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Up the value chain[continued]

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Because also, the government too has been supportive: it teamed with the Confederation of Indian Industry [CII] to form the India Brand Equity Fund in 1996. Its mission? "If India.Inc is ever to rival the vaunted Japan.Inc, it has to get its homework right and only then will any publicity ring true." There is increasing evidence the labours are paying off. India today is the greatest market for quality gurus, management consultants and deal seekers. It is even a high end job market: many Indian firms --eg. Jet Airways, Ranbaxy-- are hiring Westerners.

Manufacturing had nearly been surrendered to China by prominent minds that ought to have been wiser. Today, about five years after China-scare-times, Indian manufacturing is alive and growing. As a supplier of quality parts to the global auto industry, India is becoming the rival to beat. Part of the reason of course is West's experience in India. Mercedes Benz says its India plant is its best outside Germany. Raymond Spencer, founder of Kanbay says, "India is a knowledge center. It is not a cheap labor pool. It's not a factory. It's a knowledge solutions center." It is that mindPlus labour that makes Bharat Forge, the feared competitor in the forged parts market; that makes auto-grade steel from Tata accepted overseas; that makes tens of little known 'wholly Indian' auto parts companies carve out markets.

The values in the chain:

In terms of food and beverages, it would be no news that the likes of curry, basmati rice and tandoori chicken are established favourites. But did you know that the Dabur's Chyawanprash, Hajmola and Boro Glow are becoming popular. Or that Kingfisher is a leader among beers? And wonder of wonders, in just under a decade since it began, Indian wine industry is placing its bottles on tables abroad. Stanford educated Rajeev Samant has almost single handedly created a niche for Indian wines abroad. Albeit the volume is small, his Sula wines are exported to Italy and California.

The wine story is a classic illustration of how the value chain works. Grapes grown in Maharashtra was 'commodity' when it was table fruit; now transformed into wine and branded with elegance, profits are flowing down the chain. The farmer at the lower end is connected with the rich spender at the higher end.

But these connections will not work if a country did not have a likeable image. India is going through a favourable re-rating. In a world full of turmoil, India's stoic calm, democracy, hospitality and family values are all being viewed with much admiration. Many societies have lost these and 'progressed' but are strangely restless. India on the hand is old-fashioned and yet 'modern'. It is scarcely doctrinaire. Its music, dance, crafts and religion are open and inclusive. Yoga, ayurveda, meditation etc have a universal appeal. India seems to say that you can be in many worlds at same time.

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