TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2006: Changing India

Living in India, the rising stature of the country globally is something I am obviously very happy about. But at the same time, there are many challenges that I do not think we are doing enough about. Every so often, I discuss some of my thinking in the Tech Talks. In January, I wrote about India Rising. Here are excerpts from the introduction

Almost every investor and senior executive has started to think about India. For some, it is about leveraging Indias cheaper skilled labor. For some others, it is about capitalising on Indias growing domestic consumption. And for investors, it is about Indias attractive returns on investments.

Whether it be the steady stream of investment announcements in India as companies grow their operations or the flow of visitors seeking to discover the new India, there is now little doubt that India is starting to get factored into the plans that companies are making.

The outsourcing and services story is well-known. But as incomes start to rise (and salaries are indeed rising rapidly in the white-collar sector), domestic consumption is starting to take off. (These two factors are the principal drivers behind the real estate boom in Indian cities.)

…and the conclusion:

India is the flavour of the day. But we need to make it more than that. India needs a few decades of sustained development to make up for all the lost time. We have the worlds youngest population. If we are not to disappoint and lose this generation, we need to work on building the India of tomorrow. We may not be easily able to change our politicians and policies, but I firmly believe that we can use our innovation and entrepreneurial abilities to bring about change. We have to do this not between two generation, but between two elections. The India Rising story needs to not become a chapter but a book.

I wrote about the Revolution on the Roads in April, because Indian roads are changing, and with them, they are starting to change the way we travel. I wrote:

Taken together, the combination of good cars and highways, along with improved stopover points and ubiquitous connectivity, is going to start bringing a change in travel attitudes in India. I think people will be more open to taking weekend outings armed with the Outlook Travel Guides exploring new places in the vicinity. Already, Lonavala and Pune are but short drives from Mumbai. Mahabaleshwar is becoming ever closer with the improving road. A journey which used to take the better part of a day (Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar) can now be done in less than half the time. With increasing air connectivity to a greater number of places, the number of destinations which can be reached in 4-5 hours is increasingly rapidly.

This mobile lifestyle will also enable a discovery of India. There was a time when it used to be so much cheaper and better to travel to destinations outside India. Part of the allure was shopping. Now, with the mall mania reaching epic proportions in India, even that is less of a reason to venture beyond Indian shores. Our own country, which once had become alien to us, is now becoming much more accessible and inviting.

Two other themes I covered were on Education and Reservation and Gandhigiri (inspired in part by the movie, Lage Raho Munnabhai). This is what I wrote on the education: For India and Indians to realise its true potential, one of two things needs to happen either we need a government that understands the true aspirations of the youth and focuses on solving Indias problems at the root, or people take matters in their own hands to counter the short-sighted policies of those in power. The issue about reservation in education shows clearly that the first is unlikely to happen in the near future. The second option is the only solution. An idea to making this happen came from an unlikely source in the Munnabhai movie: Education, energy, urbanization, healthcare, poverty, AIDS, infrastructure, corruption there is a lot of catching up to do. Indias young need jobs and opportunities and we have increasingly little time to provide it. We are going to need disruptive solutions to many of Indias problems. Gandhi realised that a violence-driven approach would probably not have gotten India independent and even if it did, it would not be the same India. His disruptive innovation of using non-co-operation as a weapon against the British needs to find its echo in todays India to solve the problems that we face. Gandhigiri is just a start.

Tomorrow: The Blog, and Abhishek

Best of Tech Talk 2006+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.