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"An Escher Print Called India" published in the Indian Express

Posted By Page Schindler Buchanan, Monday, April 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Indian Express published an Editorial "An Escher Print Called India" by our own CEO Guy Pfeffermann about his observations of India over the past decade.

"Any statement about India is as valid as is its opposite

After returning to India for a week for the first time since 2000, I set down on paper some impressions about what I thought had changed, and what not. Doing so is presumptuous beyond words, all the more because even to lifetime observers, India is a bit like an Escher print — any statement about India is as valid as is its opposite. J.R.D. Tata wrote famously in 1991, just before India’s economic reforms kicked in: "Let the world now say, a new tiger has emerged in Asia — a tiger uncaged”. After a week’s casual observations, India makes me think not so much of a tiger, as of a "turbo-bullock”.

Let me list what I believe to have changed for the better. I was amazed at the availability of consumer goods at international or even lower prices. That is a sea change from 12 years ago, one that has increased real purchasing power. Indian industry has risen to the challenge of low import tariffs with tremendous gusto. India is no longer an island of somewhat quaint and expensive consumer products, such as the venerable Hindustan Ambassador. It has grown into a large and confident player in global markets. New modern cities seem to have sprung out of the ground, reflecting the industrial surge and impressive growth of what is now a huge middle class."

Click here to read the full article

In response to the article, Richard Webb, Director of the Instituto del Peru shares his thoughts:

I am especially fascinated because I see a parallel story in Peru, where there has been a rural take-off as well as the high-end, big business take-off. My theory about the rural dynamic is communications, or connectivity. Last year I carried out a survey in 200 of the poorest rural districts. We asked them to identify the nearby city most important to their district, and then asked how long it took to get there, today, and ten years ago. The numbers were astounding. The average today was 5 hours; ten years ago it was 12. Most of this is the effect of a massive extension and improvement of rural roads, the capillary system, supported by a World Bank project of the 90s, but fueled also by the huge expansion in local government budgets. Add to that the sudden appearance of cellular phones and internet. Five years ago only 2% of rural households had phone access. Today it is 50%. And they use them.

When buyers arrive in their trucks to collect crops, farmers now call up their cousin in a nearby town, or Lima to ask what the going price is. The roads are also speeding urbanization at the level of the smallest towns, where farmers can get schooling, health and other services, and set up in small businesses, while commuting on weekends to check out their crops. Small towns are now growing faster than the cities.

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