“For the First 40 Years of Indian Independence, Entrepreneurs . . . Were Looked Down Upon”

(p. 8) Saurabh Srivastava, co-founder of the National Association of Software and Service Companies in India, explained that for the first 40 years of Indian independence, entrepreneurs here were looked down upon. India had lost confidence in its ability to compete, so it opted for protectionism. But when the ’90s rolled around, and India’s government was almost bankrupt, India’s technology industry was able to get the government to open up the economy, in part by citing the example of America and Silicon Valley. India has flourished ever since.

“America,” said Srivastava, “was the one who said to us: ‘You have to go for meritocracy. You don’t have to produce everything yourselves. Go for free trade and open markets.’ This has been the American national anthem, and we pushed our government to tune in to it. And just when they’re beginning to learn how to hum it, you’re changing the anthem. … Our industry was the one pushing our government to open our markets for American imports, 100 percent foreign ownership of companies and tough copyright laws when it wasn’t fashionable.”

If America turns away from these values, he added, the socialist/protectionists among India’s bureaucrats will use it to slow down any further opening of the Indian markets to U.S. exporters.

For the full commentary, see:
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN. “It’s Morning in India.” The New York Times, Week in Review Section (Sun., October 31, 2010): 8.
(Note: the online version of the story is dated October 30, 2010.)

To Do Business in India, Bureaucrats Still Must Be Bribed

TataRatan2011-04-18.jpg “In the twilight of his career heading Tata Group, Ratan Tata says he was thwarted in his homeland by arbitrary regulatory decisions and corruption.”

(p. B1) NEW DELHI–Ratan Tata has transformed Tata Group into the world’s best-known Indian company, the owner of Jaguar cars, the Pierre Hotel in New York and Tetley tea.

But in the twilight of his career as chairman of the $67.4 billion conglomerate, Mr. Tata, 73 years old, is frustrated that he hasn’t been able to expand more in his native India. He says bureaucratic delays, arbitrary regulatory decisions and widespread corruption have thwarted his domestic ambitions in such sectors as steel, power, aviation and telecommunications.
. . .
. . . 20 years after . . . reforms began, New Delhi still exerts tight control over large swaths of the economy. All too often, Mr. Tata and other critics say, regulators are picking winners and losers through their decisions, either by delaying certain projects and green-lighting others or by freeing up natural resources for some companies at the expense of others.
“Economically it is a much more open environment. It’s one that fosters a fair amount of free enterprise until you need approvals or some kind of sanction to get something done,” Mr. Tata said during an interview at the Tata-owned Taj Mahal hotel in New Delhi. “Then you still have problems, and maybe more acute then you did before.”
. . .
As chairman, one of Mr. Tata’s first goals was to get Tata back into the airline business. The company’s former airline had been nationalized to form Air India. He planned a venture with Singapore Airlines. But, he says, aviation ministry bureaucrats held up his application for years despite his constant prodding. An aviation ministry spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In 1998, after seven years of government inaction, Mr. Tata withdrew the application. “We went through three governments, three prime ministers, and each time there was a particular individual that thwarted our efforts,” he said in a TV interview last fall. He recalled a conversation with a fellow industrialist several years ago. “He said, ‘I don’t understand. You people are very stupid…. Why don’t you just pay?'”
Paying bribes isn’t his style, Mr. Tata says. “Maybe I’m stupid or old fashioned, but I really want to go to bed at night saying I haven’t succumbed to this.”

For the full story, see:
AMOL SHARMA. “India’s Tata Finds Home Hostile; Chair of Nation’s Best-Known Company Says Bureaucracy Slows Domestic Growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., April 13, 2011): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipses added, except for the one after the word “stupid” which appears in the original.)
(Note: in the online version of the article, the final paragraph quoted above reads: “Mr. Tata says paying bribes isn’t his style. “Maybe I’m stupid or old fashioned, but I really want to go to bed at night saying I haven’t succumbed to this,” he says.”

India Government Spends Billions to Subsidize Fuel Use

IndiaGasDrumOnBike2010-06-29.jpg“An employee filled an oil drum in New Delhi on Friday. India’s government has decided to reduce popular fuel subsidies.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

I smiled when I saw the ironic photo that appears above. It seems to imply that with government subsidies, even bicycle riders will buy motor fuel.

(p. B3) MUMBAI, India — The Indian government on Friday reduced popular fuel subsidies, a long-delayed change that will help policy makers reduce a big budget deficit but one that will also worsen already high inflation.

Policy makers said the government would stop subsidizing gasoline. Diesel, kerosene and natural gas would continue to receive support at a slightly lower level. India spent about $5.6 billion to subsidize fuel in the last fiscal year, which ended in March. State-owned energy companies added the equivalent of an additional $4.4 billion by selling fuel below its cost.
India and other big countries committed to eliminating energy subsidies at a Group of 20 meeting last year, but policy makers here had repeatedly put off the politically difficult change.

