With a vast – and, just as importantly, youthful – population, India and its billion-plus potential consumers is on the minds of many Western companies. But will India be able to meet its potential? And what are some of the challenges that companies face when doing business in the country?
Ravi Venkatesan, a former chairman of Microsoft India and author of the new book Conquering the Chaos, will be answering GPS readers’ questions on these and other issues. Please leave your questions below.
By Milan Vaishnav, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Milan Vaishnav is an associate with the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. You can follow him @MilanV. The views expressed are his own.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has announced that its controversial son, Narendra Modi, will lead the opposition party into India’s national election next year. Modi has led the BJP to three consecutive election victories in the western state of Gujarat, earning notoriety both for his efficient governance as well as his controversial role in the state’s 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots. The question now is whether he can revitalize the main opposition party’s fortunes.
Modi’s detractors believe that Modi either connived to incite the anti-Muslim pogrom that claimed hundreds of lives, or at the very least condoned the bloodshed (although to date he has not been directly implicated by a court). Either way, although the BJP’s move stops short of formally projecting Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, it effectively cements his position as “first among equals” within the party.
So, what has prompted the BJP to pick such a controversial figure to lead them into battle against the ruling Congress-led coalition? For a start, Modi’s rise represents a generational shift within the party – at 62, he is considered a youngster in India’s geriatric politics. But the party is also making a strategic bet that Modi’s popularity among the rank-and-file, his economic record in Gujarat, and the country’s desire for change will outweigh his potential downsides.
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By Global Public Square staff
Watching countries from around the world grow and prosper, we tend to assume that global poverty is falling. And in fact, the World Bank says that in 1981 nearly half of the world's citizens were impoverished, that is, they lived on less than $1.25 a day. And today, less than a fifth of the world's population lives in poverty. In raw numbers, that translates to a 40 percent drop from about 2 billion to 1.2 billion people.
But when we dig deeper, it’s clear the picture is more murky. Put simply, most of the reduction in global poverty has to do with one country – China. Take it out of the equation and the numbers look very different.
Let's go back to 1981. Back then, China accounted for 43 percent of the world's poor. The other major contributors were South Asia, with 29 percent, and sub-Saharan Africa, with 11 percent. Fast forward just a decade, and you'll see that China's share of the world's poor began to drop. The trend continues through the 2000s. By 2010, China accounted for only 13 percent of the world's impoverished population. South Asia's share had jumped to 42 percent, while sub-Saharan Africa's share tripled, to 34 percent.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Ratan Tata, who until recently ran the Tata Group – India’s largest conglomerate – about ethics in business.
When you make these determinations, and as you say, it's part of the culture at Tatas that you won't get bribes, often you weren't asked, but was it difficult to institute that among all your managers, all your chief executives, because there must have been ambitious ones who wanted to get ahead at any cost?
Yes. We have 450,000 employees and I am quite open in the statement that I can't guarantee the integrity of every one of them. What we do, when somebody breaks that code, how we deal with that person, I think, is the true index of what we will do. And when we have had a major rogue officer or director, we’ve actually prosecuted that person and the person has actually gone to jail. So, I think we have walked the talk in terms of what we have advocated, we have practiced what we have preached, as a matter of fact.
Tata Sons, the holding company that governs the entire Tata group, is two-thirds owned by charitable trusts, is that right?
Which means that two-thirds of the income that comes from this enormous industrial and services empire goes to charity.
Has that changed the way in which, you know, does that change your perspective on how and why you’re running it?
Yes, it has. First of all, you know, it runs counter to the general perception that Tatas are a family company and that the proceeds of these industrial operations go to the Tata family. It does not. The family owns about two percent, collectively, of Tata Sons. And the 60s, 65 percent that goes to charity has always been seen as a noble usage of the wealth we have created from our companies, it goes back into education, medical, elevation of poverty or rural development. So, in a manner of speaking, it has always been our driving force that what we’re doing is really for plowing it back to the people of India.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India and chairman of India's largest company, Reliance Industries, about the state of the global economy. To see the full interview, download the show at iTunes.
You are very bullish about the United States, probably more bullish than a lot of Americans. What about the other key drivers of the world economy? Because a lot of people say, look, China is slowing down, Brazil has slowed down, India has slowed down? What do you think of the emerging markets story?
I think that China is maintaining steady growth. It’s not decelerating. Europe has found its own transition path. And they will transgress through the financial system in an orderly way, India has had some slow growth, but I am really very optimistic on India.
Why is that? Because when people look at India today, they see growth is at 5.5 percent now. You talk to foreign investors and they say the infrastructure is terrible, the government doesn't do enough reform, it’s very difficult to operate in India. You look at all that and you're still bullish?
Well, I'm very bullish on India because it’s really the aspirations of a billion people. And ours is a country where all the billion count. There are some countries in the world where one person counts. There are some countries where the Politburo of 12 people count. The beauty of India is that all our billion people count. And they have aspirations. And it is really a bottom-up story. It’s not a top-down story. So, yes, we will, adjust with what happens in the rest of the world, but we are on a long-term growth trajectory. And this is just not growth in terms of GDP numbers, right. This really is for the wellbeing of each and every Indian. And that’s the aspiration.
