India Story: Bloom or Gloom

Be it horrendous news reports of rating agencies such as S&P or Fitch or of the ever increasing double digit inflation, from every side it appears that the India story is full of gloom. However, as usual there are some sectors and individuals who keep the hope alive with all odds against them and in spite of all the governance or policy paralysis in a democracy, particularly one like India where every person worth a mention has got a different view on every issue of national importance. That must be the reason that all the burning issues, be it poverty or universalization of education, infant mortality or dowry tortures have remained as pertinent today as on the day of Independence. Should we be morose or live with hope? Here are some that do make us feel good.

India’s private sector remains one of the strongest among the major economies of the world. Indian companies are not only innovative but also very capable in leadership and organization. It fights all odds-higher taxation, power outages, and unscrupulous competition. India Inc plans to take the innovative route to cost-cutting when the cost of input goes higher. For example, while Maruti Suzuki, in a bid to bring down cost of manufacturing vehicles, plans to use plastic to build fuel tanks as against conventional steel in models such as the new Swift, FMCG major, PepsiCo India, has opted to save cost by using palm oil instead of rice bran oil for cooking its snacks. It will be good if India’s other manufacturing companies to take inspiration from the iconic companies in Japan, for example Toyota Motors rather than GM or Ford in USA.

Toyota retains a 44% market share in Japan, almost three times that of Nissan or Honda, its main domestic competitors. That gives it economies of scale. It aims to produce at least 3m cars a year in Japan, and is cutting costs to such a degree—through lines that can be flexed according to demand, through cars that sit side by side rather than nose to tail, and thanks to robots that do almost everything except procreate—that it reckons it can turn a profit from making 50,000 vehicles a year at a single factory, compared with about 200,000 previously. Is that is exciting?

Here is another hope. As reported, on June 1, forty of India’s wealthiest gathered in Bangalore for a closed-door discussion on philanthropy hosted by Bill Gates, Azim Premji and Ratan Tata. While some were interested, but still hesitant to give away large chunks of their wealth, for the others, the question was not ‘how much to give’, but ‘how to give’ in order to maximize impact.” I am sure they will hear the voice of the time and focus on the education of rural India. It is only through education that India can come out of deprivation and poverty. Let the government and its operators- politicians and administrators, go on doing the doling to feed the interests of their own middlemen.

Indian youth is another hope. While a lawyer education minister keeps himself busy in creating controversy on his own, the million of students with dreams of higher education are going for all routes to succeed in life. Here is an example: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently teamed up to form edX, a not-for-profit online education initiative. edX launched a course, ‘Circuits and Electronics’, in this February and 1, 20,000 students registered to take the course worldwide. India was the second-largest country in terms of people registered for the course.

Today a laptop/tablet or even a smart phone with internet facility is getting transformed into a school, a college or a university. Initiative such as Udacity, Coursera, iTuneU and edX are making it possible. Knowledge is getting free. I am sure with the previous example that the youths of the country will not miss this opportunity and expand and deepen their domain knowledge and realize their dreams of studying in Stanford, Princeton or Pennsylvania, MIT or Harvard or even in our own IITs or IIMs and compete with others in global job market.

And I have a reason to believe that it will happen. As reported, by 2015, India will have more Facebook users than any other country on Earth. I wish the whole lot use it more productively.

India’s governments have a history of responding with bold reforms only when the country’s back is to the wall. Political leadership will get up from the slumber.

The world is looking towards India to get its act together… Will India’s own political leaders realize that and get into some serious business rather than only politicking?

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