India's competitive advantage

Last night I attended a talk by Rajeev Srinivasan, Rediff Columnist, at Stanford University on India’s competitive advantage.

First he talked about what a great past India had, when there were great accomplishments in Mathematics, Medicine, education etc. Even as near as 1750, before colonialism set in, India had 25% of world trade. There was a school in each village and India was enjoying the fruits of globalization.

But then after Independence, Rajeev says that India fell into the Nehruvian Growth Rate of less than 5% due to the policies of the Governments which did not make infrastructure investments and popularized the licence-raj. The bureaucrats were spending more time telling people what they could not do.

To make India prosperous, we have to promote the advantages India has and for that we have to promote what he calls “Brand India”. As a case study he said, it is good to study how the Japanese entered the US Markets. Also there is a need to improve infrastructure and the legal framework.

There is lot of fear in India regarding multinations assuming that Indian companies would not be able to compete with them. But then he said that Indian companies can definitely adapt to the circumstances. He told the cases of Aravind Eye Clinic and the Japur Foot, both of whom are providing world class services at low rates. He also mentioned about the my home state of Kerala, where they have packaged Ayurveda and Tourism and created a industry which is providing employment to many people.

He then compared India against United States and China offering the pluses and minuses. One of the biggest problem with Indians is inferiority complex. But as the IT industry has shown, India can survive in a globalized world. In the past India has survived in a globalized world and it can again.

I have been reading Rajeev’s columns for long time and this is the first time I saw him and heard him talk and I have to say, I like his columns better. But I appreciate the fact that he has taken time to put a comprehensive view of India from cultural, economic and historical angle. But to spread Brand India he will have to reach to a wider audience, especially non-Indians.
For those of you who wonder, how he looks like, here is a picture. For people in Bay Area, there is another talk on Oct 7th at the University of California, Berkeley.

8 thoughts on “India's competitive advantage

  1. Whenever there is talk of Brand India, there seems to be an implicit assumption of promoting that brand in the “West”. I feel that there are significant work-ethic, cultural and historical differences between the West and India that have to be bridged before Indians can effectively communicate their brand to the West on a large scale. The BPO/IT industry seems to be driven largely by the desperate need to cut costs, and by the large population of Indians in the US – not by “brand India”.
    But there never seems to be talk about how to promote India in Asia itself – after all Japan is the #2 economy, China is making rapid strides and moving beyond their political agenda to truly engage India economically. Culturally and historically Asians are a lot closer to one another, and it seems logical to first promote brand India closer to home.
    Yet, somehow, for Indians, recognition of brand India from the “West” seems to be more worthwhile than recognition from our neighbors. That itself is an inferiority complex of sorts.

  2. Yes, Once has to only look at the success of NIIT and APTECH in China and Vietnam, It is strange that Indian companies or for that matter even Indian students don’t look East.

  3. So u liked his columns better. may I know which one u liked better? Maybe thats “Apartheid in India” for u? Ppl like RS will only help in creating more terrorists in India. With more terrorists around and communal divisions widening forget making India a developed country by 2020.

  4. I also felt that his columns are better than the talk. But considering the duration of the talk, I guess he was able to touch upon the major points – though towards the end he was rushing through the slides. It would have been more interesting if there was more time to go into at least some of the details.

  5. Preetam, With the arrival of Buddhism in India, the regions Indians spread their influence was the East. Hence you see traces of Indic Civilization in those countries. I think we have to learn from the past.
    But getting the western approval is a weakness all over the world.

  6. It was the first time I saw/heard him as well. It was quite an interesting experience – he was well spoken, in my opinion. What he talked about was not new in content, especially if you’ve read his articles about India. The Berkeley topic seemed more interesting (read: controversial) … but alas I could make only the Stanford one.
    Wonder if anyone went to the Berkeley talk & has blogged about it …?
    –Das

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