For the full story, see:
VIKAS BAJAJ. “India Cuts Subsidies for Fuels.” The New York Times (Sat., June 26, 2010): B3.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 25, 2010.)

Farmers in India Like Wal-Mart

WalMartIndiaFarmer2010-05-20.JPG“Mohammad Haneef, [above], a farmer in Haider Nagar, said that Wal-Mart is better than his previous clients. “You have to establish trust,” he said in Hindi. “Wal-Mart has been paying on time. We would just like them to buy more.”” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. (Note: bracketed word added.)

(p. B1) HAIDER NAGAR, India — At first glance, the vegetable patches in this north Indian village look no different from the many small, spare farms that dot the country.

But up close, visitors can see some curious experiments: insect traps made with reusable plastic bags; bamboo poles helping bitter gourd grow bigger and straighter; and seedlings germinating from plastic trays under a fine net.
These are low-tech innovations, to be sure. But they are crucial to the goals of the benefactor — Wal-Mart — that supplied them.
Two years after Wal-Mart came to India, it is trying to do to agriculture here what it has done to industries around the world: change business models by using its hyper-efficient practices to improve productivity and speed the flow of goods.
. . .
(p. B3) Here in Haider Nagar, in the bread basket state of Punjab, farmers who supply vegetables to Wal-Mart say they like working with the company. It typically pays them 5 to 7 percent more than they earn from local wholesale markets, they said. And they do not have to pay to transport produce because Wal-Mart picks it up from their fields.
Abdul Majid, who sells cucumbers to Wal-Mart, says his yields have risen about 25 percent since he started following farming advice about when to apply fertilizers and which kinds — more zinc, less potash — from the company and its partner, Bayer CropScience.
Mohammad Haneef, a farmer in a nearby village, said he had sold to two other companies before Wal-Mart, but one shut down and the other cheated him and paid him late. Wal-Mart is much better, he said, but its buyers are picky, taking the best vegetables and leaving him with inferior ones that he still must truck to wholesale markets.
“You have to establish trust,” he said in Hindi. “Wal-Mart has been paying on time. We would just like them to buy more.”

For the full story, see:
VIKAS BAJAJ. “Cultivating a Market in India; Wal-Mart Nurtures Suppliers as It Lays Plans for Expansion.” The New York Times (Tues., April 13, 2010): B1 & B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review is dated April 12, 2010 and has the title “In India, Wal-Mart Goes to the Farm.”)

How Government Universal Health Care Works in India

JahanAmirIndianWeaver2009-09-26.jpg “Amir Jahan found her health insurance wouldn’t pay for all of her $200 stomach surgery; she continues to work with an untreated tumor.” Source of caption: print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A14) PANIPAT, India — Amir Jahan can spin thick, white thread into magnificent cloth, but the 46-year-old weaver has been unable to unravel her health plan to pay for stomach surgery.

Under a health-insurance program introduced a few years ago, the Indian government has provided health-insurance coverage for the country’s hand-loom weavers, a group of 6.5 million workers, 60% of them female, who are mostly illiterate and invariably poor. Yet holding an insurance card hasn’t helped Ms. Jahan, who says the coverage only pays for minor ailments and not for major problems, such as the removal of a stomach tumor.
“The health care is all a sham,” Ms. Jahan says angrily. “I was refused treatment on grounds of huge expense. I won’t ever go to be humiliated again.”
Ms. Jahan’s health-care issues represent the problems that come with trying to provide insurance to India’s poor. Access to quality care remains a distant dream for many in this country of 1.1 billion.
Last year, the Indian government launched the National Health Insurance Program on (sic) promised health coverage of $700 per person for families earning less than $100 a year.
Holders of health cards have to register in their home states to access benefits, thereby precluding a large population of migrant laborers. Those who can get past the complex state-identification and qualification process often can’t cope with hospital bureaucracies.

For the full story, see:
VIBHUTI AGARWAL. “Indian Weavers Shun Health Plan.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept., 2009): A14.

Creative Destruction Is Scary, but “Inevitable and Probably Even Desirable”

(p. 5) Development is a complicated phenomenon. Decades before he popularized the phrase “creative destruction,” Joseph Schumpeter, the Austrian School economist, was honing his ideas about innovation and disruptive change in “The Theory of Economic Development.”

