India Rising in the Pacific Century?

Yes, it’s a gold rush
By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

India is in the best shape it has been for centuries. Yes, despite mealy-mouthed politicians, trigger-happy terrorists, endemic pov-erty, brownouts, and water shortages. India is on the move, and you can see this in the confidence of youngsters, in the construction cranes jamming the Bangalore skyline, in the shiny new Metro in Delhi. Not since the Battle of Plassey in 1757 have Indians had such opportunities.

And the optimism is not only in software and services; Indian manufacturing is coming into its own. This should be no surprise: India accounted for about 25 percent of the world’s manufacturing in 1750, and two of the world’s four largest industrial centers were in India, the Brahmaputra and Kaveri deltas.

Indians are now becoming world-class contenders in industry after industry: in pharmaceuticals, automobile components, steel, motorcycles, designer clothing, and so on. And these are not screwdriver assembly operations: it’s design and R&D; in India. Ranbaxy and Dr. Reddy’s Labs are creating new intellectual property rights. One hundred thousand Tata Indicas will be sold in Europe under the Rover brand. Hyundai and Ford are making India the global hub for sourcing small cars. Moser-Baer is the third largest maker of CD drives for computers in the world. GE’s biggest lab outside the U.S., with 1,600 PhDs, is in Bangalore.

In addition to the cold facts, there is something intangible: the newly-discovered self-confidence of a nation. Indians were the only ones who seemed to genuinely believe that “it is not winning, but the participation that counts.” Not any more. This is the most remarkable thing that India’s information technology success has done: it has shown us that we could be world leaders in even the most complex, the most esoteric of industries.

This is a good time for the diaspora to return, either metaphorically or in fact. Living in India has become far more comfortable than it was 25 years ago: you no longer have to yearn for foreign consumer goods, and you can pay your utility bills through the Internet. But for those unable to return for good, they should engage with India: maybe outsource work; maybe work with a non-governmental organization to fund a school; maybe participate in the discourse in their home countries to boost the image of India.

And they don’t have to do this for charity or out of a sense of obligation; there’s money to be made. In general, those who first act upon an opportunity—for example, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) pioneers—will do well. There is no time for paralysis by analysis. The diaspora should invest its money and its heart. For Mother India needs you! As the India National Army said, “Dilli chalo!”
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this commentary from Chennai, India.

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No, the warm reception is just talk
By S. GOPIKRISHNA

Ever hear of real life imitating movies? Consider the relationship between the government of India and Indian expatriates.

There are countless Indian movies premised on the plot of a couple falling madly in love and getting married, followed by bickering and fighting that ends in separation, if not divorce.

Once every few months, a minister descends on North America and woos expatriates through incentives, patriotism, and personal charm to return to India. “India needs you,” they plead. “Come and invest in an industry and we shall ensure that it bears fruit.”

Dazzled by the eloquence and starry-eyed with hope, some expatriates take the bait and return for a “honeymoon.”

The honeymoon soon turns sour. Businesses are set up only after a Himalayan effort and bribing bureaucrats galore. Working with India’s militant trade unions is about as enjoyable as flipping burgers on a hot summer day. Hard-earned dollars bite the dust as businesses go belly up. The expatriate bickers and fights, but to no avail. The government that promised lavish help now turns invisible, inaudible, and indifferent.

The expatriate returns to North America from the honeymoon, sadder but wiser. There is no magical ending to this real-life version of the average film story.

Since many of the returnees are information technology specialists, it would be pertinent to discuss what kind of a welcome India would extend them. No longer the heroes of yesteryears, they can expect to compete in an already saturated Indian market. Migrating to India is akin to joining a marathon for a morsel of food.

In recent years, many graduate students have returned to India in search of cushy academia-related jobs. While it may be possible to secure an entry-level job at the IITs or the IISc, advancement is a major challenge, thanks to the swadeshi movement in academia. An increasing number boast about Indian degrees “being worth two foreign degrees,” indicating a distinct resistance to foreign-trained academicians, the very premise behind returning to India.

Various other reasons, such as the presence of systemic racism and the impact of 9/11 on the Indian community are touted as political developments forcing immigrants to return home.

However, a major difference between the American and the Indian systems is the presence (in theory, if not in practice) of remedies for discrimination, absent in the Indian system. Constant complaining, wailing, disenchantment, and eventual embitterment are the only sources of relief.

A plethora of evidence demonstrates that all the tall talk of a warm reception is mere deception. It really pays to look before one leaps.

S. Gopikrishna writes on India and Indians from Toronto.



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