White noise, you never seem to notice it until it stops. After Delhi, Boston feels decidedly sleepy.
There are no perpetually honking cars, everyone uses sidewalks (for walking), and most food isn’t spiced with curry. It’s at once refreshing and a little sad. I will miss the energy of India.
Serendipitously, The Economist put India on its cover this week. The article focused on India’s military, but the theme is consistent with previous articles about India: the country lacks strategic focus and performs below its potential. A few weeks ago, I would have agreed that these are terminal problems for India.
I now predict that India’s rise will defy expert opinion. Such opinion has been formulated by financial, economic and business leaders, most of whom got where they are because they enjoy being in control of their environment, which they can order to their liking.
Doing business in India requires a cession of control that is uncomfortable for most of these people. There are simply too many factors beyond a leader’s control, from the quantity educated professionals she needs to staff her company to the consistency of the power grid. Further, India’s growth story is not one that lends itself to a concise explanation. Whereas, say, China’s economic rise enjoys a tidy explanation that is tangibly evidenced by manful physical capital, India’s story is one of incrementalism. A traveller to India could be forgiven for asking “where’s the growth?” because it happens one bit by bit, 1.2 billion times over.
After working with One97, I realize just how much opportunity there is in India for people who are comfortable with India's pell mell economy. One97 achieved market leadership and financial success in a line of business that would raise eyebrows in Western boardrooms because it wasn't intimidated by its marketplace. However, I also realized that the value of my MBA transfers globally. While India certainly required a shift in attitude, the frameworks I learned in class were enormously helpful in helping One97 pursue its goals.
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in India Lab. I have learned things I couldn’t in a classroom. However, I have also learned and just how valuable my coursework is.