So why is India winning the perception war against Pakistan? The answer can be traced back to the 90s when the Indian Finance Ministry, the Reserve bank of India and the Planning Commission of India jointly formed a strategy (under the guidance of the then leadership, likes of Manmohan Singh and Monty Singh Aalloohwala) to support Indian corporations in developing a global vision and in-turn making their presence tangibly felt on the corporate map of the world. A meeting at the famous Ritz Carlton, London, was held where all the top Indian corporate players were invited and opted in - to what is today referred to as the London Club – to be supported in everyway by the Indian Government and its institutions in the singular task assigned to them: Create a world of Indian Multinationals. With this in mind and with the tacit backing of their government, the likes of established and professional business houses such as Tata, Mahindra and Mahindra, Birla, Reliance, Godrej, DCM, Infosys, and others went on a conscious international shopping spree in unleashing a massive buying drive to create economic/corporate linkages and undertake mergers and acquisitions of everything and anything that made a good fit with their overall business model and strategy. The result: Today India, to name a few, owns Jaguar, Land Rover, Tetley, RHT, Slazane, Favre Leuba, Arcelor and holds large stakes in every field one can think of from information technology to steel to textiles to automobiles to consumables. In IT alone, Indian firms in the United States provide jobs to half a million Americans and keeping to these cross business investments cum linkages even the present US President Mr. Trump (primarily a businessman) owns large pieces of real estate & businesses in Mumbai, India!
These large Indian multinationals then had two larger visions or tasks: First, to financially support Indian academic institutions in order to bring them at par with the best academic institutions in the world and along side also connect India with the leading western universities and colleges (by lending a generous financial support to them). This would then go on to not only ensure that Indian foreign academic diaspora finds a place at these institutions where they and the Indian mindset flourishes, but also that through this all important connection, knowledge in-effect flows back to India. And the result: a) Today, in the job market the graduates from IIT, NIIT, Bangalore Institute of Technology etc. are at the same level as MIT, Harvard, UCLA etc. In fact, the admission criterion to get in to many of these leading Indian institutions is tougher and than the one for the Ivy-League institutions, and even the queue to get in is longer - ‘Remorse osmosis’ is taking place with suddenly the prestigious US and European academic institutions trying to find linkages with the Indian academic institutions and wanting to open their campuses in India to make their services available to the Indian brain right at its doorstep, and b) Indian professors, lecturers and researchers today dominate the western campuses; an Indian also recently served as the Dean of the Harvard Business School. More importantly, academic campuses is where ideas and world’s opinion-making takes place and with Indian academia controlling the campuses there is little wonder that India image today finds itself in an envious position.
The second task was to serve both as incubators to produce Indian corporate leadership and then to integrate these Indian corporate professionals into the global corporate world. The idea being that as the Indian professionals’ influence grows in the global corporate world so will India’s influence in these developed countries ultimately manifesting itself in their perception where they perceive India to be vital to their economic development and to their needs in security, defense and foreign policy domains. And this is exactly how it is playing out! Today, Indians holds key posts in leading corporate multinational giants of the world; to just name a few: Microsoft CEO Indian – Satya Nadella; Google CEO Indian – Sundar Pichai; Pepsi Cola CEO India – Indra Nooyi; CEO Adobe - Shantanu Narayen; CEO SoftBank Internet - Nikesh Arora; CEO Cognizant - Francisco D’Souza; CEO Nokia - Rajeev Suri; CEO NetApp - George Kurian. So what do we need to do to counter this? Answer: Well, nothing different to what India is doing. First and foremost, we need to effectively and constructively mobilize Pakistani diaspora and Pakistan’s friends in the West, especially in the US. In today’s world, consistent lobbying in every country has a role and Pakistan needs to strategize its policy for effective lobbying in the countries that matter. This will require a professional approach with a long-term vision since opinions and alliances are not formed in days, but take years to cement. Following from here, some short-term and long-term objectives will have to be formulated, which to be pursued on an on-going basis regardless of which political party assumes power:
Long-Term: The objectives should focus to:
* Promote academia linkages. Most Ivy campuses (including that of my Alma Mater) have an overriding Indian presence, which needs to be matched.
* Encourage Cross investments by providing space to Western and especially US Corporations aspiring to access Pakistani market (Monsanto is one such case that comes to mind). Certainly not advocating that we give them a free hand, but to work with them while ensuring our own interest.
* Pakistan is a huge market of 220 million people with perhaps the fastest growing middle class in the world, and has its own importance as an extremely lucrative consumption economy. Comparison to India in many ways is irrelevant. Use this leverage effectively.
* Utilize Pakistan’s entrepreneurs effectively to promote economic linkages. Example, the way India formed the infamous London Club of leading Indian business houses, back in late 90s/early 2000s, which today has gone on to create a visible Indian footprint on the global corporate canvas.
* Reforms pertaining to domestic investment, foreign investment, taxation and on distancing state from corporate management of state owned enterprises.
* Integrating academia and the
* After the recent round of devaluation now manage the value of the PRS to see to it that it does not fall below PRS 120 to a USD, at least till 2020.
* And of course a no-brainer: Ensure Pak economy remains in order & does not falter along the way.
The writer is an entrepreneur and economic analyst.