Archive for April, 2007

Indian economy : $1 trillion and counting

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The Times of India reports here that the Indian economy (by GDP) is estimated to have crossed $1 trillion (or $4 trillion by PPP). Though this means that India still retains its position as the 10th most industrialized / developed country but in PPP terms it is poised to overtake Japan as the world’s third largest economy.

All this sounds good, but this will be important only if the new found wealth is channelized to improving the lives of all sections of society. Reading the Times of India article reminds me of a recent article by Gurcharan Das in Foreign Affairs.

Will biofuels starve the poor?

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This Foreign Affairs article points out that massive increase in demand of biofuels like ethanol may displace food crops and increasing food prices.

filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn — which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year

The irony is that automobiles like SUVs are a big cause of global warming…Is this a case of stealing from the poor to solve the rich man’s problem? We need better ways of harvesting solar energy than food crop-based biofuels.

Strangely, this reminds me vaguely of something I read about India’s Green Revolution many years ago- The Green Revolution introduced crops which were shorter than the traditional crop breeds- this resulted in reduced production of straw/hay for fodder… the scarcity of fodder was the impetus for introducing factory-produced fodder.

The need for a global corps of managers and leaders

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The Acumen Fund blog links to an article by James Surowiecki (of ‘The Wisdom of the Crowd‘ fame) in the New Yorker. The article talks about the dichotomy India is facing; a massive skills shortage at the same time it is one of the top producers of skilled workers in the world.

The bigger question people have been trying to answer for decades is
How can developing countries prosper when so many needs are fighting for scarce resources? Where do we start? Widespread unemployment at a time when industries can’t find talent, environmental degradation, public health & sanitation, illiteracy, malnutrition, gender and social discrimination, overburdened public infrastructure, energy scarcity, the list seems endless and problems unsurmountable. But all is not lost… there are some glimmers of hope: vibrant democracy, entrepreneurial acumen, progressive judiciary, developed financial institutions, burgeoning middle class, commendable savings rate

Rural Outsourcing

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BusinessWeek has a short article on outsourcing by Indian corporates to rural India.

GramIT brings tech-services jobs to rural areas—and transforms villagers’ lives

Thinking Allowed : Sanskrit

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I just revisited the Thinking Allowed series by Jeffery Mishlove. This particular video is an interview of Prof. Dean Brown, theoretical physicist / entrepreneur.

Prof. Dean Brown points out that most European languages can be traced back to a root language that is also related to Sanskrit – the sacred language of the ancient Vedic religions of India. Many English words actually have Sanskrit origins. Similarly, many Vedic religious concepts can also be found in Western culture. He discusses the fundamental idea of the Upanishads – that the essence of each individual, the atman, is identical to the whole universe, the principle of brahman. In this sense, the polytheistic traditions of India can be said to be monistic at their very core.

Cheaper solar cells | Mimicking nature

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Science Alert Australia has a story about cheaper solar cells using synthetic chlorophyll.

Living on $1 a day….

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I came across this article on Slate- Dollar a Day: How the world’s poorest really spend their money. The article is actually a take on another article by 2 MIT researchers titled, The Economic Lives of the Poor.
From personal experience, I know that it is possible to live on less than $1 a day a in India. Though, in cities it is probably getting very difficult to survive on $1 or about 40 rupees a day.
Then again, the article is cognizant of the fact that purchasing power varies widely from place to place. Global poverty is on a steady decline but I think if we are not careful with mitigating the environmental and social risks it may stage a revival.

That said, there are some interesting findings from the article are that even those living at the bottom of the pyramid try to keep money for life events, sending kids to school, etc.

The very poor even seem to have some consumer power. For example, in the countries where free public schools are especially bad, some parents scrape together the resources to send the children to private schools. The teachers may be largely unskilled themselves, but at least they show up.

An interesting perspective to doing business at the bottom of the pyramid is this article from The Telegraph- Why the Indian retail hype doesn’t wash

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