Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice

Inspiring and informing your business school journey

mobile search icon

India in 10 Days

Biting poverty amid mind-boggling luxury

By  Syed Husain

Tue Mar 9 2010


What kind of MBA program has you visit 6 different countries, engage business leaders and gives you a top rated degree to boot? Why the Cross Continent MBA from Duke University of course!

The 2010 CCMBA cohort recently visited India. During the trip my class had the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal, the forts in Jaipur and experience the sights and sounds of Delhi. Alan Greenspan, the former head of the US Federal Reserve, once said that there are very few countries that show the vibrancy of an open economy and the stagnation of Socialism, better than India.

India's GDP has jumped from a modest 3% a decade ago to about 7.4 % in 2008 & 6.1% in 2009. This growth has been mainly fuelled by the high-tech sector. We had a chance to witness this sector at work when we visited Schneider Electric in Delhi and heard from Nandan Nilekani, one of the founders of Infosys, the Indian tech giant.

No visit to India is complete without a case of "Delhi Belly", marked by mild to serious discomfort in the abdomen and accompanied by varying levels of nausea and vomiting. One of my classmates had the unfortunate but unique experience of vomiting in front of the Taj Mahal. When later asked what she thought of the marvellous structure she said, "What can I say? I threw up!" About 50% of the class was sick at one point or another.

Fortunately, we recovered enough by the end of the residency to be able to enjoy our time in Delhi. Some of the class made the trip to Nepal after the residency and some were even daring enough to take a plane ride around the Himalayas.

Contrary to popular Western opinion, democracy is not a panacea for the ills of society.
India might be a stable democracy but that in itself is not sufficient to solve all the problems the country is facing-biting poverty amid mind boggling luxury is the new face of India.

One of our guest speakers was heading up the Giorgio Armani stores in East Asia and he invited us to visit the DLF promenade mall. He boasted that it was one of the most luxurious malls in Asia. We decided to test his claim and were not disappointed, some of the biggest names in the fashion industry: Chanel, Armani and Gucci had stores selling items at
the same prices you would pay in
London or New York.

Just outside the mall, however, was a shanty town for the laborers working on the extension of the mall. I wanted to dress up as one of them and try to get into the mall to see how security would react. It would have been interesting to see how these people would be treated in the mall they helped build.

All of the problems aside, the general idea our class came away with was that India holds great promise with the threat of many pitfalls along the way.
India will be one of the few major economies with more people of working age (20-50 age group) than in retirement age. This is both a boon and a curse, if India can educate and train this large group and
find them jobs, GDP and growth will jump. The flip side is that if
India can't educate and provide for them, social unrest may be the ultimate conclusion.

Democracy may not be the best system of government but it is best system we have.