Tie-ISB Connect 2009 – Part 3: Taking India Forward and The Next 800 Million

I apologize for delaying this part of the post. This will be my last post in this series and I shall cover two panel discussions. Taking India Forward and the Next 800 Million Opportunity. I chose to club the two for the simple reason that they are, in my mind, related. You cannot take India forward without moving the next 800Million through opportunities and choices.

The panel consisted of Jayaprakash Narayan (Thought Leader, Speaker Par Excellence and Politician), Reuben Abraham (Exec Director and Asst Prof, Centre for Emerging Markets, ISB), Madhukar CV (Director PRS Legislative Services) and Siddharth (Actor, Rang De Basanti-fame). It was moderated by Karuna Gopal (President Foundation of Futuristic Cities). All of them you can check up at their respective LinkedIn profiles that I’ve added to their names :). There was an interesting discussion around “urbanisation” and the sheer obliviousness to the fact that, at the current rate of urbanization, if we are not careful we will need 300-400 more cities in the next 10 years. Are we prepared?

Siddharth was the surprise package (and I’m adding a paragraph on his talk here by popular demand on my blog for his speech summary). He was not only a fluent speaker but also displayed great passion and lucid thinking along with a no nonsense approach to the subject. He vociferously vouched against three things in India – our “rodent-like” memory to quickly forget the atrocities met to us, the habit of our media to sensationalize and the inability of a small fry in the system to stand up and make a difference due to the system. He cited personal examples of his visit to a CM to offer help for relief work and how he was shown the door without being allowed to utter so much as a word. His stance of, “If I as a celebrity could not make things happen, what can a small fry do to help even if he wants to. Moreover, why would he want to?”, had quite a few feathers ruffled.

In the Next 800 Million opportunity, the discussion was mainly around the issues and challenges faced by the markets and marketeers alike. Panel consisted of Sarath Naru (Venture East), Dr. Ashwin Naik (Vaatsalya Healthcare), Sandeep Farias (Elevar Equity), Manish Khera (Fino), PN Vasudevan (Finance India Ltd), Harish Moily (MYA) and MR Rao (SKS Microfinance). The panel was co-chaired by Vishal Vasishth (SONG Advisors) and S Sivakumar (ITC Agro). The best part was when the discussion centred around the fact that the rural people paid much more for a poorer quality of service they received across board! And, I couldn’t help compare the “so-called” Indian upper middle-class or “wealthy” section and the service they received vs what is available outside India. I think there is a huge value and quality gap there and I can’t even begin to imagine the negative percolation that seeps across sectors in the different parts of India and what poor quality of service and product offerings are given for the same/higher value to the “have-nots”. Talk about the system being unfair and the playfield being levelled? I think we should stop reading books written (with sponsorships, of course!) by foriegners and start looking at our own backyard. We will be shocked at what we find or, rather, do not find!

As next steps, so that the discussion does not end here. I would like to help create channels online and offline so that these thoughts can be crystallized into tangible actions. Anyone game for it? Thoughts on what we can do? How we can take the ideas forward and make a concentrated effort to drive action? Pls reach out to me.

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3 Responses to “Tie-ISB Connect 2009 – Part 3: Taking India Forward and The Next 800 Million”


  1. 1 Mritunjay November 28, 2009 at 3:46 am

    I recently read another article by Karuna Gopal on the issue of “Can Hyderabad be made livable?” which was an invited entry to Times of India [http://samapan.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/can-hyderabad-be-made-livable/]. I felt it was afresh breath of air and an insight of how citizens feel about their city.

    Reading through the three-part coverage here on your blog is also a nice experience.

    Cheers!

    • 2 Sreeja Iyer November 28, 2009 at 10:22 am

      Thanks Mrityunjay. I read her article. She makes a lot of sense and moves you to action. However, I would really like to see some concrete steps being suggested for the masses. If you don’t tell the masses in objective terms, the pace of their life will eat up their guilt and they will continue on their business of living the everyday life. What do you think we can do more concretely? A small step to start with that will make a difference?

      Sreeja

      • 3 Mritunjay November 28, 2009 at 11:37 am

        Sreeja,

        Nice to hear your views. I believe engaging the people in the process of development right from planning to execution and some sort of stock-raking/accountability is important. Common people feel that they are not a part of the process and that leads to the detachment between planning and execution. Moreover today when we keep chanting about PPP, it makes sense only when the people are engaged.

        Most of the developed cities in west are their today due to citizen participation. Time for our authorities/planners are missing this piece.

        Mritunjay


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