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  India’s Surge: a fresh round-up

Even the most die-hard Indian would be wearied by the current stream of flattering news on India in the English press. Especially when he realises, how much of the current euphoria may be due to the good monsoon we have had this year. Also, a sensitive Indian is aware how casual inhumanity routinely takes place, as when Manish Mishra, an upright young man is pushed to his death off a running train for speaking up for defenceless women or how Sarita and Mahesh in Bihar’s bad-lands are shot dead in cold blood because they dared to speak up for Dalits. The emerging good fortune that the following stories indicate, will neither make sense nor will it prevail, if there is not also change in the levels of policing and general governance. With a pause for the millions beyond the haze of cheer, let us review the good news.

Emily Parker, in the Wall Street Journal has a novel take on the points that India-observers bemoan: fiscal deficit, sizable poverty, rickety infrastructure etc. To compensate for all these, India has what John Maynard Keynes astutely pointed out as a crucial requirement for a society’s success: ‘animal spirits’. She says the country is full of strutting entrepreneurs unafraid of global competition. She concludes that as long as government policies “allow these ‘animal spirits’ to thrive, India is poised to take on the world.” Read the full story here.

‘Animal spirits’ would explain Amy Waldman’s story in the New York Times [-you may need to register]. She reviews the growth of ITC’s eChupal, an electronic ‘mandi’ for rural India. She says because of Internet connectivity soya bean farmers in villages are logging directly on to the Chicago commodities exchange, to estimate the prices they should be bargaining for.

BusinessWeek carried a feature on how Indian software majors are hustling global leaders like IBM and EDS. Recently Infosys beat these two to win a $25 million contract from DaimlerChrysler. That was not on price alone; its quality level was higher too. The article says the Big Blue has a global reach and a wide buffet of knowledge-base, software and hardware on offer, that Indian companies cannot match—at least, not yet. But the picture may be tilting in India’s favour because finally, winning the mind-share of quality professionals is the key to a company’s success. While foreign companies in India, offer nearly 25% more as salaries, many bright young men opt for Indian companies, for these offer something they look for: upward mobilty.

Therefore, the competency levels of Indian companies are constantly rising. “Three years ago, just 125 of the top 500 U.S. companies placed work with Indian companies… Last year, that number hit 285, including Boeing, Cisco Systems, and Lehman Brothers.” The article says that US companies still have the edge because they foresee technological trends better, whereas Indian companies just serve the status quo. But that too may be changing: Infosys for example, is working with MIT to research wireless inventory control systems. Read the full story here.

Singapore’s Deputy Premier, Lee Hsien Loong on a recent visit to India confirmed that ‘animal spirits’ were indeed at large in India. He wryly noted how he recently received a telephone pitch for a personal insurance policy-- and discovered the call had originated in India. It is clear, jobs are migrating to India, and not necessarily from the West alone. If this were so, can job seekers be far behind? For a country that routinely wailed over ‘brain drain’, India is seeing many of its native sons returning home in search of stable jobs. There is another incredible development: applications from Western professionals for jobs in India are increasing. Indian companies actively consider these applications. You can read the full story here. A Bangalore firm of head-hunters says, “Every week, we get at least one well qualified foreigner looking for a job here.”

With all these going on, credit rating majors decided to clear their throats. In the last fortnight, Moody’s and Fitch have switched to their oracular mode and declared India was worthy of international investors’ attention. It’s in fact time to rate these agencies: do they predict a trend or acknowledge an established one? The answer every time would be the latter, for they are clueless of a phenomenon known as ‘animal spirits’.