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India: Global Player With a Handicap

Our best quotes on what Indians think of their country and its challenges.

July 4, 2002

Our best quotes on what Indians think of their country and its challenges.

India has one of the world’s most complex and diverse societies. It is geographically and demographically huge and is quite conscious of its global leverage. At the same time, it faces tremendous development problems. Our Read My Lips feature explores what Indians think of their country’s changing demographics — and emerging global role.

How did the Internet revolutionize India?

“Finally, India has something to show to the world. This is our tryst with destiny.”

(Dewang Mehta, president of the National Association of Software and Service Companies, October 2000)

What is so special about India’s technological prowess?

“The IT industry has created more millionaires in the past five years than all of India’s industries put together in the past 50 years.”

(Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, October 2000)

What impact does IT have on some of India’s oldest customs?

“The traditional way of finding a husband or wife takes at least three months. On the web, it can take less than one day. It is much easier to qualify — or disqualify — someone online.”

(Bharat Manglani, chairman of, September 2000)

Why does India not have to fear the brain drain anymore?

“Who needs Silicon Valley when Bangalore offers fulfilling work — and an upwardly mobile lifestyle?”

(Manjeet Kripalani, Business Week India correspondent, on well-paid IT jobs in India, February 2003)

Is India attractive to foreign investors?

“India’s capital inflows are no longer driven by hot money. We believe capital inflows are driven by optimism about economic fundamentals.”

(Edward Luce, Financial Times columnist, October 2003)

What is the reason for such optimism?

“If you come here as a businessman, you can hire anyone — your accountants, lawyers and so on. If you go to China, you must take the whole lot with you.”

(Vinod Mehta, editor of the Indian weekly Outlook, August 2000)

Does the United States share that same upbeat outlook?

“American exports and investment flows to India are as flat as a chapati.”

(Robert Blackwell, U.S. ambassador to India, November 2002, in reference to the Indian type of bread)

Are Indians confident about their chances in the global economy?

“Why don’t Europe and America allow free flow of Indian labor? We will accept free competition. We will accept your free flow of capital. Have capital account convertibility. But it won’t happen.”

(Sonpal Shastry, India’s minister of Agriculture, December 1998)

How do India’s untouchables get on with their lives?

“For 55 years, India has been independent — but we still have not gained our independence.”

(Dalit community leader, September 2003)

How powerful is India’s media?

“There is still nothing in India to beat the impact of a newspaper headline — or photograph. Rivers of blood can flow from a careless adjective — or a thoughtless picture.”

(Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, former editor of India’s Statesman, March 2002)

What about India’s legendary Bollywood movie productions?

“We can’t compete with Hollywood as far as action. But they can’t compete with us in emotions.”

(Komal Nahta, Indian film industry expert, October 2000)

Are Indians concerned about the size of their population?

“We will all end up fighting over food.”

(Indian peddler, August 1999)

How has India’s school system developed over the last generation?

“When I went to school, people would talk of the ten elite schools you would want to go to in India. Today, you have a choice in New Delhi alone of 400.”

(Arun Jaitley, India’s law minister, August 2000)

Does the Indian Institute of Technology enjoy a good reputation?

“Put Harvard, MIT and Princeton together — and you begin to get an idea of the status of this school in India.”

(Leslie Stahl, CBS’s 60 Minutes co-host, January 2003)

What role will Indians play in U.S. society?

“Indians are the ‘next Jews’ of America. Presently numbering 1.2 million, they have risen to prominence in every walk of life.”

(Jagdish Bhagwati, economics professor at Columbia University, March 2000)

Has the international community done anything to avert a conflict between India and Pakistan?

“We have been saying for the past 20 years that we are fighting Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. If the world does not back us, we will fight it alone and end it.”

(India’s Deputy Foreign Minister Omar Abdullah, on the Kashmir conflict, June 2002)