Author Articles


Last fortnight, I wrote that India is heading for a sweet spot in terms of growth and future prospects. One of the primary factors contributing to this is the high quality of India’s human talent, both within and outside India.

Let’s first take a look at Indians outside the country. There are three clear patterns in the migration of Indians to the US. In the 60s and the 70s, most of those who emigrated from India were doctors. As a result, until a few years ago, the wealthiest Indians in the US were physicians.

Beginning in the 70s and moving into the 80s, most of those who emigrated from India were engineers, mostly from the IITs, the regional engineering colleges, BITS and Roorkee. Going on scholarships to pursue masters or doctorates, they went on to technical jobs in industry. From the late 80s into the 90s, most of the incoming young Indians began to realise that a management education offered better prospects and therefore, moved from technical to higher- paying consulting or investment banking roles.

When the tech boom took off in the late 90s, most of the Indian techies who had been in the US for a decade or more, suddenly found themselves in ideal positions to exploit their technical backgrounds. Names that come to mind in this category are folks such as Kanwal Rekhi, Suhas Patil, Pavan Nigam, Vinod Khosla, Pramod Haque, etc. A host of younger Indians, such as Sabeer Bhatia and Ram Sriram, were also able to monetise their intellectual smarts either by dint of hard work, luck or a combination of the two.

In the meantime, Indians from general management were beginning to bubble to the surface in financial services, industry or consulting. Successful ones include Vikram Pandit at Morgan Stanley, Anshu Jain at Deutsche, Rajat Gupta at McKinsey, Victor Menezes of Citi, Arun Sarin at Vodafone, Sanjiv Ahuja at Orange and so on. Look at the list of managing directors or partners at any bank or consulting firm and I guarantee that Indians will figure prominently on it.

The position these and other Indians have created for themselves in the outside world benefits us in at least four ways. One, it burnishes India’s reputation as a repository and provider of world-class talent. Second, it reinforces our belief that we Indians are second to none. The return of these Indians contributes both, financially and experience-wise, to Indian business and industry. Four, they act as role models for younger, aspiring Indians.

Am I making the argument that Indians here have not contributed to India’s rise and self-belief? Not at all. The most remarkable story actually lies in the enterprise and emergence of Indians operating in the most inhospitable terrain for creating value—India. The rise of people such as Sunil Mittal, Anil Agarwal, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji, Shiv Nadar, Naresh Goyal, Anji Reddy, YK Hamied, etc., all first-generation entrepreneurs who have created fortunes for themselves (and their shareholders), shows that India is now beginning to offer opportunity, beyond what could have been imagined. There is a new breed of Indians, well epitomised by Laxmi Mittal, who are comfortable operating anywhere in the world and taking on any competition, with the self-belief that they are as good, or better.

• India has reinforced its reputation as a repository of world-class talent
• There’s a new breed of Indians who can take on competition anywhere

It is the contribution of these domestic wealth creators, in combination with those overseas, that is one of the most interesting outcomes of India’s recent socio-economic development. The further development of such talent and giving entrepreneurs the freedom to operate and create value, will be one of the most important factors contributing to India’s sustained future growth.

In fact, it is the story of all these successful Indians put together that should give us confidence that for those of us willing to work hard, opportunities do exist in India in no small measure. As more such success stories are created and percolate into our systemic consciousness, the concept of an Indian Dream, akin to the American Dream, where everybody gets an equal chance, may begin to take more tangible shape. The challenge for the government, of course, remains how to create an en-abling environment that more effectively puts the constructive energy and enterprise of India’s people to work for the greater good of the country.

Source: The Financial Express