Disruptive change, creative destruction, is what I’m living every day. In the big cities, India’s economic development can seem so simple. Business thrives, the middle and upper classes are celebrating, and the country is moving inexorably ahead.
But around here, where a way of life is disappearing and no one knows what will take its place, where someone seems to lose for everyone who wins, it’s a lot harder to know what to make of India’s economic boom. From my vantage point, development seems both wonderful and frightening; it is both inspiring and, at times, dispiriting.
People sometimes ask me how I feel about India’s economic development. I tell them the truth. I say I don’t know. I say I feel ambivalent about the passing of a world I knew as a child, a transition that I know is inevitable and probably even desirable. But I haven’t reconciled myself to it yet.

For the full commentary, see:
AKASH KAPUR. “An Indian Says Farewell to Poverty, With Jitters.” The New York Times, Week in Review Section (Sun., August 8, 2009): 5.

Cooking with Cow Shit Adds to Global Warming (and Would Be Ended by Economic Growth)

SootFromCookingIndia.jpg“Cooking in Kohlua, India. Soot from tens of thousands of villages in developing countries is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, studies say.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

Economic growth is sometimes seen as increasing pollution. But the article quoted below shows that primitive cooking methods, which occur in the absence of economic growth, cause one of the most damaging forms of pollution: black carbon.

(p. A1) KOHLUA, India — “It’s hard to believe that this is what’s melting the glaciers,” said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, as he weaved through a warren of mud brick huts, each containing a mud cookstove pouring soot into the atmosphere.
As women in ragged saris of a thousand hues bake bread and stew lentils in the early evening over fires fueled by twigs and dung, children cough from the dense smoke that fills their homes. Black grime coats the undersides of thatched roofs. At dawn, a brown cloud stretches over the landscape like a diaphanous dirty blanket.
In Kohlua, in central India, with no cars and little electricity, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero. But soot — also known as black carbon — from tens of thousands of villages like this one in developing countries is emerging as a major and previously unappreciated source of global climate change.
While carbon dioxide may be the No. 1 contributor to rising global temperatures, scientists say, black carbon has emerged as an important No. 2, with recent studies estimating that it is responsible for 18 percent of the (p. A12) planet’s warming, compared with 40 percent for carbon dioxide. Decreasing black carbon emissions would be a relatively cheap way to significantly rein in global warming — especially in the short term, climate experts say. Replacing primitive cooking stoves with modern versions that emit far less soot could provide a much-needed stopgap, while nations struggle with the more difficult task of enacting programs and developing technologies to curb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
. . .
Better still, decreasing soot could have a rapid effect. Unlike carbon dioxide, which lingers in the atmosphere for years, soot stays there for a few weeks. Converting to low-soot cookstoves would remove the warming effects of black carbon quickly, while shutting a coal plant takes years to substantially reduce global CO2 concentrations.
. . .
Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of environmental engineering at Stanford, said that the fact that black carbon was not included in international climate efforts was “bizarre,” but “partly reflects how new the idea is.”

For the full story, see:
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. “By Degrees; Black Carbon; Soot From Third-World Stoves Is New Target in Climate Fight.” The New York Times (Thurs., April 16, 2009): A1, A12.
(Note: ellipses added; the title of the online version is “By Degrees – Third-World Stove Soot Is Target in Climate Fight.” )

BlackCarbonMap.jpg

Source of maps: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

Honest Indian Economist Wins (Charisma is Not Always What Matters Most)

SinghManmohanAndGandhi.jpg “India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, and Rahul Gandhi wave to supporters during an election campaign rally in the northern Indian city of Amritsar May 11.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A12) “Manmohan Singh will be our prime minister,” said Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party, at a televised news conference with Mr. Singh. Mr. Singh, in typically low-key fashion, spoke at the same conference in such a quiet voice that his two minutes of remarks were inaudible over the din of the press corps, and he was forced to return to the microphone to repeat them. “The public has expressed faith in Congress,” he mumbled.
. . .
Mr. Singh, who earned honors from Cambridge University in economics and a doctorate from Oxford, was an architect of India’s economic reforms in 1991 that are credited with setting the nation on course for the economic boom it has had over the past few years but that is now slowing. He is widely seen as honest in a system where bribery of politicians and voters is commonplace and more than 1,000 political candidates in the national elections faced various criminal charges.
The election “is an endorsement of the programs and policies initiated by Manmohan Singh,” said Sanjay Kumar, fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.

For the full commentary, see:
PAUL BECKETT and VIBHUTI AGARWAL. “Voters Give Singh New Political Life — and a Mandate; Decisive Re-Election Presents New Opportunity to Indian Prime Minister; Reaching Out to Rahul Gandhi, and Youth.” Wall Street Journal (Mon., MAY 18, 2009): A12.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the second and third paragraphs quoted above were somewhat different in the print and online versions; the online version is quoted here. The first paragraph is the same in both versions.)

