Wholesome Marketing Ideas, Bite Size

Wholesome marketing ideas, bite size

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A modest diagnosis of India's infrastructure woes

I just got back from Hong Kong, and on the way back I stopped in India, as I usually do.

India had been on a tear, economically speaking, for much of the first decade of this century, but appears to have paused for a breather over the last few months. Things are a tad slower than the frenzied pace of just a few years ago; the confidence (hubris?) has mellowed just a little; the shine – well, India's shine was always in the eye of the beholder. 

And every Indian living comfortably abroad eyes India askance, wondering why the country is unable, 65 years after kicking the colonial oppressors out on their royal butts, to fix problems as basic as the lack of clean drinking water and mass illiteracee (or is it illiterecy?). Every non-resident Indian, indeed every visitor to India, is taken aback by the backward infrastructure, the most visible sign of failed development policies. In our naivete, we believe we have the answer to India’s woes. "If only I were prime minister for a day, India would leapfrog China. Heck, it would outdo Norway." But they won’t be, and India can’t.

Mumbai, I hear, remains a city with global aspirations, a can-do attitude, and an infrastructure and urban environment that competes with that of Abidjan (after the Côte d’Ivoire's civil war), and loses.

But I wasn’t in Mumbai this time. I was in Delhi. And whenever I go to Delhi, I make it a point to stop by the tony South Extension market. For its ambience, and for a coffee at the Barista café on its South side. Here, you can tell the temperature of the economy just by observing the honking crush of cars cramming into South Extension’s dusty parking lots. Are the cars BMWs and Mercedes, or are they Hyundais and Hondas (no Tata Nanos here)? Are they new, or a couple of years old? Are the drivers uniformed or sloppy? And so on…a thousand economic indicators flashing up or down.

But short term indicators aside, in this market, as in many of the pre-mall era markets of India, hidden in plain sight is an indicator of the long term prospects for the country, and an explanation for its pathetic infrastructure. Notice, this non-resident Indian is not suggesting he has the solution to India’s ills, just a diagnosis of a problem that afflicts its infrastructure.

No, the explanation is not corruption – corruption, too, is a symptom of this disease; and corruption would be too obvious a diagnosis, even for a distant, disconnected, non-resident desi.

And no, it is not democracy (that became the favorite excuse of Indians trying to rationalize the giant leaps China has made, and India hasn’t) that is holding India back.

It is, wait for it... the floor tiles in the pedestrian gallery along the storefronts. These are a signal clue; the fundamental building block of the Indian infrastructural nightmare. And they've been there all along; since the market was constructed. Few appear to have noticed. A glance at the floor will reveal that each shop has had to install its own floor tiles. In a market almost as old as independent India herself, the shopkeepers have been unable to ever agree on a common floor tile for the whole market. The result is that in this fancy bazaar for the well-heeled, the floor changes color, design, and even level, every six to eight feet. 

Inside their air conditioned shops, the shopkeepers tend to spotless showrooms, displaying global brands of apparel and luggage, Gucci shoes and over-sized coffee-table books, Xbox Kinects and iPhones. Outside, in the common market square, cow shit accumulates and mangy stray dogs roam because the shopkeepers are loath to agree on who will pay for the dung or dog removal, or how the expense will be shared. The parking lot remains unpaved, and in the monsoon, turns into quicksand. The shopkeepers don't trust the association they've elected with the paving job, or with the funds to do the job; or with having the patience of Job that will be required to get the government permits to do the job.

And the shopkeepers' inability to see the larger interest, their unwillingness to come together for a project larger than each one’s own immediate needs, points to a reticence to subordinate any individual freedom to the constraint of the common good. It's also the reason drivers in India drive with their high beams on at night.

Of course, it is easy to point to the tragedy of the Indian commons from the comfort of my cosy armchair (not located in India). And one of these days I will share with you my equally shallow and inconsequential discourse on the symbolism of India’s chaotic traffic as a metaphor for its social organization. Yet another prime minister for a day.

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Shiv Vasisht said...

As they say - Some are individually stupid, but collectively brilliant; and some the converse. Indians are definitely the latter. What is it that makes us this way? Well, democracy implies we have freedom of expression, and the need to get heard in the crowd (yes, the population angle), more so in it an extremely hierarchical society, leads us to adopt the worst forms of self-expression. And corruption in high places has sent the signal that you can get away with anything you want, so long as you can pay your way out of it. No need to watch over India, just as we need not watch over a basket of crabs - we'll pull each other down, just so no one reaches higher levels on Maslow's scale. As to our independence and that colonial yoke - it will come on again, perhaps in different forms.

