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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The 'India Story'!

"A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance." - Jawaharlal Nehru

Those words were spoken by the country's first Prime Minister, just after midnight, on Aug. 15, 1947, when independent India was born. What Nehru was referring to, of course, was the birth of India as an independent state. What is happening today is the birth of India as an independent society—boisterous, colorful, open, vibrant and, above all, ready for change. India is diverging from its past, but also from most other countries in Asia. It is not a quiet country that is slowly opening up to world. It is the biggest democracy that has finally empowered its people economically. The Indian state, stunningly fast growing economy in the world, has been a roaring success on several fronts.

Statistics don't quite capture what is happening. Indians, at least in urban areas, are bursting with enthusiasm. Indian businessmen are proud of their progress. Indian designers and artists speak of extending their influence across the globe. Bollywood movies are expanding their audience abroad from their base of half a billion viewers in India. Producers are now looking to sell films on an even greater international scale. Large Western companies such as Sony, Viacom, and Disney have formed joint partnerships with Indian filmmakers and have created production houses in many of India’s large cultural centers. The popularity of information in India is evidenced in its press. More than 45,000 newspapers are published in India. Roughly 600 million Indians are literate, the largest numbers anywhere in the world. It is as if hundreds of millions of people have suddenly discovered the keys to unlock their potential. Indians bought 65 million mobile phones, 10 million television sets, 6.34 million personal computers, and over a million new cars. And all this happen in one year. A consumer boom of this kind has not been seen in India ever before. The growth is not restricted to just products. It is being driven to infrastructure projects like new airports, fly-overs, roads and bridges. The rising incomes in India have resulted in enormously increased spending on housing and consumer goods that is clearly reflected in the GDP growth, which makes India the second fastest growing major economy after China.

Among the sectors that are driving the Indian growth story are telecommunications, retail, information technology and the IT enabled services. Not surprisingly, telecommunications is among the fastest growing industries. Already, the market for mobile phones in India is a net $16.7 billion and it is growing at over 20% annually. With the addition of 6 million plus new mobile subscribers, each of the top telecom service providers are investing in the region of $2-3 billion a year in capital expenditure alone. In comparison, the $5.6 billion consumer electronics and appliance market is growing at around 10 percent. Retail consulting and research professionals predict that there will be 600 new shopping malls in India by the end of 2010 and retailing in India will cross the US $721.5 billion mark. Global luxury brands have opened outlets in metropolitan cities. As the foreign companies expand their India presence, they are getting their global vendors to set up plants in India. That will bring in further industrial growth. Among the sectors contributing to sustained growth are also the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These enterprises account for nearly half of India’s industrial output and contribute to 35% of exports.

India is undergoing a retail revolution. Spurred by a new brand of consumerism, social classes are being invented with each glass-fronted shopping center that opens. An unprecedented generation of wealth, spurred by annual economic growth, is rapidly moving millions of people up the standard-of-living ladder. The result is an irreversible social and economic change that many believe will turn India into one of the next global superpowers. Untapped potential is the reason foreigners are itching to break into India, ranked for the past five years as the most attractive investment opportunity for mass-market and food retailers. What is happening in retail in India is quite unprecedented in the world. The huge population base, combined with heady economic growth, seemingly insatiable aspirations of the youth especially, can only create a unique and enormous potential. India's well-educated, young population has embraced state-of-the-art computer and information technologies, making the country one of the most important high-tech hubs in the world. Its information-technology and computer companies in Bangalore have been named as the world's second Silicon Valley.

One of the most powerful indicators of India's transformation is in the world of sport. ICC has recently ranked India's cricket team as number one in the world. India has been chosen as the latest Asian host for Formula One racing and as a site for the European Golf Tour. In India the moves are welcomed as another indication of the country's emergence on to the world stage. All the while India is busily preparing to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, frantically building new facilities and giving Delhi a facelift, as never before.

“Every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, there's a star. Not a person but a country. One country impresses the gathering of global leaders because of a particularly smart Finance minister or a compelling tale of reform or even a glamorous gala. Last year there was no contest. In more than a decade, no country has captured the imagination of the conference and dominated the conversation as India. It was not a matter of chance. As you got off the plane in Zurich, there were large billboards extolling INCREDIBLE INDIA. Davos itself was plastered with signs. WORLD'S FASTEST GROWING FREE MARKET DEMOCRACY! proclaimed the town's buses. When you got to your room, you found an iPod Shuffle loaded with Bollywood songs, and a pashmina shawl, gifts from the Indian delegation. When you entered the meeting rooms, you were likely to hear an Indian voice, one of the dozens of CEOs of world-class Indian companies. And then there were the government officials, India's "Dream Team," all intelligent and articulate, and all selling their country. The Forum's main social event was an Indian extravaganza, with a bevy of Indian beauties dancing to pulsating Hindi tunes against an electric blue Taj Mahal. The guests joined in the festivities. The impeccably dressed chairman of the Forum, Klaus Schwab, donned a colorful Indian turban and shawl, nibbled on chicken tikka and talked up the country's prospects with Michael Dell. INDIA EVERYWHERE, said the ubiquitous logo. It was.” - Fareed Zakaria, Editor News Week, USA.

THERE is a new-found vigor about India. You can positively sense the optimism and confidence that exists within the middle classes and political élite, a feeling that after all these years of waiting India's time has finally arrived. Words of a great scholar, expressed long ago, are today on the verge of proving true:

"If I were to look over the whole world to find out a country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow – in some part a very paradise on earth – I should point to India."
Max Muller, German Scholar

It's all because of the economic boom, it's called the 'India Story'.

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