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AseanAffairs Magazine July - August 2010

New Philippines President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino wins in a landslide election and promises to end poverty and fight corruption.

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Remains Just a Promise    

     I begin with a story, variations of which have been heard before. An Indian businessman from Calcutta was visiting his client in the U.S. and he was presented with a beautiful painting depicting the life of the red Indians (Native Americans) in the Wild West. He asked his host where in the United States such paintings were now being made since the red Indians had dwindled in numbers and it was difficult to find such authentic works. His host turned the painting around and on the back of the frame at the bottom were the words “Made in China”.

     There is something about the tag “Made in….” I wonder when the ‘Made in India” tag will be seen on products across the globe. When that happens, we can all proudly claim that “Brand India” or “Global India” has arrived. Now is not the time to celebrate based on the facts that we escaped the global crisis because we were smart, or that we are the hired hands (cybercoolies) of the American outsourcing industry. We escaped all these crises because we are insular, not connected to the global economy as a global brand. CEO after CEO kept up the rhetoric at the recently concluded Global India Business Meeting (21- 23 June, 2010 in Madrid) how India stands on a solid base of fundamentals and that we are on the track for great growth and even double-digit growth.

     These sound great because of the abysmal growth rate figures in the first 40 years of our independence, the so called “Hindu rate of growth”. For real prosperity to trickle down to the bottom of the pyramid, as any economist knows, we have to not only double but treble our gross domestic product (GDP) in a short span of time. “We have crossed the $1 trillion mark of GDP”. A devastated, war- torn, divided Germany rose from the ashes like a phoenix to achieve an export figure of $1 trillion plus to become the world’s leading exporter. Just the exports, mind you, the GDP of a country with a mere population of 80 million is much higher at US$3.673 trillion (2008).

     “Ours is a domestic led growth model”, declares the policy makers and businessmen of India. Does that mean we will produce products of “Indian” quality or “Global Quality” meant to be sold to Indians only? With a mere population of 5 million, Finland has a global brand name such as Nok

     Microsoft, Apple, Nike, IBM, DELL and the list goes on, they set their benchmarks against a global standard for the domestic consumers of America first and because of the great quality they produced, their products found ready markets overseas and became gold standards in their industry. So the debate is not of a domestic versus export model, but to set our sights sky high, to create and produce products of the highest standard and not lean on a “Cheap” or “Low cost” model only.

     A country like India with 700 million at the bottom of the pyramid cannot afford products of a high quality may be the argument. If so then no global brands can succeed in India is my counterargument. Therefore, we cannot and should not aspire to be a global economy. As Prof. (Marketing) Jorge Gonzalez of IESE (The Spanish Business School) showed us in his presentation, a brand is created by reaching out and touching the lives of people. Chinese products are doing just that, they are reaching out across the globe through all kinds of products (from high tech to the most mundane) with the “Made in China” tag. As a result, the China name is getting imprinted on the minds of people all over the world and telling us all that China has arrived on the global stage as a global power.

      One of the greatest missed opportunities for India Inc was during the outsourcing boom. The Indian IT industry had the whole field to themselves when wave after wave of American companies outsourced their business processes to Indian IT firms. We had the resources, the revenues and the attention of the world. We could have used this opportunity to spur a Silicon Valley in Bangalore and possibly (at least we could have tried) given birth to world-class startups who could dream to be a Google, a Microsoft or an Apple. Instead, we basked in our limited glory and each of these companies hired hundred of thousands of hands to be faithful cyber –coolies to America.

     In 2001 Jim O’Neill, global economist at the Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs coined the term “BRIC” for four countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China. In the style of a forced marriage these four countries were joined together, due to their perceived economic potential in the 21st century.

The four countries account for more than 25 percent of the world’s land mass and 40 percent of the world’s population and have a combined gross domestic....

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