IE India: Growing Pains

March 14, 2012

I have truly enjoyed my experience in India. It is intriguing to see a country that can boast over 7% GDP growth each year (for the past decade) and that was able to stay so strong in the financial crisis. Consumer demand is king in India, noting that with 1.2 billion people approximately 1 out of 7 individuals in the world is Indian. While visiting Gujarat we were able to visit a variety of production companies and also the Chief Minister of the state. Today we are in New Delhi (the city/state capitol of India) and visited Parliament as well as the managing director of HDFC Bank. All of these individuals are extremely excited about the future of India: the growth of its infrastructure, the growth of the economy, the growth of its middle class. However, as my mother always tells me “with growing comes growing pains.” And this growing pain can be seen in the eyes of each impoverished individual in India. I am sure that for the people who live in India everyday they are used to it, but it is a new phenomenon for me. On Sunday we visited the Taj Majal (an amazing structure, what an honor it was to view it!) and outside the Taj and outside and inside the metro station on our way to the monument there were people sleeping and begging literally everywhere. There are just such a high number of poor people (and I mean truly poor with very little hope of overcoming their circumstances) in India that it is an eye opening experience to witness it. On one block you can see a magnificent structure where a major company is located, and directly across the street you will see the most depressing slum that you have ever seen making Cabrini Green look like the upper east side of Manhattan. I write all of this just to say that this trip has not only been insightful because of the FIRST CLASS meetings we have had with government officials, business and nonprofit leaders; but it has been an exercise in humility and in empathy. If India truly wants to move forward, then it will have to overcome this issue of mass poverty and figure out a way in which to have “financial inclusion” for all people.

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Anthony Webb