TECH TALK: India’s Century: Rays of Hope (Part 1)

The past few columns have looked at what India needs to do in various areas (Infrastructure, Economy, IT and the Internet, Education, Mindset, Leadership) to make the 21st century as India’s century. There are good things happening around us which one can often miss. These may be small, isolated instances but they offer hope for the future. One of the key attributes of entrepreneurs and for leading change is optimism. That is what is on offer here – 21 rays of hope for the 21st century India.

  1. The use of electronic voting machines in the recently concluded Assembly elections ensured that leads and results started flowing in very quickly. By late afternoon, almost all the results were in. A great example of technology actually making a difference in one of the most critical processes in a democracy.
  2. Last week, the government opened up additional areas for private and Foreign Direct Investment. A step in the right direction. Also last week, in a world where telecom companies are increasingly under pressure, it was good to see an Indian telecom company (Bharti) get USD 450 million in FDI from the likes of Singapore Telecom and Warburg Pincus.
  3. Customs and Immigration at Mumbai airport has improved dramatically. Now, there is a single, Disneyland-style queue, the officers are cheerful and fast in doing their checks, baggage seems to appear faster, and the green channel actually works well for honest people!
  4. The Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha in late February was one of the most progressive and pro-economy. The stock market scam which broke after that is now forcing measures to clean up the exchanges and strong (though delayed) action by the market regulator, Sebi. The result is likely to be more teeth for Sebi (the courts have already refused to intervene) and the corporatisation of the stock exchanges.
  5. India’s software industry and engineers have earned the respect of the world. The success of companies like Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Satyam and others have created hope for the future.
  6. The GSM cellphone networks work very well across the country. Cellphones are now available across many parts of India, coverage is excellent, and competition is ensuring a reduction in rates. One can actually drive across a city and talk uninterrupted on the cellphone.
  7. Indian companies continue to list on international stock exchanges. At a time when the Nasdaq was at its recent lows, Dr. Reddy’s Lab listed itself in the US. Satyam Computers has also bee listed on the New York Stock Exchange. A strong vote of confidence for not just the two companies, but also the two sectors that offer great hope for the future – pharma and software.
  8. India’s five-star hotels are as state-of-the-art as you get anywhere in the world. In Mumbai, two recent openings include Le Meridien and ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton, both very close to the city’s international airport. Jet Airways offers as good a flying experience as any other top airline in the world. If only our ground transportation could be better, tourism could do very well in India.
  9. The IITs and IIMs have earned very high marks for their educational experience. These ten-odd institutes are India’s pride. India’s strength in mathematics and sciences augurs well for the knowledge economy.
  10. Cybercafes (Internet browsing centres) are sprouting up everywhere. At prices ranging from Rs 30-60 per hour, they offer Internet access across India for the PC-deprived. Just as the Public Call Offices (PCOs) helped in offer telecom access to the masses, these Internet community centres can be the starting point for building the affordable, mass-market Internet.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.