International Gypsy

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two Indias @ Harvard India Conference 2011

I had the opportunity to attend the Harvard India Conference organized by the Harvard Business School every year this last weekend and got to hear views of a cross section of people on India. Speakers included Politicians, Economists, Businessmen, Harvard Professors, Social Entrepreneurs and Writers. Title of the conference was titled 'India - march of a Billion Aspirations'

Key themes that emerged out of the conference were mostly the same that we hear and read every day : a land of opportunity with an emerging middle class, young, educated and English speaking population, and traditions of democracy and independent judiciary. On the flip side, corruption was highlighted as being prevalent in every aspect of life and holding India back. Every one had a view that India of today is a divided India - the urban India with an educated, confident and wealthy middle class and numerous Billionaires and the India that is terribly poor, illiterate, hungry and do not have access to even the most basic of healthcare, nutrition, education and infrastructure. Which India would eventually prevail remains to be seen. A renowned Harvard economist summed up his response to the question beautifully that got me thinking - he said if India is a land with the march of a few million aspirations, then this rally would soon collapse. If this march is that of a few hundred million aspirations, then the rally would survive a decade or so. But for the rally to survive in the long term for India to truly become a superpower and a civilized society, it has to become the land of billion aspiration in a true sense.

Now this is one question which flips me out. As I noted in my earlier post, India is home to more than 60% of worlds total malnourished children population. At the same time, we are home to 52 billionaires (4th highest in the world), 100,000 dollar millionaires and have the distinction of being host to the most expensive $ 2 billion home in the world. I have been looking for research into whether Indian growth has been more or less inequitable than countries who have gone through this development process - views welcome. I also want to understand which country has had the distinction of least inequitable growth throughout the cycle and what are the lessons to be learnt.

While the conference was overall well organized and well received, one thing left me a little amused - why did Harvard call Subrata Roy Sahara to deliver the closing key note address - first page on Google search reveals he had a bailable warrant issued against him in January this year and he is commonly known as the most corrupt businessmen in India? Guess sensationalism works everywhere. I reckon Baba Ramdev would have been a better bet than him.


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