Until she became the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City, Manjeet Kripalani was India bureau chief for Business Week magazine for the last 10 years. Based in Bombay, she reported on the many political and socioeconomic changes globalization has brought to the underdeveloped country of 1 billion people, 28 states, 16 official languages and six major religions. I spoke to her April 3 by phone from New York.
Q: What should every American know about the reality of India today?
A: I would say India is the country of the future. The center of gravity has shifted from the West to the East. It is now concentrated in Asia. The economies are growing in their own way; they are creating new ways of being. They are, for instance, creating new business models that are coming out of both India and China and some parts of Southeast Asia. A lot of the manufacturing is focused in Southeast Asia and in China. A lot of the new innovative models of service businesses are coming out of India. This is changing the way the world thinks about development and business. So everybody -- Pittsburgher and American alike -- really should be paying very close attention.
A lot of these changes have happened because America has taken the lead. American companies have been at the forefront of globalization. They are the ones that have actually brought the new ideas and change to Asia and India. But India, more than China and other parts of Southeast Asia, has created its own models that work for its own markets.
For instance, there’s a cellular phone company called Bharti, which, like most of India’s cellular operators, sells its phone calls for between 1 cent and 2 cents a minute. Those are the lowest rates of anywhere in the world. It was possible because of innovations made by these companies for their local markets. And these were innovations that multinational companies were not interested in making because they are not interested in low-cost models for low-cost markets. ... Companies like Bharti have created this astonishingly low-cost cellular phone call, and what it has done is it has given a big boost to the Indian cellular phone market. It’s now the fastest growing in the world and it’s changed the life of ordinary Indians.
Q: What is India’s greatest success story of the last 20 years in terms of its development?
A: India’s democracy and its economic development model have been its greatest success story.