Anonymous said...

I am tired of hearing that India is behind China and that she will one day catch up to China. Let me tell you the Truth India is already a global superpower. Forget about G2, G8, G20, India is class by itself.

India is G1, the lone hyper-superpower in the world.

We are not behind China in the race. We have already won the race to become the world’s next superpower. We are already enjoying our Superpowerdom, superpowerhood, and supoerpower status, thank you very much Bloomberg editors.India has the fastest growing economy in the world with over 10% annual growth rate, the world’s largest middle class consumers with over 1 billion people, the world’s largest and greatest democracy, and a huge foreign reserve that is second to none.

It makes no sense to talk about India’s future. India is the Future. We will rule the world. India is shining.

Let me tell you a few more facts about our Great Country India:

1>India Largest Democracy in the world-: Population: 1.2 Bn. India’s population will surpass china’s by 2030. India has the largest middle class in the world –> Population superpower.

2>India the most industrialized country. India produced the cheapest car, the Tata Nano. India’s IT industry is second to none. Industrial superpower.

3> India never lost a war in its 8000 years history. War superpower.

4> India never invaded other country in history. Peace Superpower.

5>Largest english speaking nation by 2010. The world’s biggest back office. world’s largest skilled workforce. World’s largest working age population. People superpower.

6> over 800 movies made anuualy–bollywood overshadows hollywood, Movies superpower.

7> 6 Miss Universe / Miss world titles in last 10 years: Beauty superpower

8>Per capita income US $9550 ; 2% live in poverty, literacy levels at 88%. India has the world’s largest number of millionaires and billionaires: economic superpower!

9>The Indian Diaspora
38% of Doctors in AMerica are Indians
36% of NASA employees are Indians
34% of Microsoft employees are Indians
28% of IBM employeesare Indians
17% of Intel employees are Indians
13% of Zerox employees are Indians

intellectual superpower!

10>India will eventually become world’s largest economy in 2083–Goldman Sachs

11>India is fastest growing GDP’s in the world, averaging over 10% growth since 1990.

12>India’s GDP will exceed that of Italy in 2020, France in 2020, Germany in 2025 and Japan in 2035 — USA in 2050, China in 2082 –Goldman Sachs

13>India’s Foreign exchange reserves history
1990-91 $40 billion
1995-96 $200 billion
2001-02 $600 billion
2002-03 $760 billion
2003-04 $1000 billion
2004-05 close to $1500 billion
2006-10 over $ 3000 billion

14>Indian Economy
Robust hyper growth of manufacturing, agriculture and services
Low external debt, low deficit, high trade surplus

299 Fortune 500 companies outsource IT work to India
Increased disposable income, increased wealth
Large emerging affluent middle class

Anonymous said...

15>Indian Aviation
Air deccan–1 st low cose domestic carrier
Most international carriers now target India for network growth and profitability
$5 bn capital infusion in govt owned carriers
Airport privatization

16>India will be the second fastest growing travel and tourism market over 2005-2014 at 8.8%– WTTC

17> Size of indian tourism is 330 million as of 2004

18>Indians going abroad as of 2004
Singapore — 375,658
Saudi Arabia — 373,636
UAE — 336,046
Kuwait — 293,621
Thailand — 280,641
Bahrain — 268,383
USA — 257,271
China — 213,611
U.K — 205,065
Hongkong — 193,705
NewZealand — 16,862

19> India growth projections
1999 — 2.7%
2000 — 3.4%
2001 — 3.6%
2002 — 4.2%
2003 — 4.5%
2004 — 5.9%
2005 — 6.9%
2006 — 8.0%
2007 — 9.4%
2008 — 11%
2009 — 12.8%
2010 — 15%
2011-2050 — 16.8%

20> Drivers of outbound growth
Increased charter operations
Upper middle income group will remain largest segment
potential consumer pie will grow to 300 billion
Age group of 15 to 49 likely comprise 62%
Self-employed who account for over 40% will emerge as
high potential target market
Holiday finance will become popular

21> Over 500 million Indian’s will travel overseas by 2020 — WTO

22> india discover water in moon, space superpower

23> 15 indian awarded Nobel prize.

24> Indian Prime Minister Nehru gifted the UN Security Council Seat to China, and now India is the leading candidate for the permanent member, winning endorsement from USA, Great Britain and Russia. Diplomacy Superpower

Niraj Dawar said...

Normally I do not respond to Anonymous comments. But in this case I cannot help but be impressed by the force of your opinion. Unfortunately, your facts are somewhat less impressive.