Welcome to India, where labor is cheap, raw talent abounds, and first-generation entrepreneurship is remaking the economy, rewriting IT playbooks abroad, and disrupting jobs in the United States. Challenges abound, too. Business leaders fret over the sorry state of travel, wage inflation, and the investments required to mold tech grads into top-notch professionals.
To interpret this upheaval firsthand, InformationWeek editor-at-large Aaron Ricadela and Network Computing lab director Ron Anderson spent last week in Bangalore and Delhi, meeting dozens of business and technology professionals. Here’s their account of the traffic, the turmoil, and the high-tech engine in full throttle.
The [Chinese] securities infrastructure is just one part of the development equation, stressed the Republic of Korea’s Choi. In trying to understand Asia’s position today, one must consider that “the population is the area’s most important resource for economic growth.” East Asia’s 1.6 billion people, more than double the population of North America and Europe combined, are “a highly educated, motivated population, determined to change their lot,” said Choi, noting that East Asia has a distinct culture and character that support economic growth.
Using the example of yin and yang, he contrasted the ways of the East with the ways of the West. In the East, when writing an address on an envelope, one writes the country first, then city, then family name, then first name. In the West it is the opposite. In addition, there are differences in how people count: In the West, a person holds a fist and counts by putting out fingers. In the East, counting is done by first outstretching the fingers and bringing them in, one by one. “My observation,” said Choi, “is that these characteristics are reflected in business practices. It’s the difference between the moderation of the East versus the extremism of the West, long-term planning of the East versus short-term gains in the West, strategic planning in the East versus tactical gains in the West.”
Continuing the comparisons, Choi suggested that the game of chess epitomizes the way the West developed: victory after victory, head-on collision after head-on collision. “The West developed by conquering wide open spaces and wide open seas,” he said. “The East developed in a closed environment, with an un-navigable ocean to the east, the world’s highest mountains to the north, and jungles to the south.” Ironically, said Choi, the West turned an open world into a closed world.
Wired writes about “a virtual animal kingdom that has become a product placement paradise:”
Neopets has a staggering 25 million members worldwide. It has been translated into 10 languages and gets more than 2.2 billion pageviews per month. These dedicated Neopians spend an average of 6 hours and 15 minutes per month on the site. That makes Neopets the second-stickiest site on the Internet – ahead of Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, and eBay, according to Media Metrix. What’s more, its demographics are the stuff of marketers’ dreams: Four out of five Neopians are under age 18, and two out of five are under 13.
It’s these numbers that have captured everyone’s attention – Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and toy companies, all desperately trying to grab younger and younger audiences. The Neopets characters now appear as stuffed animals and action figures and on board games and trading cards. Warner Bros. is developing a Neopets feature film. A PlayStation 2 version hit the market in October, and a PSP version is due out next year. And then there’s perhaps the biggest deal of all: In June, Viacom – which owns CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures – bought Neopets for $160 million. “We want to be wherever kids are,” says Jeff Dunn, president of Nickelodeon, who took charge of the Neopets brand. “And there are plenty of kids at Neopets.”