Thursday, March 15, 2007

Business Week's "The Trouble with India"

What is "The Trouble with India?"

The headline of the cover story of Business Week's March 19 issue appears to offer some skepticism about all the "India Rising" rhetoric that has come out of Time (see “India Inc.” cover story June 26, 2006), Newsweek (“The New India,” March 6, 2006 cover story), The Economist (“Can India Fly?” June 3, 2006) and other mainstream U.S. news magazines over the last year.

In the end, however, Business Week's "The Trouble with India" seems to suggest that amidst some of the obstacles to continued growth are more opportunities for innovation (and, in turn, growth).

The article's author, Steve Hamm, author of the Wipro-focused book Bangalore Tiger, even writes in his blog:

I spent nearly a month in India late last year reporting for the story, and, I must say, I became emotionally wound up in the efforts by hundreds of Indians I interviewed to create what some of them called a New India. They weren't just talking about the economy, either. The country's sometimes disfunctional politics and widespead corruption are a heavy burden on its economy. To me, the most powerful force in India is hope. I believe the Indian people can throw off the shackles of bad government and corruption the way they did colonial rule. But it won't be easy.

I think the article can be interpreted a number of ways. In fact, all of the recent articles touting India's growth and potential also acknowledge the infrastructure and corruption problems. But Hamm's article, despite its ultimate optimism that somehow the sheer force of India's economic momentum will resolve its infrastructure problems, seems to be one of the first to focus explicitly on these obstacles.

In the Indian blogosphere, Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind's Haseena Atimbum takes aim at Hamm's reporting here. Indra Drishtikona briefly mentions the article here. There's a brief mention of the article at a number of other blogs. At milieu Sreekumar raises the interesting question of how to balance investment in insfrastructure with social sector investment. Om Malik, at GigaOM, believes "the infrastructure and other issues are linked to the agricultural sector."

In both print media and the blogosphere, I'd like to see a more constructive discussion of India's infrastructure challenge. Are there positive models of infrastructure development that can be packaged and implemented in other parts of India? Is there any critical thinking about how to prioritize infrastructure needs? And, finally, has anyone really laid out with clarity the obstacles to infrastructure development, beyond merely pointing the finger at "corruption?"


Ryan said...

hey prof. Z, I really enjoy reading your blog and the insights you have. I read this article and think it is very interesting in that it establishes that the primary goal for India, and of any developing country for that matter, would be to shift itself from the periphery into the core as to have more global economic and political power. I understand the rhetoric that with this development the GDP of India would increase and as a result the per capita income would also increase, but I guess I am curious as to whether this development would lead priviledged Indians, in the present or in the near future as more wealth manifests itself in India, to partake in consumptive practices that emulate the United States and then increase difference between the rich and poor there.

gaddeswarup said...

I started going through your blog again and may comment some day. I am in USA at the moment completing some math. work. Since our previous conversations, I came across the papers of Glenn Davis Stone (unrelated to this post) that may interest you; many of the papers including some photographs from India are available at his site. Regards,