The Inefficiency of a Labor Safety Net

IndiaMilkStall.jpg

“Government milk is sold mostly through curbside milk stalls. Some customers don’t find the milk stands appealing since they can be dingy and the milk sometimes bad.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) MUMBAI — Every workday morning, milkman D.T. Walkar faithfully comes to Worli Dairy to not deliver milk.
Most days, he and his fellow drivers at the government dairy sign in, then move to the rest area. While others read the paper, nap or play rummy, Mr. Walkar likes to do the Sudoku puzzle in the Maharashtra Times, unless someone else has gotten to it first. He then wanders around the complex and talks to friends. The last delivery trucks were sold last year. “The trucks are all gone so we just sit around and talk,” says Mr. Walkar, 50 years old. “We are bored.”
Once respected civil servants, Mr. Walkar and his 300-odd fellow drivers have been left in a strange limbo. Milk sales at their dairy have plummeted as the state government lost its monopoly on milk and consumer tastes changed. But because Indian work rules strictly protect government workers from layoffs, the delivery men show up for work each morning for eight-hour shifts, as they always did, then proceed to do nothing all day. They rarely, if ever, leave the plant.
. . .
(p. A5) In 2001, the Indian government started opening the dairy market in Maharashtra to competition. Private carriers with higher quality milk swiftly won customers by delivering milk to doorsteps. The government milkmen have always been restricted to delivering mostly to curbside milk stalls so they could cover a greater area.
Customers swiftly deserted. Many switched to heat-treated milk in sealed packages that resist spoiling. Some ditched the government’s former best sellers of sweet Pineapple milk and spicy Masala milk for Coca-Cola and Sprite as Indian tastes westernized. Others never found the milk stands appealing — they can be dingy and the milk sometimes bad.

For the full story, see:
ERIC BELLMAN. “Out to Pasture: India’s Milkmen Bide Their Time; No Work, Secure Job Put Them in Limbo; Where’s the Sudoku?” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 29, 2008): A1 & A5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

IndiaMilkmenSleepingOnJob.jpg “Because Indian work rules protect government workers from layoffs, 300-odd former milk truck drivers show up at the Worli Dairy for work each morning just as they always did, then do nothing all day. To pass the time, the men do puzzles, yoga or just sleep off the hours. Once, they tried planting a garden.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

Greenspan on Leapfrogging in India


(p. 316) India is fast becoming two entities: a rising kernal of world-class modernity within a historic culture that has been for the most part stagnating for generations.
This kernal of modernity appears to have largely leapfrogged the twentieth-century labor-intensive manuafacturing-for-export model embraced by China and the rest of East Asia.



Source:
Greenspan, Alan. The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World Economic Flexibility. New York: Penguin Press, 2007.

The Free Market Works


The story quoted below tells how outsourcing high-tech jobs to India has bid up the salaries of high-tech Indian engineers, thereby reducing the appeal of further outsourcing. Marvelous how the market works!
Another lesson from the story applies to forecasting: mechanical extrapolation of current trends is inferior to prediction that takes account of predictable changes in prices (in this case, salaries).


(p. A15) Around the century’s turn, when U.S. companies first began flooding to India for its cheap labor, pundits warned that the subcontinent could increasingly rob the U.S. of high-end white-collar jobs. Debate was especially sharp in Silicon Valley, then in a slump, because India annually turns out nearly 500,000 engineering graduates.
. . .
Several years on, the forces of globalization are starting to even things out between the U.S. and India, in sophisticated technology work. As more U.S. tech companies poured in, they soaked up the pool of high-end engineers qualified to work at global companies, belying the notion of an unlimited supply of top Indian engineering talent. In a 2005 study, McKinsey & Co. estimated that just a quarter of India’s computer engineers had the language proficiency, cultural fit and practical skills to work at multinational companies.
The result is increasing competition for the most skilled Indian computer engineers and a narrowing U.S.-India gap in their compensation. India’s software-and-service association puts wage inflation in its industry at 10% to 15% a year. Some tech executives say it’s closer to 50%. In the U.S., wage inflation in the software sector is under 3%, according to Moody’s Economy.com.
Rafiq Dossani, a scholar at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center who recently studied the Indian market, found that while most Indian technology workers’ wages remain low — an average $5,000 a year for a new engineer with little experience — the experienced engineers Silicon Valley companies covet can now cost $60,000 to $100,000 a year. “For the top-level talent, there’s an equalization,” he says.



For the full story, see:
Pui-Wing Tam and Jackie Range. “Second Thoughts: Some in Silicon Valley Begin to Sour on India; A Few Bring Jobs Back As Pay of Top Engineers In Bangalore Skyrockets.” Wall Street Journal (Tues., July 3, 2007): A1 & A15.
(Note: ellipsis added.)