2003 has been a year when the world has started romancing India. 2004 will be a defining year for the relationship whether it leads to marriage and the start of a new era, or as has happened many times in the past, separation and isolation. The onus for where it ends is very much on India and Indians. We have the world coming to us. Now is the time to rise to the occasion. Too often in the past, promises made have remained unfulfilled. Too often, there has been a ray of hope which got quickly intercepted by a cloud. Whether Indian Shines in 2004 or not is up to each one of us, as much as it is to the government.
The challenge India faces in 2004 is that of infrastructure and attitude. Even as the world is keen to make India the services capital, Indias physical and digital infrastructure lags. We gloat about having USD 100 billion in forex reserves, but most of our cities do not have proper roads and reliable power. We love our IITs and IIMs, but our education system for the masses has barely changed and universal literacy is still far away. We seek to conquer the health tourism market, even as we have no proper strategy to counter the looming threat of HIV/AIDS across the country. Confidence is good, but there is a fine line which separates it from arrogance. What India and Indians need to do is get down to not stopping at building a few pockets of brilliance, but diffuse this across the nation to create an infrastructure that matches the best in the world. One Golden Quadrilateral project and a couple of Metros are not good enough. A co-ordinated, national effort has to be undertaken to upgrade the entire nation urban and rural.
This brings me to the next challenge that India faces: that of Attitude. Now that we have got the attention of the worlds media and businesses, we need to show statesmanship and leadership. We need to put economic development at the top of the national agenda India needs schools, not temples, we need to talk technology not politics, we need tolook outward to the future, not inward to the past. Our legacy is rich and good, but that in no way can guarantee success in the future. We need to move from thinking and talking to doing. We need to think entrepreneurially so that we create innovations to solve problems, not discuss them to the end of eternity. The Field of Dreams needs to be built, not just envisioned. The Attitude must that of being the best in what we can do. Today, this is there in a few companies which can match up to the best in the world. This needs to go across the board and right down the organisational hierarchy in corporates and government.
2004 is an important year for India and Indians. We need to not only dream big, not also back it up with operational excellence. These moments come once in a few generations. We had one such opportunity after our Independence in 1947, but we let it go. We now have it again. Whether we march on and it will be a long march and climb the mountains beyond mountains or whether we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, our actions will make or break the next generation of India and Indians.
Tomorrow: India in 2004 (continued)
TECH TALK 2003-04+T