Searching for a brighter future for India
Sometimes journalists are accused of only writing about bad news, so I wanted to share with you a wonderful day I had last Friday travelling to Hyderabad.
For a change, even the journey was smooth. I went on a brand-new plane with one of India’s new airlines — not only was the service good, but it actually left exactly on time, and arrived early. A bit of a rarity in my recent experience of India’s congested airports and airspace.
And when I arrived, what an airport. The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, which was opened in March, is truly state-of-the-art, incredibly clean, very spacious and stylish. A public-private partnership, it would grace any country in the world, and clearly had been built with room for Hyderabad to expand. Again, a pleasant change from Delhi’s chaos, where the airport is several steps behind demand.The private sector won’t solve all of India’s problems, but here were a couple of examples of liberalisation at its best, of reforms which have unleashed the country’s vast economic potential.
My destination was the new Google office and India headquarters, where I was giving a talk on my life as a foreign correspondent, and especially the last six years in South Asia. I also gave a similar talk to a smaller crowd at Indian School of Business, recently ranked at number 20 in the Financial Times list of the top business schools around the world.
The people I met at both places were enthusiastic, intelligent and dynamic. They asked plenty of thoughtful, probing questions about the media, and were generally fun to hang out with. The energy at Google was pretty contagious.
It’s the sort of day which made me genuinely optimistic about India’s potential. If there is a downside, though, it is that very little of this energy and dynamism seems to be going towards solving India’s continuing problems, of poverty and heathcare and education.
The young seem pretty cynical about politics, and probably have good reason to be. Not that many of them could break into politics even if they wanted to, without the right family or vote bank behind them.
Still, let’s just hope that India continues to harness the energy and dynamism of its young people. I guess quite a few of the Googlers will go on to do MBAs, and with a bit of luck a few will stay and use their expertise in India, rather than go abroad.