A View From Southern India

A View From Southern India

Maureen Geddes recently returned from Bangalore, India, where she spent a month as a Rotary International Group Study Exchange member, learning about the people, the culture, and the business of India.

Namaskara! (Greetings!) India’s population is approaching the one billion mark – – and the challenges of creating an infostructure to serve this population are evident. Like you here in SW Ontario, entrepreneurs in Southern India find many innovative ways to put themselves and others to work. Silk, pottery, agriculture, and the software industry are hopping in the Bangalore area.

Anyone involved in economic development would be impressed with AWAKE – The Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka. Female entrepreneurship is growing expotentially, thanks to organizations like this one (telephone 080 3389964), founded 14 years ago by Madhura Chatrapathy, who is now the Executive Director of the Asian Centre for Entrepreneurial Initiatives – ACE (Bangalore, India 080 3347318, or e-mail ace@giasbg01.vsnl.net.in). Ms. Chatrapathy is also Managing Partner of Food Associates Bangalor Research and Resource Centre (RRC) and Rural Industrial Program Surprising how similar our paths are, when we are half a world away. The RRC at AWAKE has organized projects by industry, and surveys member companies to keep information up to date. Projects include food processing, grapes, de-hydration of vegetables, pomegranate juice, and floriculture. The Centre has all information on a computerized database, supplemented by a library of entrepreneurship development, and is also accessible by e-mail. (Keep your eye on future issues of Advantage to discover information Emphasis on spiritual and personal development abounds, balancing the drive to develop the economy. For example, centuries of yoga practice are now applied to stress reduction, the development of memory, IQ, creativity, health and more. Courses such as SMET – Self Management of Excessive Tension for Professionals – are offered nationally throughout the world by Kendra Yogas (Bangalore, India 080 6608645).

The wild success of the software industry is demonstrated by Infosys Technologies Ltd. The Chairman today started in 1981 “a company of professionals, by the professionals, for the professionals” with six other colleagues. From an initial investment of U.S. $300 the first public share offering at $0.30/share is worth $24 today, after a 2 – 1 stock split. 85% of revenue is overseas, serving the North American market, which goes to sleep when India wakes up. From Chairman Murthy: “When you leave the office a Lots of opportunity in the power sector! Power outages occur every morning and afternoon for two hours at a time, and occasional unpredictable times in between.

Opportunity is not without it’s challenges, however. Corruption is still an acknowledged problem, and causes much frustration. One local man we met said he had been driving without a license for several years, because he refused to pay bribes on top of the license fee to get it. We did see regular reporting in the daily news about corrupt politicians being brought to justice, so an effort to change is definitely beginning. In the meantime, partnering with a local business is strongly recommended if you are Opportunity knocks…There is a lot to do – and many are already addressing the challenges; with new water wells; ceches (on-site daycare); creative incentives (children attend school all week – and get a kilogram of flour in return); business/government partnerships to build quality roads, and more. Businesses are eager to grow internationally. Although the government has the ‘red tape’ for foreign access to Indian markets, from what I saw you would do best to have and Indian partner, fluent in Hindi, Eng India is changing quickly. And, as noted by John Naisbitt in Megatrends Asia: “The modernization of Asia – economically, politically and culturally – is by far the most important event taking place in the world today.” The growth of Team Canada demonstrates Canada’s readiness to participate in the new world economy. With our wealth of human diversity, we are well positioned to make a measurable difference.

Credit: Advantage ~ July 1997 ~ Pg. 5

Author: Maureen Geddes

Originally Published: July, 1997