“Where does India go from here?” This is the question that Nandan Nilekani, one of the key players behind the tremendous growth of India’s BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry, addresses in Imagining India: Ideas for a New Century.
This is of course a huge subject, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Imagining India is a doorstopper, weighing in at over 500 pages. But although it would have benefitted from more thorough editing, the book does provide an extremely comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of the changes that India has undergone since its independence from the British and of the challenges the country faces in lifting its population out of poverty and modernizing its economic, political, educational, and social systems.
One of the key strengths of the book is that it doesn’t just make a strong and eloquent case for widespread economic, social, and political reforms in India, but it’s also brimming with interesting and well-thought-out ideas for implementing them.
And while Nilekani does naturally point to IT as a solution for some of these problems, such as managing land ownership records and building country-wide telemedicine services, he doesn’t see technology as a magic bullet and is a strong believer in the power of people and ideas to effect change through India’s democratic system – no matter how chaotic and corrupt it may be at times.
Indeed, it is Nilekani’s belief in the power of ideas and his willingness to evangelize them so passionately that is the most appealing characteristic of the book. While he could comfortably rest on his laurels as a businessman, he is determined to use the experience, knowledge, and influence he has gained in building Infosys to contribute as much as he can to the future development of India.
There were times when reading the book that I found myself wishing the author would write more about his own experiences with Infosys and give some additional insight into the management philosophies and methodologies that he and his colleagues have used to nurture the growth of such a world class company.
But overall I found Imagining India to be a fascinating and thought-provoking book, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about India. Not only does it tell you how far the country has come since its independence, but it also lays out a compelling roadmap showing where India should go in the future.