My incredible high school history teach – Tas Anthony of Iowa City, Iowa – presented a theory to the class once; he argued that power has historically moved from East to West.

For example, you had the Egyptian Pharaohs (1500BC?), followed by the Greeks (500BC), then the Romans (200AD), the Spanish Armada (1500), Rule Britannia (1700), the American Century (1960), the growth of Japan in the late 20th century (1980), and now the emergence of China as a major world player. (Note: all dates approximate and in the case of the older dates, very approximate).

So as I sit here on the eleventh floor of a high-rise apartment building in Bangalore, India, I wonder whether India is next on the list.

India, after all is the second biggest country in the world, with 1.1 billion people to China’s 1.3 billion. For the record, the United States is now the third largest country, but with only 300 million people! (Thanks to Shyam and Nisho for pointing this out to me).

India also has an incredible system of higher education, with the crown jewel – The Indian Institute of Technology or IIT – producing scores of top computer scientists and engineers who have achieved legendary status the world over.

And India is the undisputed leader when it comes to technology outsourcing. Sure, China and Russia have some decent tech folks, but the world looks to India – and particularly Bangalore – when IT outsourcing is the issue at hand. Oh, and India is to the west of China.

Combine a huge population, scores of highly educated workers, and a thriving technology industry and it would seem that India is indeed well-positioned to take a major role in the world’s economy over the next few decades, right?

Well maybe not. India lacks one thing that China, Japan, and every major empire has had – infrastructure and order. The Romans build amazing roads and aqueducts. The Spanish had a disciplined fleet. The British modernized industry as we know it. China is not afraid to destroy entire towns to create hydroelectric power.

In India, things just sort of seem to happen without much planning or reason. You drive down the street and there are no lanes, no stoplights, and no rules. Power in our apartment turns off intermittently. The government is notoriously corrupt, ranking 89th out of 160 countries in a recent study of worldwide corruption. Heck, there are 23 official languages in India so even conversing can be a challenge.

Of course, these are all things you could say about China too. The difference, I think is that China has been actively working to change these problems for many years now, hence the building of giant dams, improved infrastructure, and even trying to eliminate its own corruption issues. Oh and it also helps that China is a totalitarian regime that can make sweeping modernization improvements with little concern for the opinions of impacted constituents.

In the end, however, I do think India will get there. But to emerge as a world leader, India will likely have to follow in the footsteps of China; not by being communist, but rather by making a commitment to infrastructure, process, and order.

It’s clear that India has the people, they have the brains, and they have the industry. But when you have to take your life into your own hands to drive across town to get some Tandoori, that’s a sign that the country is not quite ready for prime time just yet. That’s OK, though. After all, to paraphrase a famous quote, “Bangalore wasn’t built in a day.”

Editor’s Note: thanks to the Mercantila-Bangalore Advertising Team for some of the cool facts and figures above!

2 Comments

  1. Praveen Kumar K.S January 24th, 2007

    Nice observations. When its Eco.. I take sides. The following link is interesting:http://www.ecophilosophy.org/epc/articles/cosmicnews/feb.htmlAsia has certain aspects beyond comprehension.

  2. Andrey Milyan January 29th, 2007

    For India (as for China), people are it’s biggest asset but they are also it’s biggest liability.While there are plenty of IT guys sitting in the skyscrapers in Bangalore, there are hundreds of thousands of poor children that have never seen a toilet seat. Do you really think that the high-tech sector will be able to pull a billion people out of poverty, to at least a somewhat decent living standard? High-tech sector employs only 2% of India’s population; the same population that will be more than 1.8 billion by 2050.India and China have done more to reduce poverty than any UN ever could. But taking into account the huge population and the political climate in the region, it remains to be seen for how long will India be able to sustain it’s growth.Andrey

Leave a Comment

David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.