Atanu Dey On India's Development

Gordon Dryden on India

New Zealand author Dr. Gordon Dryden, who showed me around his home-country last year (mentioned before here and here), breezed into India last month, and a week later flew out “head filled with a haze of contraditions”:

Air travel: Horrified at the Air India trip from Hong Kong to New Delhi (“Do they really have to spend several minutes, first up, showing what not to push bottles down the toilet? Have they not heard of the power of negative suggestions? Possibly my worst flight since the Soviet Aeroflot slog from Moscow to Tokyo in 1970.”) But thrilled at the Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Pune (“Great airline; beaut service.”)

Roads: “What roads? Enough said.”

Airports: “Take a trip to Singapore, guys. And the prices for a drink inside Mumbai International Airport? Wow! In New Zealand I can buy a full bottle of Italian Pinot Gris wine for well under half the price of half a glass there. Took time out to fill in the questionnaire asking customers to specific anyone in the bar needing strong praise. Nominated the company accountant for “the Nobel Prize for profiteering”.

Hotels: The Intercontinental and The ITT Sheraton Towers in Mumbai. Sheraton great in almost every way. Intercontinental: “Hey, if you’re going to charge at the very top end of international prices, how about some international service? Half an hour to get a coffee in the lounge and twenty minutes for a beer in the housebar – when no other customers around? Not for my money.”

Surprises? “The incredible sophistication, efficiency and all-round competency of your big pharmaceutical companies: Cipla and Emcure. Outstanding plants by any world standard. And the very best of your herbal nutraceutical operatons: Nisarga Biotech in Satara . . . doing some very surprising things in distilling extracts from Ayurvedic herbs.” (Gordon’s writing a new book called The Health Revolution – hence the interest.)

Double surprises: “Some of the information in Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s new book, ‘The Rise of India’, which I bought at the Hong Kong airport. Good background. Amazed that 70% of the Indian economy is ‘informal’. After driving around Mumbai, Satara and Pune, no longer surprised.”

Most amazing statistic: “That Singapore’s Changi airport handles more passengers and air cargo every day than all the airports in India.”

Sport? “Or is it religion? Every the cricket-mad Australians don’t devote as much press space to this game as do the Indian newspapers. Amazed at how many executives, on learning my nationality, commented on the sportsmanship of the New Zealand cricket team and captain Stephen Fleming – and New Zealand not supporting George W (for woeful?) Bush in his idiotic invasion of Iraq.”

The IT industry: “Not really surprised at this. Most western business papers are full of it. But still impressed to catch up again, in his own head office, with Rajesh Jain, founder of Novatium.”

Hopes: “1: as a television producer, hope to persuade someone to sponsor an international TV program or series on how India’s world-class, low-cost pharmaceutical industry might just help the world to slash HIV-AIDS and some other diseases. 2: How about throwing imports open to second-hand Japanese taxis?”

  • http://apunkadesh.blogspot.com/ Apun Ka Desh

    There is a middle class emerging in India which wants progress for all. Wants to see India Shining.

    There is a janta class which wants to progress too. But requires help from ruling political class, in terms of education and a chance at jobs.

    There is ruling political class – which works to ensure that nobody makes any progress. Prevents middle class from creating jobs, is unable to create jobs itself, and actively thwarts primary education programs by diverting funds towards reservations in premier institutions.

    What a joke and an irony. Would we be blogging about the same problem even a decade from now? At this rate it will take generations for things to change. Thats too damn slow.

  • http://chrestomathic.blogspot.com Jyoti Iyer

    Very funny and insightful.
    So things haven’t really changed since I left huh? This homecoming is going to be a rude shock indeed!

  • Arvind

    Recently I was @Katmandu airport and also Pokhara in Nepal. Reminded me of Indian airports 10 years ago. So in comparison it has changed for the better. Probably one needs to visit once in a decade to find the good changes.

    I wouldn’t go so far as compare with Singapore airport. What pains is that it is no way near Bangkok airport! and Bangkok has a brand new one now, wish we could ship the old one to Delhi or Mumbai!

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  • Raja

    I find it mildly ironic that Dryden has these comments to make. I’ve just returned from NZ where I was startled to find a primitive financial market, economically uncompetitive, a more moribund private sectors, with incredibly high cost of living given the ceiling on earning power. Physician, heal thyself.