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‘Imagining India’ by Nandan Nilekani

October 27, 2011

Cover of 'Imagining India' by Nandan Nilekani

Although the book seems little too thick, I would recommend it to anyone who are interested to understand today’s India. There are many good books teaching you the cultural aspect of this big and diverse country, but there are few providing a good overview to business professionals how India has come to the current successful position in the world economy.

The book is authored by Nandan Nilekani, a founder of Infosys Technologies. Infosys has a huge office campus at the outskirt of Chennai, right in front of the office I currently work at. Every time I visit there, I’m amazed with its size as well as the high standard of the facility. You would think your were in Palo Alto, until you leave the campus to the state highway and see countless of high-speed bikes and trucks honking and dodging a group of cows on the street. This is the scenery that Thomas Friedman portrayed as the modern India in his book “The World Is Flat.”

 
History of Modern India

This is one of a few books available outside India to help us connecting the two contrasting images of this country: the poor country with hundreds of millions citizens struggling for everyday needs and the growing country driven by its IT sector dominating the world. The author walks you through the changes in the political and social environment, before and after India’s economic reform, and how they have guiding the path of its private sector.

 
Demographic Dividends

The author attributes the main source of India’s envious growth to its “demographic dividends,” unproportional population hike in the young generation in the workforce. The same thing happened to the United States when the baby boomer entered into the working age and boosted its economy. Japan had that period from 1950 to 80 when the post WWII generation outpopulated their senior generations, which had become shrunken during the war, pushing up its economy to the world’s second place. While these two countries, like many other developed countries, have already used up their dividends, India, of which more than 50% are below 25 years old, is expected to be in this bonus period for another few decades to come.

 
Today’s Challenges

While you may think India’s demographic dividends guarantees its continuous growth for the coming decades, the author also warn you that there are some hurdles to be overcome if India wants to tap its full potential. To name a few, the poor state of the infrastructure mostly due to the lack of civil engineering plan could drag its growth. Inefficiency in the public sector, and its corruption, is another problem. To prove his argument, the report “Doing Business 2012” by International Finance Corporation and World Bank ranked India almost at the bottom, stating that India is not an easy place to do business at.

 

Overall:

Star GoldStar GoldStar GoldStar GoldStar White

After living in India for five months so far, I had to agree with all of his arguments. On the one hand, I experience the real power of the demographic dividends everyday in the office, where the air is filled with positive energy of young Indian coworkers. On the other hand, existence of those challenges is painfully clear when I commute long hours on the state highway poorly designed and badly maintained.

 

Official Book Site: http://imaginingindia.com/

 

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