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>>Up until around 1990, the governments agenda was perpetual poverty as they made it impossible for people to start businesses, by imposing significant red tape, and requiring regulatory approval for almost every little thing. (look up "License Raj").

The more things change, the more they remain same. You can't exactly fix these things with laws. You need to have cultural change at some point in time.

I remember a colleague telling a story about a product company shuttering its offshore center in India. A lot of Indian colleagues stood up and spoke passionately about the benefits and advantages of doing business in India, including access to talent. Apparently the boss in US, he was a CTO just stoop up asked us a simple question:

What do you guys make in India?

It was a fairly simple question, it was a kind of brutal self appraisal, but apart from making soaps and clothing and ball point pens, you really struggle to answer the question. What IP do we build here? and what do we make that we sell, like products? Compare this with any top world economy today like US, China, Germany, UK etc. You begin to realize how far behind we are.

India is all about reselling things we don't make. In this kind of an economy, higher your population, more hands the goods change through. Each person gets a cut, you could linear interpolate this, have a 3 billion population and even exceed US economy. But it will change nothing in people's living standards, or quality, it won't give them quality education or health care, or anything for that matter. Basically numbers look beautiful, while nothing changes on the ground.

Lastly Indian love for bureaucracy and red tape is undying and eternal. This comes from aristocracy and government. People think being management jobs means doing 0 work and having access to slaves who serve them while making big money. Ivy League grads aspire to do MBA's from top colleges. Programmers want to be managers ASAP. Pretty much all my cousins have a distance education MBA. No appetite for engineering.

In short you can't change this with laws. People have to change.




> What do you guys make in India?

> It was a fairly simple question, it was a kind of brutal self appraisal, but apart from making soaps and clothing and ball point pens, you really struggle to answer the question. What IP do we build here? and what do we make that we sell, like products?

Just to add to what others had said:

1. Moser Bauer is (was?) the largest manufacturer of CDs in the world. Sure, few people use CDs anymore these days, but 20 years ago, MB was a giant.

2. Essel Propack is the leader by far of packaging material like the tubes your toothpaste comes in.

3. India had a pivotal role in stopping the AIDS epidemic in Africa. India offered a year's supply of anti-retroviral drugs (for AIDS patients) to Africans for $300/year; companies in the West were demanding 100x as much. Just imagine the number of lives saved thanks to this move alone.

4. Lifestyle ideas like yoga, meditation, vegetarianism are all heavily influenced by India.

5. India had been doing "organic farming" for millennia; Albert Howard learned organic farming techniques from Indian farmers, and spread them in the West. He's known as the "father of modern organic farming". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Howard


> India is all about reselling things we don't make

Boy, you are a downer! Things are not the best, but they're not all bad either. Here are some important things India makes:

1. Movies - it has the largest (by number of productions) film industry in the world, and third largest by revenue (admittedly the latter is expected and it's third by a fair distance)

2. Satellite launch services - Antrix corporation, run by the Indian government no less.[1] And it makes a profit, what a crazy world we live in!

3. Generic medicines - Largest manufacturer of these in the world[2].

4. Motorcycles - The 2 largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world are Indian companies. [3][4] Are their bikes household names in developed countries today? No, but neither were Honda or Toyota in 1960.

5. Steel and cement - Apparently the 2nd largest steel and cement producer in the world (I didn't know this)[5][6] but also admittedly a long way off first place.

I didn't have the time or patience to research more, but you get the idea.

> What IP do we build here?

Most countries don't produce that much valuable IP in this stage of their growth. That comes later, when the basics - manufacturing, laws, financial systems, transport - have been firmed up. Having said that I'm sure there's a non-zero amount of useful research from the IITs or IIS or ISRO or BARC.

> Compare this with any top world economy today like US, China, Germany, UK etc. You begin to realize how far behind we are.

That's why (apart from China) they're referred to as "developed" countries and India is not.

> Programmers want to be managers ASAP.

You may find that outside the technology industry, it's like that everywhere. Anecdote: a few years ago, I caught up with an old acquaintance (who was raised in the US) working at an American consulting company in the Midwest. When he found out I'm a software engineer in the Bay Area he said "Oh, you're just a programmer." and sounded disappointed.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antrix_Corporation

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmaceutical_industry_in_Ind...

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bajaj_Auto

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero_MotoCorp

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_steel_pro...

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_cement_pr...


Correct. You just proved what the CTO said, We are experts at replicating X at scale, once some one originally produces X. We didn't invent the video camera, or modern studio tech, or internal combustion engine, even rocket tech, electricity, electronics, medicinal sciences, metallurgy or anything for that matter. Heck we didn't even invent the ball point pen.

We replicate and resell things, we kind of have to, because there are so many people in India and every wants X. Apply this to cement, movies, motorcycles, medicines, pens, pencils, call center employees, human robots, trench and ditch diggers, even baby diapers. We live in a country where the government rolls out schemes for daily labor occupation, to keep them busy by helping them dig with shovels. You can even boast of largest human shovel operators in the world. Heck we are experts are producing more human beings, than any country on earth. You might want to add that to our list of accolades, then take your right hand and pat yourself on your back.

Keep producing more humans like this, eventually we will be largest producers and consumers of everything, diabetes patients to pick pocketers and then we can claim what we always claim, we are the best of the best, put all criticism to rest, join hands and sing Mera Bharat Mahan.

None of this fixes anything because you end up creating more mouths and more hands to change. More deeper human chains to act as middle men. Numbers keep increasing of course, but situation doesn't change much on the ground.


