Reaching the First World

This would be my 500th Blog Post in 259 weeks of blogging ! Yes, just one week short of completing 5 years !!

Since I had some good ample time this weekend, all at home, I was able to post four blog pieces over the weekend, this being the fourth one.

I was looking out of my window and contemplating the future of India. May be Mumbai skyline or “slumline” is not the best place to look at and ruminate. What I did see this evening provided both a promise and a kind of frustration.

India is always a mixture of the extremes – I saw skyscrapers with 35 floors coming up just close to our apartment complex, and an international school whose grounds had a helipad. I also saw the shanties housing hundreds of poor construction workers around the edges of the ground. Further apart, I could see many shabby apartment complexes from yesteryears dotting the landscape, most crying for a decent coat of paint. There was some untouched greenery as well.

In all this milieu, I could see that India has had a missed past, which it could have redesigned to attain world-class status. But what has been missed is completely missed. There is no point in ruing about the same. What concerns me most is that we have not learnt useful lessons from the experiences that India had gone through in these past 63 years of Independence.

While we have not learnt lessons from our own experiences, we have also not learnt anything much from the more socially and materially developed nations.

What we have discovered in the past 15 years or so is our rather late realization that our human potential is unmatched in sheer numbers, diversity and depth. India began to leverage its demographic dividend in terms of a young population, thirsting to advance materially and moving away from the shackles which held back our peoples’ productivity all these years. With the economic focus shifting to delivery of services, rather than competing with China on manufacturing, we began a sustainable journey with the Y2K information technology services, followed by BPO services, and the world caught on to our capabilities and competencies in these fields.

Such successful experimentation has led us now to the second phase of economic growth, barely after some decade and a half. Obviously IT and BPO Services would not be able to absorb all the millions of young workers coming into our work force every year. Government and policy makers have realized the inevitable imperative of finding jobs for these teeming millions in the fastest possible time, to avoid social challenges from becoming serious social problems. So, India is now looking at “value-added” manufacturing, not just churning out toys for the world like China did. And, there is excellent scope for India to deliver on this front due to the strong engineering focus, which was in the past hampered by ill-advised government policies and lack of infrastructure. These things are now changing for the better, and in a few years many ports of India would have world-class infrastructure. The roads are improving (though, not the Mumbai city roads !), the cities are competing for business rolling out red carpets for industrialists (especially Gujarat and Tamil Nadu), businesses are investing in expansion of manufacturing facilities, global companies are setting up their manufacturing in India, engineering companies are expanding operations, auto companies are making India their hub for small cars, mobile phone manufacturers are expanding, heavy power equipment manufacturing is on the rise, etc., etc.,

Given all these positive developments and investments, India’s aim of reaching the First World Status is surely achievable by 2030, when India’s GDP per capita should hit USD 5,000 with a total size of the economy crossing USD 7T (now it is around USD 1.4T). A five-fold increase in 20 years is entirely possible, if policy makers set their minds towards meeting the needs of the population. My estimate is that India would cross these numbers comfortably, and become the world’s third largest economy, leaving many countries such as Brazil, U.K., France, Germany, Russia and Japan behind.

And, we would achieve this growth in a democratic framework wherein one can sue the government for violating environmental standards ! Is that not a great thing in this world, where governments mostly ride roughshod in trying to reach their developmental goals to the detriment of the larger interests of the population and the country ?

We are well on our way to the “First World Status” !


Vijay Srinivasan
19th December 2010


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