absorb all manner of shocks, but not, as yet, to achieve sustained radical growth-enhancing reform. Many would agree with Lord Desai’s conclusion: China will again become a viable Great Power; India may become just a Great Democracy.

I hope you will play more than a meaningful role in also making India a Great Power.

Tomorrow: 10 Big Ideas (continued)


TECH TALK Letter to a 2005 Baby+T

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