Tuesday, November 22, 2005

So, what went wrong with brand India?

I had a chance to speak to a Dutch student who was researching about Indian software companies and life of Indian software engineers in general. I asked the inevitable question “What’s the perception about India in your part of the world”. He gave 3 lines.
  1. Our people used to think India is a very pooor (sic) country. The IT industry is slowly changing that perception.
  2. There are a lot of uneducated unemployed people, and everyone else is in the software industry.
  3. All people in IT industry are exploited ones.
Actually, you could get the same impression reading comments to some of the most debated topics in Slashdot.

Some of these impressions aren’t entirely wrong, while some are impossibly, utterly-butterly wrong. The truth is we really haven’t marketed ourselves the way we’d like to. India, except for the odd discussions hovering being one of the best low-cost destinations etc, doesn’t really figure in the list of countries where one could lead a comfortable life.

We hear stories of a lot of the travelers who come to India and fall in love with the country. Some love the simple culture – staying as a family together, the not-too-materialistic lifestyle, a deep rooted history etc. Some love the people. Some love the diversity. But we certainly don’t hear about people preferring India as a country to work. How many people would be willing to work for a short stint in India? How many multinational companies have the Asia Pacific headquarters in India, compared to the likes of Singapore, Australia etc?

It’s perfectly understandable that infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired, bureaucracy simply sucks and quality of life is below even Asian average. But why not a short one/two year expatriation stint?

While India is one of the preferred destinations for tourism – one with old monuments, diverse culture et all, we still retain a huge part of the ‘poor country’ image, and not without reason. While general quality of life is not on par with developed countries, any expatriate could live a king’s life in India. The purchasing power and exchange rate ensures that any expatriate would be able to save a considerable sum, even after spending on tours etc. A luxury like servants which is almost impossible in other countries is so easily possible in India. But these are the kind of stuff that we never hear of.

On the contrary, the clichéd phrase we all have heard one thousand times is “India is a land of snake charmers”.

Having born and brought up in the cities in India, I’ve never even seen one of those guys. Actually, I’ve read so much about them that I almost long for seeing those guys. For anyone who was nurtured in middle to upper-middle to upper class neighborhood in an Indian city, snake charmers are guys you could hear of only in news reports. The sad part is that this is the perception about us elsewhere.

I guess we need some serious action on all fronts to change these perceptions – that India is not alone a land of snake charmers; that not all employed Indians are in the IT industry; that not all IT industry employees are exploited ones; that India is not a poor country but one with a lot of poor people.

I think the only way to achieve this is to be open to others to see the truth first hand. If globalization is the solution, so be it. Let’s welcome it with both the hands.


At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 1:23:00 PM, Blogger Jammy said...

Agree with most of the article. But "not all IT industry employees are exploited ones"???
If you compare the compensation in developed countries and India (or even what we charge for our people with the client and what we pay them), then all of us are. But if you base it on our standard of living, then I don't think we are exploited at all.

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 1:40:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Yeah thats the point. Indian IT employees areen't exploited ones, but what is exploited is the exchange rate dfference, which is anyway the essence of liberalization.

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 8:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 10:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had a similar discussion in the class today...n we were asked to relate different countries with whatever comes to one's mind as soon as one hears the name of the country..
we had many interesting responses such as china-low cost,Japan-high tech, Germany-engg, France-wine n fashion, etc etc n when it came to India it was but poor image n land of snake charmers!!
And ofcourse its indeed a long journey before we changed the premise but think that's very much possible jus as was made posssible by China n Japan of their being low quality products!

At Sunday, November 27, 2005 12:12:00 AM, Blogger Kaps said...

good post.

"India is not a poor country but a country with lot of poor people" - P Chidambaram used the same words in his interview to BBC's Hard Talk.

At Sunday, November 27, 2005 1:22:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

Thanks Kaps.

ANd yeah, those are his words. I just flicked it from him, but it's become to common and popular to acknowledge the source. :)

At Wednesday, December 21, 2005 5:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, But my point of view about indian engineers. though i m one of them(this is little out of the topic). "Indian engineers can do most unintersting things in the world, which in world no one would like to do, and still would say i love my work". I feel the Global MNC are enjoying Jucies at very cheap rate. Also it is very easy to make indian PPl happy just cuz of simple reason "A person thinks i m earning kewl at age of 26-27 what my dad is earning right now" GREAT JOB DONE...

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