Manmohan Singh Interview

The McKinsey Quarterly has an interview with the Indian Prime Minister on the economic agenda. Excerpts:

Manmohan Singh: The first and foremost priority is to finish the unfinished task which the founding fathers of our republic set out for us at the time of our independence: to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance, and disease, which have afflicted millions and millions of our people. Great progress has been made. Particularly in the last 20 years, the India economy has done quite well, social indicators and development have improved, but we are not quite where we ought to be. The next 5 to 10 years are crucial for moving forward in areas to stimulate economic growth and also to ensure that this accelerated economic growth really benefits the poorest segments of our society. We need a growth rate of about 7 to 8 percent per annum, sustained over a period of the next 10 to 15 years. We need to underpin that growth by strong performance of our agriculture, strong performance of our physical and our social infrastructure. These are our key priorities.

With regard to education, I think at the top we have an excellent superstructure. The IIMs and IITs,11 the regional engineering colleges, they have served us well. But ultimately, if the educational pyramid is not right there are limits to getting dividends. Therefore we are making, for the first time, the most determined effort to ensure that all our childrenparticularly children coming from disadvantaged families, particularly the girl childin the next four or five years have the benefit of minimum primary schooling. But that will generate demand for upgrading the quality of our secondary schools. We have not given that much attention toward upgrading our secondary-school system, and that is our next step. After what we have done in the last one year, primary education is well looked after. What we have now in place is a system which will ensure that all our children who are of school-going age are in primary school. But the secondary-school system will require a major effort, and it worries me.

Basic Mobile Phones

Daniel Taylor correctly points out that limited feature mobiles still have a market: “I can think of two market segments that would like these back-to-basics telephones. (1) Consumers on the low end of the market who use the telephone and may be interested in SMS – these users are less likely to download a ringtone or a game, and (2) businesses who want to provide mobile workers with a cell phone but who don’t want their workers spending too much time playing on their phones.”

Google and Microsoft

Om Malik has a guest post by Robert Young, who theorises that “Googles recent moves show that they are using ‘free’ to gradually devalue of Microsofts assets, and thus its market cap.”

So what is Googles master plan? I believe they are once again going counterintuitive, but in a manner that hits Microsoft where it hurts most. Google will make Microsofts entire strategic plan and mission, which revolves around the continued proliferation and dominance of the desktop PC operating system, obsolete by making Google itself the operating system. The model they are pursuing is very similar to Sun Microsystems (Jonathan Schwartzs) vision of turning computing into a utility, like electricity. The only difference is that Google is already almost there.

To some extent, Google is bringing back the architecture of the mainframe to render Microsoft obsolete. In the future, all computing devices, whether it be the PC, mobile phone, TV, etc., will simply be terminals that plug-in to Googles massive server grid and application services. With the increasing price/performance of CPUs, memory, bandwidth, and storage, Googles strategic edge will be based on their advantageous cost of processing bits. And as long as users are comfortable sharing their private data and behavior with Google, all services will remain free (and supported by advertising).