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A 'Sea Change' in India in the Past Decade

Posted By Guy Pfeffermann, Thursday, March 29, 2012
Guy PfeffermannI spent a week in India ahead of GBSN’s seventh annual conference (Delhi, June 12-13, 2012), meeting with corporates, government, academics, World Bank and IFC. I had a chance to visit the Ghaziabad campus of the Institute of Management Technology (IMT), our academic conference partner and GBSN member school. It was a special pleasure for me to get to know Dr. Bibek Banerjee, IMT’s Director, who greatly enhanced the Delhi meetings. I think the conference is going to be a roaring success.

This was my first trip to India since 2000, and I want to share some of my (very superficial) impressions.

I was amazed at the ubiquitous availability of consumer goods at international or even lower prices. That is a sea change from just twelve years ago, one that has vastly increased real purchasing power. Indian industry has risen to the challenge of low import tariffs with tremendous gusto. The mobile I bought in Mumbai costs a fraction of an American phone.  India is no longer an island of somewhat quaint and expensive consumer products such as the venerable Hindustani car (which I happen to love, but that is another story). India has clearly grown into a large and confident player on the global markets.

Market in DelhiWhole new modern cities seem to have sprung out of the ground, reflecting the industrial surge and impressive growth of what is by now a huge middle class. Tech cities, brand-new corporate buildings, suburban housing complexes, shopping malls have utterly changed the landscape around Delhi – and, as I understand, around Hyderabad and many other cities.

I am very impressed by some of the things that got done:

-       Delhi’s metro – nearly 200 kilometers, and built in very few years. Anyone who knows Washington’s dysfunctional metro can only be in awe

-       Delhi’s motorized rickshaws may look like antiques, but now run on low-pollution compressed natural gas – see: Together with the metro, the use of CNG   has reduced air pollution somewhat.

-       Airtel, India’s largest mobile phone company, has some half billion subscribers

-       India’s biometric ID program is reaching hundreds of million, with many more to come, and will cut down on fraud

-       So has the  2005 Right to Information Act, a revolutionary counterweight to traditionally overbearing and largely immune bureaucrats

-       Finally, unlike in China, a remarkable amount of thinking and innovation focuses on the "base of the pyramid”, i.e., low-income persons, including those living in rural areas. Ingenious solutions are found, which bring services (health, insurance, etc) within reach of low-income families, as well as goods (for example Godrej’s Chotukool, the $ 69 refrigerator for India’s rural areas - ).  Indian companies clearly lead the world in scalable social enterprise.

Guy Pfeffermann is the CEO and founder of the Global Business School Network.

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