ISB Updates

Diverse voices debate global significance of India as Asia’s next superpower

The Indian School of Business (ISB) recently hosted the book launch of McKinsey & Company’s latest publication “Reimagining India: Unlocking the Potential of Asia's Next Superpower” with the aim of creating a platform for dialogue and launching a spirited debate about the global significance of India as Asia’s next superpower. The launch was followed by an interactive panel discussion.

The panelists included Victor Mallet, South Asia Bureau Chief, Financial Times, Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, ISB, Adil Zainulbhai, Senior Advisor, McKinsey & Company and Karthik Vedagiri, PGP student at the ISB who won the Reimagining India contest held earlier this month. 

Zainulbhai began the session with a brief description of the book and opened the floor for other panelists to speak about a theme they identified with from the book. 

Mallet, who has also contributed to the book, spoke about the demographical aspects of emerging India. He challenged the notion of the demographic dividend that would benefit India, as portrayed by various politicians and mainstream economists. Expounding on this theme he stated that this would be the case since a large majority of the population joining the work force are essentially semi-skilled or lack employable skills. At the same time he also noted that these large numbers were also adding substantial numbers to the voting population — a sure means of making the Indian democracy much more vibrant in the days to come.

Rangnekar spoke about how the use of technology could potentially help overcome the last mile in alleviating disparities in society and reduce the average cost of accessing basic necessities such as health, education and electricity. “Our competitive advantage will come from how we use technology to solve our problems” said Rangnekar. Elaborating on five major areas – Power, Healthcare, Education and Skills and the Environment he spoke about how technology should have a positive impact through engineering innovation for minimising waste and enhancing efficiency.

Vedagiri spoke on the theme of entrepreneurship, analysing the gaps within Indian entrepreneurial culture. He also spoke about the issue of societal pressures — of the underlying emphasis made on “fitting in” rather than “standing out” in the Indian context, whereas in mature entrepreneurial ecosystems like the Silicon Valley, outliers were more the norm, rather than the exception.

Curated and edited by the management consulting firm, Reimagining India, is a comprehensive collection of essays by leading thinkers in business, academia, policy-making, and culture. The book brings together the wisdom of experts from many corners—social and cultural as well as economic and political. The diverse voices in this book provide rich, multidisciplinary perspectives on the country’s economic, social, and political developments with all its challenges: from bureaucracy, corruption, environment, and political gridlocks, to the lack of social and physical infrastructure. Despite the doom‐and‐gloom prophesying for India’s future, they argue that India — vibrant, chaotic, and operating simultaneously at multiple speeds — remains a genuine contender as Asia’s “other superpower”.

Following a spirited question and answer session with the audience, the chair of the session Zainulbhai, concluded the discussion with a rapid fire round to gauge whether the panel was optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects for India in the near future. The answer was in the affirmative — guarded optimism coupled with the right policy-making would indeed “unlock the potential of Asia's next superpower”!