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The Rise of India






Book: 'The Rise of India'

Author: Niranjan Rajadhyaksha

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2006


Leader Values


The world has changed dramatically during the past two decades. China has come from nowhere to become a global manufacturing giant. Now the world’s leaders are watching India, which is starting to take its place on the world stage. So will India simply follow in the footsteps of China? Not according to Mumbai journalist Niranjan Rajadhyaksha.


He describes India as a paradox. It has 250 million people below the poverty line, but almost as many billionaires as Japan; its economy is largely centred on traditional agriculture, but the iPod chip is partly made in Hyderabad; and 40 million children are denied education, yet Indian engineers dominate the IT industry.


Rajadhyaksha admits that he was amazed by his first visit to Shanghai and comments that, “We Indians are obsessed with China’s success”. In The Rise of India he repeatedly compares India with China. These “dragon and elephant” comparisons show that India and China are poles apart in many areas. Most countries with open economies have tended to be open societies, however China has taken the unusual path of an open economy in a one-party state – and India has taken the equally unusual path of a closed economy in an open, democratic society.


Similar contrasts exist in many other areas: India uses less capital than China, but uses it more efficiently; India has fewer good roads, but more world-class companies; China has focused on manufacturing and infrastructure, while India’s growth is being driven by consumption and productivity. In brief, Rajadhyaksha observes that “India is what China is not”.


Despite all these differences, Rajadhyaksha amusingly recycles many expressions from China’s recent past to explain what is happening in India today. He describes the six great “revolutions” that are driving India’s transformation; refers to “India’s long march out of poverty”; and describes the “great leap” needed in productivity and innovation.


The Rise of India has a lot to say about globalization, which is one of the six revolutions mentioned above. After decades of protectionism that stalled the economy, India is now going global – and reaping the benefits. At the same time, the demographic revolution is ensuring that India will have a more youthful population than most other major economies for the next two decades.


But it’s not just the size of the population, or the fraction which is at working-age, that really matters. Many people in India have jobs, but are still below the poverty line. However, change is in the air and India is infected with new-found confidence and aspirations. Rajadhyaksha observes that, “There is poverty in the slums of Mumbai, but also a sense of hope and ambition.”


Of course, there are still major challenges ahead. But if India can get it right, this will be a “working model for other poor countries in the 21st Century”. This is insightful reading for anyone interested in the future of the world’s largest democracy.


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copyright Keith Hall