The end is where we start from
Like much of good poetry, this line from T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding is open to interpretation. The good poet was perhaps attempting to point out that the past, present and future are all interconnected, and it is this unity that humanity needs to comprehend.
The year 2011 may mark the end of two decades of reform, but it is hardly the end for the Indian economy. Rather, the two decades have created a sound platform for the next big leap.
We have seen unprecedented change, progress and growth not necessarily because governments were keen to liberalise economic policies; in most cases, circumstances and technology forced their hands. Even as relaxations in investment limits allowed multinational corporations to expand operations, it opened the eyes of Indian promoters to new opportunities. Competition intensified, making Indian companies more efficient and productive.
Many more new jobs were created as the economy opened up. All this led to the rise of the Great Indian Middle Class with money in their pockets to spend on the good things of life. More recently, that purchasing power has reached semiurban and rural Indians who aspire for the same lifestyle as the others.
To capture this story, we invited some entrepreneurs and thought leaders to pen their thoughts in this very special issue of Business Today. Wipro's Azim Premji feels that the key to India's future lies in how its million schools shape up. Harvard's Tarun Khanna says India's strength lies in innovating affordable solutions to problems. Economist Ashok Gulati reminds us gently that feeding India could be the biggest challenge. There are many more. Let us take a look at some growth numbers. In 2000, the United States had a real growth rate of 4.1 per cent (i.e., GDP growth adjusted for inflation).
The figure for India was 5.5 per cent. In 2008, when the world's economies turned topsy-turvy, the real economic growth in the US was two per cent. The India figure: nine per cent (Source: CIA World Factbook).
According to The Conference Board, an independent research organisation, the US will have a real GDP growth of 2.2 per cent during 2010-2020, and India 8.7 per cent. I believe we would grow even faster if it were not for our anaemic political leadership, stifling bureaucracy, bungling governance and myopia of our government.
To paraphrase Eliot, the end - of the developed world's dominance - is where we start from. So what if infrastructure is still poor - somebody has got to build it. And that in itself is a trillion-dollar opportunity. No manager worth his MBA degree would want to miss out on such excitement. That is why so many Indians who fled to the West prereforms are returning in droves - don't miss our section on the Prodigals. It can't be just a longing for home: successful global managers go where the growth is, and where it is likely to be next. That also explains why foreign CEOs not of Indian origin, too, are eager for postings in India.
We pack all this and more into our 19th anniversary issue. It is a keepsake edition brimming with lofty ideals, wise counsel, and common sense from a galaxy of thinkers and leaders. We are excited to be on the threshold of the second decade of this century, and we invite you to be part of this journey.
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