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A millennial tango

A marketing guru on why the rise of China and India will help every other economy in the world.

Print Edition: February 10, 2008

Chindia rising
Chindia Rising
Jagdish N. Sheth
Tata McGraw-Hill
Pp: 205
Price: Rs 495

When prime minister Manmohan Singh recently visited Beijing on his first official visit to the mainland, one of the agreements he signed with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao was to increase trade between the two countries to $60 billion by 2010. Already, the two countries, two of the fastest growing economies in the world, do $38.6-billion worth of annual trade. But significantly, $40 billion was a target originally set for 2010. Despite their long-standing political distrust, the two countries realise that their future growth need not be a zero-sum game; China’s gain need not be India’s loss and vice versa. Hence, the desire to cooperate. If experts are to be believed, by 2025, China will become the world’s largest economy, while India will be at No. 3. Put differently, in another 17 years, the two economies should account for nearly 40 per cent of the world gross domestic product (GDP). No wonder, the rise of China and India—niftily dubbed Chindia by India’s Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh—is so keenly watched and commented upon by just about everyone.

So, what does Jagdish Sheth, Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, have to say that others haven’t already said about the Chindia phenomenon? Nothing radically new, but he does a good job of giving Chindia a 360-degree look, both from within and outside. As the strap to the book’s cover say, his contention is that the rise of Chindia need not mean the fall of western economies or suppression of poorer countries. There are plenty of opportunities the two countries will throw up for western and other economies as they grow and globalise. As Sheth puts it, “The arrival of Chindia on the world stage should neither impede the continued growth of advanced economies nor overwhelm the efforts of less developed economies to follow in its footsteps”.

Towards the end of the book, Sheth goes on to explain why he thinks developing economies such as Africa will benefit from Chindia’s growth. As the two countries suck in raw materials to feed their hungry industries, the countries that have natural resources (think oil, coal, iron ore) will find new big markets. There will be investments that Chindia will make in such countries to access either their natural resources or even consumer markets. The Tatas, for example, have sizeable investments in South Africa. In other words, what Sheth is saying is that just as companies from developed economies such as the US, Japan, and Germany made investments in emerging markets to expand their business and remain competitive, China and India will have to do something similar.

Think India
Think India
By Vinay Rai & William L. Simon
Dutton (Penguin)
Pp: 284
Price: $25.95 (Rs 1,038)

Unlike Jagdish Sheth, Vinay Rai and Bill Simon’s preoccupation is with India alone, and what its rise means for every American. Accordingly, the book is not so much an expert explanation of India’s economic resurgence as an account of its past and present. Therefore, the American reader is told about India’s new-found competitiveness in software and pharmaceuticals, its oppressive colonial past, its troubled relations with China and the US in the decades following India’s Independence, and even the basic tenets of Hinduism. Rai, whom the book introduces as a “billionaire businessman, philanthropist, and an icon of progress in India” (the reviewer isn’t sure how many Indians will agree with at least the third descriptor), writes with a sense of compassion and understated humour. (Narrating an incident about finding three men atop a tree at a heritage hotel—they were cleaning tree leaves one at a time—he says, “In India, we care about our trees— but I had no idea the concern went that far.”) Also evident is Rai’s love for his country. That possibly explains why his book, in parts, dumps cold statistics and resorts to platitudes and generalities. “Further testimony to India’s knowledge edge is her growing global acclaim in research and development…” he writes. Minus such minor shortcomings, Think India makes a good India 101 for American students— perhaps even Indian.

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