August 9, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
An article by Patrick French (“The Truth About India: Four Stupid Misconceptions the West Needs to Shake”) reminded me how little I know about the country on track to become one of the world’s largest economies of the future and the most populous nation by 2025. Conversations with colleagues and friends confirmed I am not alone.
I’ve put Patrick French’s new book, India: A Portrait, on my end-of-summer reading list. I recommend you add it to yours.
To whet your appetite, here’s information about India to counter some major Western misunderstandings:
India has a thriving, growing economy with benefits for many. Like China, India’s economic boom has made it a nation of rich and poor – and some of the rich are very, very rich. For example, take the case of Sunil Mittal. He left his job running a bicycle parts factory in Punjab in 1995 to start a telecom company. Airtel now has 223 million subscribers across 19 countries– and Mittal an estimated net worth of $8 billion dollars. His story is one of many.
India’s economic rise is not at the expense of American jobs. Despite the ranting of conservative pundits, trade and out-sourcing go in both directions. Mittal, for example, grew Airtel quickly by reverse-outsourcing to the benefit of foreign companies like Nokia, IBM, and Ericsson.
India comfortably embraces the paradoxes of its economic transformation. Ancient religious and cultural traditions mix easily with technological advancements and the trappings of rising affluence. French sees India as an adaptive, flexible society – and nothing “Western” about India’s embracing of new technologies and lifestyles.
Indian women are on the rise. Yes, many women in India are poor and oppressed. Others have opportunities they wouldn’t have elsewhere. Women in India lead major financial institutions, like HSBC, RBS, JPMorgan Chase, ICICI, and UBS. Women hold major political posts, and their power and numbers grow. Mayawati Kumari, for example, grew up as one of nine children in a poor, “untouchables” family near Delhi. Today she is the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a state with a population the size of Brazil.