By Shreyasi Singh, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Shreyasi Singh is a New Delhi-based writer. The views expressed are her own.
There’s little about my life that should create a sense of fear. I’m in my early 30s. I have a good job as an editor at a business magazine in New Delhi. I am fortunate enough to live in an upscale gated community in a Delhi suburb – the kind of place that shields you from the daily exasperations of India’s power, water, traffic and noise pollution woes. I don’t even have to drive myself anymore – like many who are comfortably off in India, I have a driver. Yet, despite these considerable advantages, can I really describe myself as empowered? And more importantly – am I even free?
For a start, I don’t dare walk the few hundred feet to the nearby coffee shop near my home after 8 p.m. (Indeed, despite the wide, well-paved roads, it isn’t a pleasant walk at any time of the day). Too often, I don’t feel like I can stand at a crossing in Delhi and hail a cab without hunching my shoulders in hopes that my chest will be a little less obvious. And almost reflexively when on public transport, invisible antennae go up all over my body ready to sense the slightest unwanted touch or sign of harassment.
Fareed Zakaria speaks with the New York Times' India Ink:
How do you impose short-term pain for long-term gain?
This is the great challenge for the United States economy. There are things the United States has to do, whether it’s a cumbersome tax code or reform of entitlements in pension and health care. Instead, we privilege present consumption over investments for the long term.
India has a similar problem. It is hard to stop subsidizing power or giving people rice and instead divert those resources either towards putting your fiscal house in order or making long-term investments in infrastructure and education that will have huge payoffs 20 years down the road. America’s fundamental challenge is: ‘How does it do this?’
By Fareed Zakaria
Americans dismayed by politics in Washington might find something familiar in what’s happening in India. Here, frustration with government has turned into rage. Last month’s gruesome gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman brought tens of thousands onto the streets. And while the protests have subsided, the anger is still palpable and media attention continues to highlight the problem of violence against women. More than a year ago, millions joined in nationwide protests against corruption. “The Indian people are the best in the world,” Arvind Kejriwal, one of the chief organizers of the anti-corruption crusade, told me. “But they have the worst governance, the worst politics.” In fact, the protests and rage are signs of India’s development.
In the past, mass agitations in India have been about religious nationalism or caste identity, or they have been demands for preferential treatment from the government. The more recent protests have a different character: They ask the government to perform its basic duties. Women are not seeking government spending on female empowerment programs. They are demanding that the police and courts function properly so that rape can be prosecuted in the manner required by law.
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From Global Public Square staff
The recent school shooting in Connecticut looked like a tipping point in U.S. public consciousness.
Americans have been asking themselves some tough questions: why does this happen so often and so much more in America than in other countries? What does gun violence say about us as Americans and what measures can we put in place to stop it?
A similar bout of public soul-searching was on display in India recently. Across the country, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to express outrage over the rape and death of one unnamed woman.
The national attention over her death is shedding light on how unsafe Indian women actually are. FULL POST
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
Editor’s note: Each day this week, GPS Senior Producer Ravi Agrawal will look at what’s in store for the world in 2013. He begins today with Asia. The views expressed are his own. You can follow him on Twitter @RaviAgrawalCNN.
It turns out the Mayans were wrong about the end of the world. Planet earth survived 2012 and is now about to embark on yet another revolution around the sun. But let’s cut the Mayans some slack: they were, after all, projecting thousands of years into the future.
My task is easier. What will the next twelve months look like? What changes are in store for the world of politics and economics?
Asia, with more than half the world’s population, has already begun to usher in 2013. So let’s begin there.
This is the third in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.
By Madhav Nalapat, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Madhav Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal University in India. The views expressed are the author's own.
Although independent India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a democrat, neither he nor apparently his colleagues in the Congress Party thought it necessary to do away with the colonial laws that had underpinned British rule. Across a wide range of functions that in normal democracies would be the prerogative of the citizen alone, the British-era laws retained by Nehru and his successors have ensured that the people of India have to routinely petition some government office or other in order to get official permission before embarking on any of a range of tasks.
In the past, businesspeople “paid and played.” Now, as some wags put it, they “pay and pray,” because decisions for which cash have been exchanged are seldom coming. The country has seen new projects slow to a crawl, even in sectors vital to growth such as energy and infrastructure. Should this paralysis in decision-taking continue into 2013, the continued deterioration of India’s economic performance could start to look a lot like the chaos of 1992.
By Moeed Yusuf & Thomas Lynch, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Moeed Yusuf is the South Asia adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace and Thomas Lynch is a distinguished research fellow at National Defense University. The opinions expressed here are theirs alone, not those of their institutions or the U.S. government.
U.S. peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan ultimately depend on a holistic, regional approach that mostly involves India and Pakistan.
In 2014, Afghanistan faces both the drawdown of American forces and the election of President Hamid Karzai’s successor, both significant transitions. The bid to create a stable post-2014 Afghanistan can only go so far without dealing directly with the intense rivalry between India and Pakistan – vested neighbors and nuclear regional kingpins. Yet despite recent positive overtures between the two sides, Pakistan continues to be deeply troubled by an increased Indian presence on its western border, while India is adamant to prevent Pakistan’s complete hold over Afghanistan.