Whose golden egg?

Boeing 767 had been taxing for almost 15 minutes now. It was almost
like driving a car through a city colony. Accelerate, stop, turn,
cruise, look around and so on. The only difference was that this
was not a car and we were not in India. It was the Chicago O’ Hare
airport in the US. And as I pressed my face intently against the
pane, I visualized the size of this mammoth airport…hmm, the airport
could easily span all the way from Nehru Place to IIT Gate to Defence
Colony. A triangle of three localities covering half the area of
south Delhi.

While travelling in the US, if keep
your eyes and ears open and let loose a roving mind, one of the
many learning experiences is the appreciation of scale. The Americans
seem to follow a rule of minimum density with increasing scale in
every aspect of their life, including airports, cities, roads, hotels,
offices, open spaces, dwellings and so on without exception.

The media in this country, sometimes
does a good job of propagating half myths. Every second day a feature
informs us that multiplying vehicles will be the cause of unimaginable
traffic management and pollution catastrophes. But on the highways
of small time US-city Orlando, I saw as many cars as in Delhi and
Mumbai put together, travelling effortlessly and without a whimper
of smoke from their nostrils. Is the number of vehicles plying therefore
a bone of contention? Hardly! What is a crippling blow is the lack
of planning for growth, encouragement to investors for infrastructure
development and deployment of suitable technologies on a sufficiently
large scale.

In a remote way there is a parallel
between India and the US. Both have huge geographical expanses and
both have top class populations to fill them, with the US importing
and attracting the best of breed from elsewhere. Both countries
also have huge capital bases. But that’s where the parallel ends.
The US has developed those geographical expanses through private
funding, deployed technology on an enormous scale and imported the
best of breed to work in that country. In this country, we still
deliberate on how to get started.

The Finance Minister is confronted
time and again by allies in the democratic alliance as well as the
opposition, that he dare not sell stakes in the golden navaratnas
at anything but an estoric ultimate. Politicians and protected lobbies
cry themselves hoarse that the public sector is a hotbed of golden
eggs and any such move will mean loss of booty. Consider as an example,
the biggest infotech challenge of the millenium–the convergence
of internet, wireless and telephony. Remote connectivity of appliances,
applications off the web and mutation of the PC will continue to
dominate vendor strategies and technologies in the near future.
Transition to this new paradigm requires an excellent telecom environment
in the country. And if there is any single institution, which will
fight tooth and nail against this transition it will be the DoT.
Since the DoT erroneously believes it is the golden goose with the
golden eggs. The DoT also has the singular distinction of putting
the country back by five years in the internet space with similar
orchestrations elsewhere.

After the examples of Infosys and Satyam
Infoway on the Nasdaq, the golden goose of the country today is
very clearly our ability to go global. While the country maybe a
hotbed of golden eggs many of them have yet to be laid. As we enter
the next decade and century, the dynamics of this country will continue
to be dominated by those who believe they own the golden eggs and
those who don’t care. Only time will tell who will lay the golden
egg. Meet you in the next millennium.


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