by Yash Daga
All Balramchand Tiwari, a fifty two year old auto rickshaw driver in the village of Baggad, ever hoped for his children was that they grow able enough get a breadwinning menial job at a local manufacturing plant. His son Deepak on the other hand, had dreams of his own. He quit his job as a school janitor six years ago to open small retail clothes store. Today, he sources cloth from big cities like Mumbai and Ahmedabad and has his own tailoring units. He makes enough to support his parents, send his four children to private schools, own a motor bike, a camera phone and live in a two bedroom house – a life of luxury once un-thought by an Indian from the lower middle income class.
Youth like Deepak represent what truly is the transformation of India as a nation. Young, ambitious, unafraid and proud, he stands for the very values that have driven the emergence of the nation as an economic and political powerhouse. To the average Indian like Deepak, the money has brought with it a unique sense of power and self confidence, sentiments that were previously exterminated by a 200 year long unpleasant colonial domination. The Indian of today, unlike his ancestors, is adventurous, bold, motivated and unconventionally entrepreneurial.
Juxtaposed to the Indian mentality fifty years ago, this stream of thought is revolutionary. After foreign trade with the East India Company stole it of its riches, sovereignty and dignity, the post- independence Indian was always conservative in his approach to anything remotely capitalistic. Over and above Government restrictions on private businesses, entrepreneurship was also socially dreaded by many Indian folk. The stock market was meant only for gamblers and madmen, large oligopolies were rarely threatened by newcomers and markets were never efficient. To add fuel to the fire, the socialist structure did an excellent job making everyone equally poor.
As the call center operator has replaced the snake charmer as the new Indian stereotype, Indian people and businesses have changed their perceptions of themselves and the rest of the world. Foreign investments aren’t really a threat, global markets are opportunities not challenges, and the stock market is more of a giver than a taker. After all, the recent Sensex bull run saw Mukesh Ambani, an Indian Industrialist surpass Bill Gates to become the world’s richest man. People are becoming less conservative in their spending, as a growing DINKY middle class drags India into becoming one of the world’s fastest growing consumer markets.
A similar psychological shift is seen in the attitude of Indian corporations. Companies are more transparent and law abiding than ever before, and Dalal St (Mumbai’s answer to Wall St) has seen a dramatic surge in new public listings. There is a striking increase in oversees acquisitions by Indian firms, funny in a way for a country that always felt threatened by probable economic colonialism. The Bombay stock exchange now has more listed companies than the NYSE or the LSE and Indian outbound M&A activity has nearly doubled M&A inbound activity in the Jan-May 2007 period, for the first time in history. The increasing engagement of the Indian companies in the world markets, and particularly in the US, is not only an indication of the maturity reached by Indian Industry but also the extent of their participation in the overall globalization process.
The economic makeover that India underwent has seen ripple effects in the individual psyche of Indian citizens. The rules, norms and opinions of yesterday have been forgotten and modern day India is ready to embrace the future that the world holds in its entirety, rather than run away from it.