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The Muse

May 18, 2006

Videos to waste your time

With the proliferation of YouTube and Google Video, I've been watching a lot of videos lately. I just thought it would be neat to link some videos that have caught my attention. Of course, I'm not going to link Koffee with Karan episodes [though I do watch them :)].

World on Fire
Music video by Sarah McLachlan ~ 4:23 mins
A crash course on global inequalities. I would weep if I could.

One.org Ad
Advertisement for one.org ~ 1:00 min
Make poverty history advertisement from Live 8 for one.org.

Rx for Survival
A preview video of the Rx for Survival Series on PBS ~ 7 :01 min
A stunning and powerful series on our medical heroes. More details on the homepage here.

Introducing String Theory
A series of videos on NOVA ~ each video is around 6-7 min
The host is Brian Greene, a physicist from Columbia. You will see interviews with some of the most significant brains of our times along the way [mostly from the US]. String theory is trying to explain how the universe works...pretty straightforward :)

May 11, 2006

Population Issues and India

When I was in school at Delhi, I remember reading in Civics or Geography about India's challenges for the millennium. It was drilled into my head, and probably yours too, that one of the most important issues facing us was our population. I don't know about you, but the perception I got was as if the poor Indian's were uninformed, uneducated folk who used no contraception, hence procreated like rabbits to result in such a huge unplanned population explosion. What a shame! We all had to spread "awareness" and control our growth rate else we were surely headed for doom. All I heard was that China had put forth its "one-child" plan, and we needed to do something similar, albeit less drastic. The fact that India would overtake China's population was often a sense of great mirth among my friends and myself. No foresight, no analysis, no discussion - population growth was bad. End of issue.

Well, its been 10 years since I finished schooling, and the world order is undergoing a paradigm shift. What is China trying to do today? Increase its population. What is the number one problem faced by Japan? Lack of people. What is happening in much of Europe? Lack of people. People are being asked to procreate. Immigration reforms are the top priority. What did Vladimir Putin announce in his State of the Union Address? That the demographic shift of Russia would be their number one problem, and that mothers would get $110 for their second child. And what is India saying? That even though China is way ahead in terms of its growth, foreign investment and infrastructure growth, India will overtake China purely because of its one crucial advantage - its population.

That's right, India's strength is its population. Our middle class alone is more than the population of the entire United States. Organizations that were thinking of India in terms of cost benefits are now drooling about India as a pure market. Take the example of the telecom industry. India's rate of mobile subscribers grew by 47% in 2005, we have somewhere around 75 million mobile subscribers and this is expected to increase to 280 million in 2010. That means around a quarter of India will be linked through mobile phones. More importantly, 3/4 of India will still remain untapped. Can you imagine the opportunities for telecommunication companies?

Further, the demographic shift is such that India is set to have the most number of young people as compared to any other country in the world for the near future. This directly translates into India having a more eligible workforce [although whether they will be qualified is another issue altogether]. Simultaneously, population is decreasing in China, and in most of the developed countries. The UN estimates that the population of the developed countries will decrease by 10 million by 2050. So much so, that China will have the exact opposite problem - dealing with the world's oldest population.

Now, its obvious that sheer numbers are not enough. We need to improve the quality of life for the 800 million poor, not just focus on the gains of the 350 million middle class. Around 25% of our population is estimated to be mired in really really bad living conditions. There is another issue of religion that we need to address too. India has the highest number of Muslims after Indonesia. While that is something to be proud of, the fact that 40% of those Muslims are in poverty as compared to the 22% Hindus is definitely not something to brag about. Numbers cannot lie, so obviously there are some issues that we need to address here. As the country grows, one sign that we are in the right track is when the middle class keeps swelling.

It has been forecast that China will overtake the US economy somewhere around 2035, with India taking over China around 2050. So while China faces issues due to ageing, India faces issues relating to the quality of our workforce. Just because we have a million college graduates does not mean that they will all be productive. But the good news is that increasing quality is an achievable, although an admittedly difficult, task. I'm sure everyone realizes that its better to have a workforce and try to fix it, rather than not having one at all. The efforts need to stem from the education system, it needs to start from our schools and colleges, where students are taught to think critically and logically...can you imagine being taught that India's population needs to be reduced if we ever need to become developed or something silly like that....oh wait....

Update: 05/13

Not really related to the context of this post, but I came across another video from BharatBala that depicts how India is overcoming the rest of the world (remember the Vande Mataram video with Rehman?). Does the video depict the true India? Probably not. Does it make you feel kinda happy? Hell yeah!.

I am India on Google Video.

May 04, 2006

Premji and Aron - II

In one of my previous posts, I had talked about an interview between Premji and Ravi Aron of Wharton. This is the concluding part of that session. I must say that it is no wonder that Wipro is one of India's most successful brands. He is extremelely knowledgeable and current, and his replies are incisive, thoughtful and very cogent.

I had remarked earlier that one of India's challenges would be to transition from a service oriented model to a product oriented one. Premji and Aron discuss the very same issue in this concluding session.


"...one reason why India has focused on services is that products require an intimate, ongoing understanding of the customer. This requires a strong localized presence in countries where these products are going to be used, which has not been India's global delivery model. Second, most product companies have to invest a lot of resources in brand-building and marketing and you need to have the scale to do this. Many Indian companies could not afford to do this. Third, the service business has provided clear-cut, strong positioning, good profitability and tremendous growth for Indian companies. So these companies chose a path where it was easier to succeed rather than one that was more difficult."

"...let us look at the way our business is distributed. About 75% of our people work in India or India-equivalents, by which I mean low-cost centers. In contrast, if IBM has 50,000 or even 80,000 people in Asia, that is just about 20% to 25% of its total employee base. This is a distinct cost advantage that we will continue to enjoy. Even if companies like IBM move to global delivery models, it is unlikely that their employee base in low-cost regions will go beyond 30% to 35% of their total headcount. This is because their execution model -- which is primarily based on consulting -- does not permit them to do that. The kind of work they do requires a much deeper onsite presence..."

Aron is, of course, not the everyday interviewer. His questions are on the money...

"...the proposition they (consulting companies) make to the customer goes as follows: "We will come in and diagnose the problem," which is management consulting. "We will find a solution," which is management and process consulting. "We will design, develop and maintain the solution," which is technology. And finally, "We will operate the solution," which is BPO. So the promise to the customer runs the gamut from diagnostics through formulation, design, development, maintenance and operation..."

"...consultants earn about six to eight times what the technology delivery people do. As a result, they (a company Aron consults with) are trying not to have a two-caste system form within the company, where higher-earning, suit-wearing, laptop-toting, airport-hopping consultants lord it over the geeks who write code in C-plus-plus and Java. This is proving to be a much bigger challenge than expected... "

Get the whole interview at K@W here