This (more or less accurate) charge of being copycats who do little domestic innovation was true earlier of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, and before them of Japan. It was true for decades of China too. This is just what happens when you’re doing catch up growth. There are huge easy wins by doing in your country what other people in other countries already know how to do, but cheaper because labour is cheap in your country because you’re poor. Or in taking a poorly managed company and making it marginally better managed every year until you’re as productive as the leading firms in your industry were a decade or two decades ago. Innovation is great but not being poor does not require innovation, it requires doing things that are well within the technological frontier. Eventually some small industrial cluster approaches the global frontier and then is at it in some industry. It just takes time.


That's true, but then for that to happen you need a working government and society, you can't do that if inefficiencies abound. China, Japan and South Korea all had powerful governments who made hard choices, India's on the other hand is weak and ineffective.


It’s actually worse than weak and ineffective. If it was weak and ineffective then effective organisations would be able to make an end run around it, whether by corruption or by using politics to institute policy changes. India has a powerful government that’s captured by domestic constituencies that love the current sclerotic system. The Licence Raj lasted 50 years because powerful people wanted it. Moving from the current system to something better will require taking on some of these groups.


You need to put human resources development as the number one priority. As of now these are not even political issues in India. Nobody thinks these are important things to do.

India started off well during its Independence, the first education minister(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abul_Kalam_Azad) and the first prime minister(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jawaharlal_Nehru). The idea was to build a highly trained workforce and an industrial base, and then they bootstrap each other. But India has kind of lost its way.

This what is said of first education minister:

Jawaharlal Nehru referred to him as Mir-i- Karawan (the caravan leader), "a very brave and gallant gentleman, a finished product of the culture that, in these days, pertains to few".[16] Mahatma Gandhi remarked about Azad by counting him as "a person of the calibre of Plato, Aristotle and Pythagorus".[27]

India hasn't had good quality leadership in human resources for a while now.

The current priorities of HR development ministers in India go on the line of rewriting history to propel their political propaganda, pushing things like homeopathy, astrology. Hating universities and academia, calling them elites who need to be eliminated for their political ideas to be taken forward.

You don't do much in Human resources building with these kind of systems in place.


Education has remarkably little to do with economic growth. Richer countries are more educated but changes in education do not predict changes in productivity. Education appears to be a superior good that people just purchase more of when they’re richer.

Ghana is more educated now than France was in 1960 going by average years of education and it’s poorer. China’s years of explosive economic growth after Deng opened it up in the 1980s happened with a population that had on average finished primary school.

India’s plan to build a highly educated workforce and industrial base in tandem was a thorough and costly failure. Lots and lots of people tried to get a good education so they could go for civil service jobs. It did nothing industrially because running a successful industrial policy is a lot harder than either leaving businessmen to their own devices, taxes and regulation aside, to make their own business decisions, or running a captured, cronyistic industrial that wastes money and is swept aside as soon as the policy is abolished. Ireland, India, Pakistan, Argentina; there are many countries that wasted enormous sums on infant industry tariffs to no benefit.


Do you have a resource to recommend that suggests reasons and provides data for this seemingly paradoxical observation?


Bryan Caplan, The Case Against Education

From the Section “The Education Premium: Personal versus National”

> “When we move to the national level, these clean results vanish.65 Some prominent economists find that boosting national education slightly impoverishes countries rather than enriching them.66 Others report small positive effects; one typical estimate is that an extra year of national education boosts national income by 1.3%–1.7%.67 Remaining papers find moderate positive effects; the effect of national education on national income roughly equals the effect of personal education on personal income.68 No matter what they find, researchers usually confess their answers are highly uncertain.69”

> “65. For overviews, see Pritchett 2006, Bosworth and Collins 2003, and A. Krueger and Lindahl 2001. 66. See, e.g., Pritchett 2001, pp. 367–91, Islam 1995, and Benhabib and Spiegel 1994. 67. A. Krueger and Lindahl 2001, p. 1125, columns (2), (3), and (5). 68. For a survey, see Lange and Topel 2006, pp. 462–70. 69. One major exception: D. Cohen and Soto 2007 emphasizes the high quality of their data and the low uncertainty of their results. But even their findings dramatically hinge on their sample. When they look at 59 countries over 1960–90, a year of education raises national income by 4.9%. When they look at 81 countries over 1970–90, a year of education raises national income by 9.0% (D. Cohen and Soto 2007, p. 68, columns 5 and 10).”


> We replicate and resell things, we kind of have to,

You clearly missed what I said here.

> Most countries don't produce that much valuable IP in this stage of their growth.

Seriously read that again. Every developed country has started out copying, manufacturing, and then moved up the value chain to inventing. That's how countries develop - Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Singapore are some examples of this. And even then ISRO and BARC have had to re-create a ton of aerospace and nuclear research on their own, on account of being frozen out of the international research community for decades.

> Heck we are experts are producing more human beings, than any country on earth

Actually India's fertility rate is only a shade above the global average. So it's middle-of-the-pack on that measure, not a world-leader :-)

> Then we can claim what we always claim, we are the best of the best, put all criticism to rest, join hands and sing Mera Bharat Mahan.

Try to ease up on the negativity, anger, and extreme opinions a bit. Everything is not awesome but it's not all bad either.


All the best!


> We live in a country where the government rolls out schemes for daily labor occupation, to keep them busy by helping them dig with shovels

You mean like this? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_Conservation_Corps


> > Programmers want to be managers ASAP.

> You may find that outside the technology industry, it's like that everywhere.

Huh. Then my friends and I may be unusual. We all seem to prefer solving problems to managing people.


> Huh. Then my friends and I may be unusual. We all seem to prefer solving problems to managing people.

Clearly, you have never had the "opportunity" to manage people.




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