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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


India is 60 years young today. While it became independent on August 15, 1947, it was not until January 26, 1950 that India had its written Constitution. Sixty is an auspicious age in India. On turning 60, a man or woman would be expected to shift gears and go into a different stage of life. While for humans it is a shift to a lower gear, for the country it has to be a higher gear. That acceleration will only come from innovations that bridge the vast opportunities in Indias product market with its vast pool of unemployed and underemployed human resources in its talent market.

Travelling through India, with its 22 official languages and several other dialects, is like traversing through a linguistic and cultural kaleidoscope. India is more diverse than Europe. But while Europe struggles to strengthen its union, the Indian Union or the United States of India (of which there are 28 states and seven Union territories ) has stood the test of time. Is it a perfect union No, far from it. But the fact that it is held together by the goodwill of its peoples, and not by dictatorial forces, is in itself a miracle. However, for an average Indian this kind of adulation is meaningless. There is grinding poverty as well as caste and communal tensions especially when fanned by politicians. The civic infrastructure is woeful and corruption is rampant. In the shadow of towering apartment buildings housing Indias rich and even their automobiles in air-conditioned comfort, the cooks, maids, gardeners, drivers, sweepers and security guards who service these rich subsist in decrepit housing, with intermittent power and water. Unfortunately slum dogs become millionaires only in Hollywood movies!

IMDs World Competitiveness Centre publishes an annual yearbook ranking countries competitiveness. India has been steadily rising in these rankings, but not as fast as China. Whereas the Chinese growth is helped in large part by well coordinated government actions, Indian growth comes from its businesses . It is hard for coalition governments (the reality of Indian governance over the past two decades), stitched together as they are from differing political ideologies, to make the swift and sweeping changes that are needed. Despite these shortcomings, the Indian economy has bounced back after the financial crisis and is projected to grow at a rate between 7 and 8 per cent. There are two facilitating conditions that can accelerate this growth: size of the Indian market and the richness of its talent pool. But innovation is the key spark that is needed to leverage both.

The Indian market opportunity can be segmented into tiers. The global product market tier represents customers that are other multinational companies as well as select Indian customers who are willing to pay global prices for products and services, which have been created primarily to serve customers in developed markets. The glocal tier consists of customers who are unwilling to pay global prices but seek products and services that are close to global standards. The local tier represents customers who are happy with less sophisticated and often lower quality products and services but offered at local prices that are considerably cheaper than global prices. The countrys growing middle class belongs mostly in the local tier, with some moving up to the glocal tier. The final tier is the so-called Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP). This tier represents customers who have been traditionally excluded from the market.

Its possible to identify similar tiers in the case of the talent market. The conventional approach of multinational companies has been to operate at the global tier of the product and talent markets. Some have also transitioned to the glocal tier. But these tiers are not the big opportunities in India. If business stays only with these tiers, India will not alleviate its poverty. What is needed is business innovation that finds creative ways of serving consumers at the bottom of the pyramid using an unskilled and semi-skilled workforce from lower tiers of the talent market.

Indian companies have started offering products and services that appeal to the local and BOP tiers. The innovative Indian company Bharti offers the worlds cheapest telecommunication service at just one cent per minute. This service is offered through local retailers and micro entrepreneurs who sell prepaid telephone cards in every nook and corner of India. It is service for the poor by the poor! For slightly more affluent customers , Tata Motors has launched the Nano, the worlds cheapest car priced at $2,500. The company hopes one day to ship the Nano in knocked down units to local garages for the cars to be assembled in these distributed factories . Here again it will be the local talent tier creating products to serve customers in the local product market tier. India needs more innovations of this kind.

These are healthy signs for the Indian economy. Indeed more such examples are needed. The birthday gift that India craves for is more business innovation.
Fast-track To Justice - Supreme Courts in four metros would considerably aid the judicial process
The recommendation in the 229Law Commission report, suggesting three additional Supreme Courts be set up in the cities of Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai, needs to be taken up by the law ministry. The number of cases pending in our courts are a staggering three crore. The proposal, which has been seconded by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, would mean the creation of Supreme Court benches which would act as the final courts of appeal in their respective regions. Also recommended is the setting up of a federal or constitutional court in Delhi that would hear cases only on matters of grave constitutional importance.

An inefficient judiciary not only denies the common man access to justice, it also discourages investment in the country. If faith in the judiciary is to be maintained, systems have to be put in place that would help the judiciary run smoothly and efficiently. Given the vastness and diversity of the country, a separate Supreme Court for north, south, west and east would go a long way towards making justice more accessible. A case in Kanyakumari, for example, need not be referred to Delhi for final adjudication. While the Constitution does have place for the setting up of four Supreme Courts, a federal court in Delhi which would hear only constitutional matters may require an amendment of the Constitution. If that is what it takes to push through judicial reform, theres no harm in such an amendment. It ought to be a bipartisan issue and necessary political will should be mustered for this purpose. As Balakrishnan has pointed out, South Africa has a separate constitutional court with nine judges. In the Indian case, besides constitutional issues, such a court could also deliberate on disputes and crimes of a federal nature, as well as inter-state river water disputes.

The judiciary in India is still regarded as a reputable institution that has admirably defended the rights of citizens against a negligent executive. But peoples faith in it has been shaken in recent times, not only due to accusations of graft but also due to lengthy delays in the system. Reforms of this kind would go some way towards clearing enormous backlogs and bringing justice closer to the people.
(source: toi)

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